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Inside Politics

Today: Biden Campaigns With Newsom Day Before Polls Close; Trump Peddles Big Lie, Cashes In On 9/11 Weekend; Capitol Police Arrest Man With Bayonet, Machete Near DNC HQ. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 13, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The question is, are voters so mad that enough Democrats vote, yes or stay home, right?

SEEMA MEHTA, POLITICAL WRITER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Sure. I mean, Democrats have an enormous voting advantage in California because there's 5 million more Democrats than Republicans within the state. So they knew that going into this, if they could turn out their voters, that they would have a good shot miss him retaining his office. The question was whether enough Democrats were angry at Newsom over his actions during the pandemic.

None of our polling ever showed that. The only thing our polling showed when he -- when our polling showed him in jeopardy, it was because Democrats were apathetic about voting. It wasn't that they were -- that they disapproved of his job performance or that they disapproved of his pandemic mandates, his masks mandates, his vaccine mandates.

It was just that they weren't really excited about turning out. So Gavin Newsom and his allies spent like $36 million over the course of four weeks in August, and they brought out all these heavy hitters, you know, the current vice president Kamala Harris last week, they bring out President Biden today to really urge Democrats to get out, to vote.

And it looks like from the vote by mail, they've been successful. That said, Republicans are really expected turnout to turn out in large numbers on Tuesday, but at some point, the math simply won't work because there aren't just so many more Democrats in the state.

KING: And that's the math, does not work as long as a significant Democrats, no need everybody to participate, but they need significant participation, Jeff Zeleny, which gets us back to the point. I just want to put this down for a minute and stretch out the map of California for you. Remember, Governor Newsom was once the mayor of San Francisco.

This is his base up here, San Francisco in the Bay Area, a lot of Democrats up there. Then you come down to Los Angeles. Look at this 72 percent for him, if you look at Joe Biden in the presidential race in 2020, 71 percent for him, Los Angeles, obviously huge state. So the President is coming out, Jeff, on the final day to try to convince Democrats if you haven't cast your ballot yet either put it in the mail or show up tomorrow, I assume the President would not be coming unless Democrats were quite optimistic.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, there's no doubt about that. I mean, President Biden initially was going to come out here a couple weeks ago, even before Labor Day, we were told. But we know what's been happening back in Washington, of course, the Afghanistan withdraw very chaotic, the fight against COVID-19, the domestic agenda, all of that took precedent.

But you're right. President Biden clearly would not be coming to California on the eve of what Democrats fear could be a disappointing outcomes. What he is trying to do is sort of get a bit of the glow that they believe will come out of this race tomorrow.

Now President Biden, of course, his name is nowhere near the ballot. Governor Gavin Newsom, his name actually isn't on the ballot, either. Just simply the question, as you said, should the Governor be recalled or not. But the policies of the Biden administration are on in the conversation here in terms of mandates for vaccines, mandates for masking.

So this has become a nationalized race, the Democrats have tried to make it so trying to show that to Larry Elder is the leading Republican candidate is simply an extension of former President Donald Trump.

So clearly, the Biden administration wants to get a bit of energy off of what they expect will be a strong showing tomorrow and take that into the rest of this month, a critical time for the Biden agenda, the economic agenda. But John, it's hard to state really this recall race. It's so unique to California. It doesn't have that much to do with, of course, next year's midterm elections at all.

But presidents' especially beleaguered ones take wins where they can get them and they hope one will come here tomorrow in California.

KING: And Seema, as you know noted, the numbers overwhelmingly support the Democrats, but we count votes on Election Day. So I'm just showing on the map here. This is California 2020. You see the red in the northern part of the state then down through the Central Valley.

That's where Republicans are in California. This is Orange County down here. This used to be a Republican stronghold. It is moved. But look 53, 45 for President Biden, if you go back to Gavin Newsom's win in 2018, it was just 50, 49.

So there are places, Seema, we will watch tomorrow. And as we do, I also just want to show. Remember where the red is on this map from California Governor. This is where the preponderance of the signatures came to recall the Governor. See, the deeper the purple, that's where more of the signatures came from.

The urge to recall came from the very areas largely where Republicans lived throughout the Central Valley. When you're looking tomorrow, Seema, at participation and at the margins, if there is to be a Republican surprise, where will we find it?

MEHTA: I mean, it means like every Republican who hasn't voted has to turn out. I mean, the numbers are getting to the point where Democrats have just -- have such a huge advantage. But it's as of the areas you mentioned, Northern California, Central Valley, the Inland Empire, Orange County, if the Orange County swing voters who were largely Republican until 2016. If they go back to the other Republican roots, that can be a surprise.

