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Trump Tries To Recruit Cheney Challenger; Trump Misleads On 1/6: "It Was A Loving Crowd"; Biden's VA Campaign Stop Tonight Will Test Midterm Message. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 12:30   ET



LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: About her conservative ideology. This is about she wants the truth the same way Pelosi is saying this is about getting to the unvarnished truth, which is why she kicked Jim Banks and Jim Jordan off of the Committee, because you saw in their initial statements when they said that they were going to be appointed to the Committee that they wanted to go after and look after the quote, left's authoritarian agenda that they wanted to look at BLM.

That's not what this Committee is about. It's supposed to get to the unvarnished truth, whatever that is about the President, about what happened that day.

MAEVE RESTON, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, and it's such a, it's such an interesting moment for her because, you know, obviously, we know that she's playing the long game here, and she is looking to see whether we're also focused on her primary and how Trump's going to target her next year.

But there's also a moment for her here to kind of to show, you know, her fidelity to the Constitution, and what she's standing for. I mean, the Republicans have been able to define her as this defector. But she has a moment here to kind of speak to the rest of the country, potentially those suburban women who didn't like Trump, didn't like what happened on January 6th. And I think this is, you know, potentially a moment that we'll look back to when she runs a presidential campaign someday.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You should note that Liz Cheney hasn't changed.


KUCINICH: Everything has changed around her the Club for Growth, which is attacking her, spent millions attacking former President Trump in 2016. The Republican Party has shifted. Liz Cheney, aside from her willingness to, you know, stand up to those people in their party hasn't changed at all.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And to that point, you mentioned the Club for Growth, you're right, the Club for Growth is likes to stir up trouble in the Republican Party attacking people that doesn't think they're conservative enough at once when after Donald J. Trump said he was nowhere near conservative enough. They've forgotten that part. They're on T.V. in Wyoming right now going after Cheney.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She benefited from a famous political last name. She sided with Nancy Pelosi and attacked President Trump when he was in office. She supported impeachment, and she continues to attack President Trump today. Hillary Clinton? No, Liz Cheney.


KING: I guess that's, you know, somehow the gold standard in Republican attacks, if you equate somebody with Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. But to Jackie's point she has not changed. This is going to, sadly, we wish we could have an investigation of January 6th. It was just about the facts.


KING: That we're not going to. Well, we hope, I hope we have one of those. But there's going to be a running right next to it, a very thick political plot, which includes, can she survive this?

KANNO-YOUNGS: And you're already seeing that, right? Republican members of Congress have said that they're not going to retaliate against Liz Cheney for this. But you are seeing, you know, former President Donald Trump as well as Donald Trump Jr., inviting some of her challengers to Bedminster, I believe in the coming days as well.

So there is going to be a line of attack against her. Just to follow up on one thing that was said earlier as well. I mean, in the face of some of these critiques and attacks, talking about Nancy Pelosi that, you know, she has politicized this Committee by kicking off Jim Banks, Jim Jordan. I mean, what better strategic -- what better strategy than to start off with these police officers as well?

I mean, that is a fascinating move to go with people that were on the ground and have been trying to meet with members of Congress to speak about the events at that.

KING: I think it's a great point if they try to at least once they get in the hearing room and drop the gavel, start with the facts, start with the heroic police officers, and Tucker Carlson can say whatever he wants about them, but sorry, dude, just sorry.

RESTON: Heroes.

KING: Yes, there you go. Heroes, they are.


Up next for us, Donald Trump vents about Mike Pence and he lies about what happened on that day, January 6th. One of the authors who interviewed Trump for new book is here with the details. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Donald Trump envisions a big comeback, but it does not sound like Mike Pence has a role in any Trump campaign sequel. Listen.


PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: You're not you're not locked in that you would run with Pence again?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I'm not locked into anything. I was very disappointed. And so we're a lot of Republicans, very disappointed. What courage would have been is to do what Thomas Jefferson does, did. We're taking the votes. He could have done that, too, but that would have been politically unacceptable. But sending it back to these legislators, who now know that bad things happened, would have been very accepted.


KING: That venting, you heard right there at Pence, part of a conversation Trump had with journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker for their new book. "I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year." Carol is with us now.

Number one, he's wrong about the history of Thomas Jefferson. But we won't go back to eight -- the election of 1800. I'm just fascinated. We'll get to some of the details of the book which are riveting. You're sitting across from Donald Trump. And you see the anger, the frustration still. This is four months after January 6th, when you sit down with him at Mike Pence. What was that like?

CAROL LEONNIG, NATIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, Donald Trump is an amazing personality because when we were sitting with him, his whole body is so physically committed to this alternative reality, you know, as a journalist, and I know that you can kind of detect when someone's giving you a bunch of BS. With Donald Trump, it looks like he completely believes it.