But, you know, we haven't seen anything in the polling that indicates unless -- it's almost like every single Republican in the state has to vote. And also a significant number of Democrats would have had to turn on the Governor for this to be successful. But that said, we never know. This is a very strange election. It's taking place in September of an off year when nobody's used to voting. Every California voter, all 22 million of them received a mail ballot.

So it is a very unusual race. So, you know, never want to predict anything but it's, it does not appear to be but let the recall is going to be successful unless there's some dramatic changes in what we're seeing.


KING: Right, which is why to the never predict anything piece at the end there. That's why we count them tomorrow. The map is grey and blank right now. The votes come in. We'll count them tomorrow. Seema Mehta, Jeff Zeleny, grateful for the final day reporting from the scene there.

Up next for us, Donald Trump marks September 11th with election lies and with boxing commentary. We have some new numbers on what Republicans think about a 2024 comeback campaign.



KING: A paid speech to a religious group many consider a cult, a firehouse campaign stop being paid to watch the pummeling of a former American heavyweight legend and retelling the big lie over and over and over or put more succinctly a weekend in the life of Donald J. Trump. Yes, being different is key to his brand. But on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it seemed, well, unseemly. The 45th President of the United States cashing in, lying and taking broadsides at his successor.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The leader of our country was made to look like a fool. And that can never be allowed to happen. It was caused by bad planning, incredible weakness, and the leaders who truly didn't understand what was happening. Joe Biden and his inept administration surrendered in defeat, we will live on but sadly our country will be wounded for a long period of time.


KING: Our panel is back with us. As I noted, his brand is being different. And he often does things that seem counterintuitive or counter gravity, or whatever. But on a day when America reflects about a horrific attack on our country, listen here. This is the 45th president of the United States on a day America was attacked 20th anniversary of that himself, attacking American democracy.


TRUMP: He gave me great support. We won the election, but what are you going to do? We are fighting like hell, and we're going to keep fighting, and you see what happens, because elections do have consequences. Nobody ever thought a thing like this would be possible.


KING: We won the election, he says, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.


KING: No, he did not.

MARTIN: Yes, I was thinking about this with the last sort of grievous attack on America, which is of Pearl Harbor. Now I'm thinking about 1961 if you would had a political actor who was doing those kinds of things, it would have, I think, shocked sensibilities of the country because the country was in a different place, then.

I think Trump reflects what the country is today, in a lot of ways, John, not the entire country of course, lots of folks are deeply offended by his usually what to many is a sacred day to sort of do his partisan routine. But I think for a chunk of the country, it's just fine. It's who he is. And, frankly, it's who they are too.

KING: If it's for entertainment purposes, I guess they have that right. If it's for Trump 2024, should Trump be the president of the country again, look at this fascinating -- these fascinating new numbers in our new CNN SSRS poll. Should Trump be the leader of the Republican Party? Sixty-three percent of Republicans say Trump is the leader of their party, 37 percent say no. Are GOP chances in 2024 better with Trump? The party is evenly divided.


KING: So half of Republicans are nervous to the question, are we better off with him? So they get it. Even Republicans who believe him to be the leader of the party get that he is potentially hugely toxic as their candidate.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, I found that disparity between those two figures really fascinating in terms of where the Republican Party is, to the extent that the former President has had a consistent message, you know, out of office is that he has been baselessly lying about the election results of 2020. And you are starting to see that if he does run in 2024, that's going to be central, that's probably going to be central to his campaign to his message, and that is worrisome on many respects.

One with the fact that this was a legitimate election, but at the same time, you do see other Republican officials, Republican politicians, whether they internally want to or not take that lead. You know, we were talking about the California recall earlier, Larry Elder basically suggested that there could be quote, shenanigans in election results if he loses next week. And that is a trend that I think that we should be --


KIM: -- watching and concerned about.

KING: And so there was no doubt if you were watching on 9/11, the former president of the United States George W. Bush, he was president on 9/11 spoke in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and there's just zero doubt of who he had in mind when he said this.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there's disdainful pluralism, and their disregard for human life and their determination to defy our national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.


KING: The former President went on to talk about the tone and talk about that we should live in a world where we can disagree bigly, I can borrowed a term, about, you know, about policy debates but agree on central common facts at a time of crisis, whether it be 9/11 or a pandemic and yet we can't.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Yes, I think this is part of the message. The divide that we're seeing in the Republican Party today among its leaders in Congress, among former presidents such as former President Bush saying that there is a different path here we can take. However, we see Trump and those who are loyal to him following his lead. So this divide we're going to continue to see play out for months years to come.


MARTIN: But just real fast on if I could that polling data you showed earlier is so important because it does show the key difference between today and '24. Yes, Trump today widely seen as in charge of the GOP. It's a different question though when you ask even the most hardcore conservatives, you'll want him as your nominee in '24 and that's what makes the next couple of years so fascinating as Trump wants to be the standard bearer again, others in the party wanted to give them a gold watch instead. KING: We're going to watch this, this one plays out. Appreciate everybody coming in today.