About Pence, super disappointed in Mike Pence over and over again, you know, telling us why Pence was weak, Pence was statue, Pence let him down. Pence according to Donald Trump didn't protect the Constitution because he failed to reject those votes.


KING: Which is actually the opposite of what happened. He did protect the Constitution and he did his job on that day. Another conversation we were just talking to a member of the January 6th Committee and then our panel was talking about the politics of it, Donald Trump disguised -- discussed January 6th with you. We're going to listen to a little bit of it here. It's simply a parallel universe. Listen.


TRUMP: It was a loving crowd, too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people told me that was a loving crowd.


KING: When you sit there, you mentioned your experience. When you sit there, does he believe this delusional stuff? Or is he the wizard behind the curtain and he knows it's BS but it's his stick.

LEONNIG: As I said, from stem to stern from his forehead to his toes, he looks like a guy who believes what he's saying. I look for someone that had faith that looked down at the ground to indicate that they're prevaricating. He doesn't look that way.

And it's interesting because everything he said is squarely wrong. It wasn't a loving crowd. Police officers did not warmly usher rioters in. There wasn't hugging and kissing. There was bear spray and flagpoles to the chest of police officers. There were police officers, one that had a heart attack and begged for people not to use a gun -- his own gun on him by saying I have children. So this was not a loving crowd.

KING: No, not at all. Another theme throughout the book is the very difficult frustrating at times, very tense the President, then President Trump had with the military. You talked about the time when they wanted to July 4th, the big July 4th parade, a military parade here in D.C. He had seen one in France on Bastille Day and he wanted his version of it.

This is the top military brass. It's going to look like Berlin in the 1930s, Esper remarked, then the defense secretary. Do you guys ever learn, General Milley said, this is not what we do, this is what North Korea does. This is what Stalin does. This undercurrent of authoritarianism in trying to use the military for Trump purposes, political purposes is constant.

LEONNIG: Absolutely constant, John, it's really amazing because every instinct he has is to look tough to puff out his chest. So many times in our reporting, witnesses would say to us, they were either laughing or panicking about his reaction to be like Putin. You know, one time he was furious because he was taken down to the bunker, because protesters were outside on May 29th. And one of them jumped over the Treasury, Department of Defense.

Secret Service, rightly said, oh, boy, a bunch of them could do it all at the same time. We've got to get the President downstairs to secure location. He was furious that that had happened more furious that it had been reported. And the first thing he said when he came out was foreign leaders. How is that going to look to them? I am going to look weak, that's what's on his mind all the time is still how the boys on the playground will view him in whether he's tough enough,

KING: The title gets added. "I Alone Can Fix It," but you say in the book, whether it's lies about January 6th, whether it's lies about the election, whether it's lies about the coronavirus and the threat of it. You talked about, you know, most of Trumps failings can be explained by a simple truth. He cared more about himself than his country. LEONNIG: I think the thing that Phil and I were the most shocked by hardened reporters, right? We covered this in real time. The thing we were most shocked by was how freaked out and panicked. Some of Trump's most ardent supporters inside the White House were by his instincts to put American lives at danger and to toss democracy over the rails to ignore the law. Again, for that short term political game, how do I get reelected?

KING: He thinks he thinks, I alone. The evidence, let's just say it's otherwise. Carol, grateful for you coming in.

LEONNIG: Thanks John.

KING: It's fantastic book. You should pick it up if you haven't already.


Up next for us, President Biden hits the campaign trail as Terry McAuliffe tries for a new term as Virginia's governor. It is friend helping friend and it is a big test of what voters think of the Biden agenda.


KING: Tonight Joe Biden returns to the campaign trail, stumping for a candidate in person for the first time as President. His friend Terry McAuliffe was Virginia's governor from 2014 to 2018. And now wants his old job back.

Virginia trends blue now but it's off for you governor's races often do give us early clues about the next big campaign year. "The Washington Post" today framing it this way, a pivotal first test of the appeal of Biden's agenda, as well as whether the moderate, suburban-led coalition that propelled him into office will endure or evaporate in the post-Trump era.

The panel is back with us. It is a key test and look, no offense to the Republican candidate in Virginia or the Democratic candidate in Virginia, the state has trended blue. Terry McAuliffe should win the state unless voters are mad at the President and his party, correct?

RESTON: Yes. And I think he also has a moment to kind of seize this moment going on from the town hall earlier this week, where you have a lot of people who are very scared about the surge in COVID cases again. And he gets to go in there talk about his agenda, what it's done for Virginians, you know, he's about to land and you already see the White House sending out talking points about what his agenda has been typically done in Virginia, and what the infrastructure bill, for example, could do for their roads and bridges.


So he can kind of go hyper local in that way and, you know, potentially stay away from those Trump attacks that we've seen him sort of resist making. KING: Right. And sometimes we overdo it in our business when we -- does that race, what does that race mean about the next race or the next race? Sometimes we overdo it. But this one will be a good microcosm, in part because Terry McAuliffe is running essentially, as Joe Biden, listen.


TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: When I was governor last time, I worked with reasonable Republicans to get things done. We created thousands of new jobs, put billions into our infrastructure projects, and a billion dollars into education. But let me be clear, Glenn Youngkin is not a reasonable Republican. He is a loyalist to Donald Trump.


KING: There it all is right there, jobs, infrastructure, try to work with the other side if they're willing, and Trump's extreme.

KUCINICH: It's going to be a test. We're essentially seeing a test run of the 2022 messaging for a lot of Democrats. But I'll tell you, Democrats, middle the road Democrats I've spoken to are most -- are concerned about the inflation message that you're hearing come out of the Republican Party. So there'll be tests running their messaging as well, that we can only assume will spread out across the country as we get closer and closer to those midterm --

KING: Absolutely. And now, it is not always the case. But normally in a midterm year, the president's approval rating tells you quite a bit. And so if you look at Joe Biden right now, as he goes into Virginia tonight, he's at 56 percent. Can he hold that? You mentioned the inflation attacks, the other Republican attacks, immigration and elsewhere.

Can he hold that as we get closer to this year, the off year election, if Joe Biden's route 56 percent, Terry McAuliffe is probably going to win? The question is what happens. This is Barack Obama at this point in his first term, he went down to 46 percent by his first midterm, got walloped, lost control of the House. Donald Trump never got high. He was at 38 percent at six months into his first year. By the next year, he was at 42. He went up a little bit, but well below 50. He got walloped and lost control of the House.

So a president's approval rating tells you a lot. If you look at George W. Bush on this tablet, 9/11 happened late in Bush's first year and that was the anomaly the country rallied around the President. But if Biden stays above 55, Democrats have a shot. If he starts to slip below 50, you've probably got a Republican House and a Republican Senate, Virginia, will be keeping part of that early warning.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And that's what you're seeing the White House right now is trying to get ahead of those inflation attacks. And so, they yesterday put out a bunch of information, a whole presentation trying to really streamline and make it very simple for everyone to understand what exactly the President's proposals are. They went from first for a while explaining them as the jobs and families plan and they still are called that. But now they're trying to put it all blanket under the build back better banner. And that's because they realize that as the attacks were coming, that they needed to make it so people were able to understand that Democrats were prepared to better argue the case for these proposals, whether they pass with a bipartisan package or not. They wanted to be sure that that Democrats were equipped with what they needed to talk to voters.

KING: But that's a pretty big test, right? He's going to be out for campaign for Terry McAuliffe now, when he goes back to campaign for Terry McAuliffe in September, October, have they passed an infrastructure plan? Have the Democrats passed their agenda? That's the big question before us, right?

RESTON: And have the inflation costs gone down. I mean, I -- you know, when you're out on the trail, that is the first thing that people bring up now, and that the administration has not had a good answer on that or a good defense, you know, first. And we'll see that today.

KING: They keep saying it's going to be temporary.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And it's important to, you know, make no mistake, the White House has been aware and is focused on these down ballot elections and the attacks by Republicans, not just on inflation, not just with ongoing infrastructure negotiations, but also on crime, you know, on policing, on immigration.

You know, one example this may be the President's first time on the ground, you know, stumping for an incumbent. But when it comes to policy, if you remember, he made available stimulus funds to for localities to invest in local police departments. Speaking to White House officials, that wasn't just an initiative to address crime. That was a way to shield Democratic incumbents from Republican attacks.

KING: And we'll see the messaging can -- will Democrats talk about it? We'll see how that one plays out. It'll be fascinating.


Up next for us, Joe Biden promised you the most ethical administration in history. Does Hunter Biden's art auction pass that test?


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a changeup you might say in Major League Baseball, Cleveland's ball club saying goodbye to the Indians nickname, saying hello to the Guardian. The team says the search that led to the Guardians included a survey of some 40,000 fans.

The White House pushing back on ethics concerns after news that Hunter Biden plans to meet with potential buyers to art shows where his paintings will be on sale. The White House says the President son will discuss his artwork but not have any conversations about the sales process. There's also an agreement with the gallery that bidders and buyers will be kept anonymous but one ethics expert says still not a good look.


WALTER SHAUB, SENIOR ETHICS FELLOW, PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: It really doesn't matter whether anyone likes his art or not. The question is can you find anyone other than a president son who showed up on the scene and started selling for the cost of a house and a half? Ideally, Hunter Biden wouldn't be doing this because it sure looks like profiting off the presidency.


KING: As the new chief in charge of the U.S. Capitol Police. The Police Board picking Tom Manger, most recently a police chief here in suburban Maryland to lead the Department that after a nationwide search. Manger noted in the statement that protecting the Capitol has quote, never been more complex. And he vowed to ensure officers get the resources and the support they need.


Appreciate your time this week on Inside Politics. Have a great weekend. Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.