Ahead for us, as top congressional leaders are briefed about right wing rally that's planned this weekend at the Capitol, Capitol Police have just arrested a man with a bayonet and a machete here at the Democratic National Committee headquarters.



KING: Tracking developments on Capitol Hill where the police say they have arrested a man with a bayonet and a machete near the Democratic Party headquarters. Police say officers on patrol spotted the man's pickup truck with a swastika and other white supremacist symbols painted on it.

When they pulled the truck over, they found the weapons inside. Here's of the arrest comes as congressional leaders just got briefed on security plans for a September 18th rally at the United States Capitol where the Capitol Police chief said yes in advance of that rally, temporary fencing will go back up.


CHIEF THOMAS MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: The fence will go up a day or two before. And if everything goes well, it'll go down, come down very soon after.


KING: Let's bring in our CNN law enforcement analyst Terrance Gainer. He's the former chief of the Capitol Police, Chief Gainer, grateful for your time today. You just heard Chief Manger there saying the fence goes up, you get what potentially disturbing word of this arrest. What is your sense, given the lessons that we all hope were learned after the January 6th insurrection, what are you most looking for as we head into this weekend?

TERRANCE GAINER, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think the Capitol Police will be very well prepared. There's an enhanced intelligence sharing with everybody. There'll be more people available. They'll have worked with the Metropolitan Police Department and other federal law enforcement agency. So they have had new equipment. They've been practicing. I think they're in a much better position, John.

KING: One of the points you just made there, Terry, is that, you know, information sharing. That was the legacy of the insurrection where we did find out and there's some disputes over how actionable the intelligence was. But there's no question, you know, the FBI had some information, other agencies had information, and it didn't all get into the same room or at least get into the same room to the right people with urgency. Are you convinced that that has been cleaned up since January 6th? GAINER: Absolutely. Even after the recommendations we made during the General Honore, part of it focused on the intelligence within the Capitol Police. And then Acting Pittman took very proactive procedures, reform that unit, add some more people, brought it in another leader. And I know they sit at the table with the chief. So the information is being shared. I know that the Chief and his staff have gone to roll calls, and personally share that with the personnel.

As I said they have extra equipment, they've been practice. So I don't think it's going to be a question of intelligence. It's going to be a question of those who are up there protesting, do they realize how they can peacefully protest and the consequences if it's not peaceful.

KING: Help me with the understanding from a law enforcement perspective of how much of the critical work before this rally is happening here in D.C. and how much of it might be happening around the country? I say that in the context of this rally is planned to show support for those charged in the January 6th insurrection.

So there's online chatter, there have been intelligence warnings about threats of violence. I assume that law enforcement agencies, whether they're federal or information then passed on to state local around the country are keeping track of what I'm going to call the usual suspects, people who are known to be communicating about coming perhaps with ill intent.

GAINER: I think after the 6th, everybody began paying more attention to a homegrown terrorist. And I can tell you just last month, about two weeks ago, I met out west with the National Association of State Sergeant at Arms and Chiefs of Police. They were all talking about that, all preparing, talking with their local federal prosecutors and local law enforcement officers. So everybody is trying to be sharper.

KING: Chief Gainer, appreciate your time and insights. I certainly hope you're right and we have a relatively peaceful weekend. Everyone has the right to demonstrate but of course we all know there are lines as well. Chief Gainer, grateful for your time, Sir.


Ahead, just over an hour from now the Secretary of State Tony Blinken faces lawmakers on Capitol Hill for the first of multiple hearings to answer questions about the Biden administration's chaotic at times, withdrawal from Afghanistan.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today some important congressional scrutiny on the chaotic final days of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. At 2 o'clock this afternoon, meaning just over an hour from now, the Secretary of State Tony Blinken expected to get tough questions both Democrats and Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The United States and South Korea now say they are investigating claims that North Korea successfully tested a new long range cruise missile over the weekend. North Korea's state run newspaper published two photos purported to be from that launch. The official North Korean news agency says leading officials and scientists took part. There was no mention, however, of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer says, yes, he plans to retire. But he won't say when. The 83-year-old is under pressure for many Democrats to step down now, because the party could lose its Senate majority in the 2022 midterms. Breyer is on the court for 27 years.


JUSTICE STEPHEN BREYER, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I won't retire because I decided to unbalance I wouldn't retire. I don't intend to die on the court. I don't think I'll be there forever.


KING: This quick programming note for us, mass shooting, gun violence, and the NRA is role in U.S. law. What's the cost of the war on gun control? A CNN film, The Price of Freedom airs this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here tomorrow on California recall day. Ana Cabrera picks up right now.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.