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Soon: U.S. Capitol Police Hold Briefing Ahead of Right-Wing Rally; DHS Warns of Potential Violence Before Rally Tomorrow; Trump Expresses Support for "Persecuted" 1/6 Rioters; Ohio Representative Won't Run due to "Toxic" Politics in GOP & Trump; Book: Trump to Pence on January 5th: "I Don't Want to be Your Friend Anymore". Aired 12- 12:30p ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

One down nine to go that vengeful glee from Donald Trump. At word one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach him is not running again. Congressman Anthony Gonzales calls Trump a cancer and asks, why serve in a party so wedded to the big lie?

Plus brand new CNN reporting on Mike Pence and 2024 we know and he knows Trump is no longer a friend yet Pence is making moves. And right now an FDA Committee is debating COVID booster shots. The Biden White House wants a green light but is that guided by science or by politics?

Up first, though this hour a Capitol on high alert; the Department of Homeland Security issuing an alert warning of possible violence here in Washington as early as today, members of Congress and their staff on notice stay away from the Capitol this weekend. A big security fence is backed up and there was a secondary perimeter of smaller fencing and concrete barriers beyond that.

The worry centers on a planned Saturday rally by supporters of Donald Trump and those who stormed the Capitol back on January 6th, that latest DHS bulletin says authorities have identified no specific or credible threat of violence but online chatter, other intelligence and of course, the lessons of January 6th have law enforcement on edge and on duty in big numbers. CNN's Whitney Wild is on the scene for us in Capitol Hill. Whitney, what's the latest?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: We've just learned that the Department of Defense has approved to 100 members of the National Guard to stage here in Washington to serve as somewhat of a quick reaction force. That's critical, John, because that was something that was desperately needed on January 6th, but we know didn't happen. We know the availability of a quick reaction force was something that General Russell Honore had suggested in his sweeping review of the security failures that day so certainly taking an early lesson learned and turning that into a material action here in Washington.

In addition to those 100 members of the National Guard Capitol Police say that, that law enforcement partners in the area will also be available to assist. As you mentioned, we have this Capitol fence up around this inner perimeter of the Capitol. So there's a physical presence here, as well as there will be an immense law enforcement presence here in Washington on Saturday.

The intelligence they're working with right now suggests that there may be acts of violence today, either from protesters or counter protesters. Excuse me, I want to - I want to couch that, John, there's a possibility of violence that they're concerned about it.

I don't want to say specifically that there will be because the reality is DHS believes that there is no specific or credible plot but rather they're concerned about this ramping up of online chatter. In addition to the possibility of violence related to the rally they're also concerned about - targets of - targeted - targeting of elected officials, targeting of liberal churches, as they put it in this intelligence assessment, targeted, you know, attacks against Democrats.

So it's a dynamic law enforcement situation here in Washington, as well as across the country because the other intelligence is working with John is the possibility of other events around the country. So preparing here Friday for preparing here Saturday, we'll see what unfolds the event organizer without John insists that this will be peaceful, back to you.

KING: Whitney Wild, live reporting from the scene. I appreciate that. Let's bring in now our CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst Andrew McCabe. He's of course, the Former Deputy Director of the FBI. Andy McCabe grateful for your time on this day!

We just saw from Whitney Wild what we can see. You see the Capitol fence the big fences back up; you see beyond that I drove it by today, smaller fencing, and some concrete barriers. You see law enforcement officials already and you here the Department of Defense is ready. The Metropolitan Police are ready. The Capitol Police are ready.

So lessons learned from January 6th, what don't we see Andy, what is happening right now from an intelligence and a surveillance perspective in advance of this rally?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Sure, John. So what you're not seeing is the very close person to person coordination in command posts at the FBI's Washington field office at the Capitol Police Department, where you actually have intelligence professionals and investigators, shoulder to shoulder computer to computer able to in real time exchange, the intelligence that they're getting on the ground. That's incredibly important. For the FBI's side, they're probably also looking very closely at those individuals who are already under investigation and thought to be potentially domestic violent extremist thought to be adherents of several of these groups.

Those folks are probably under very close surveillance in the days leading up to this rally, some of them may be contacted to discourage them from traveling to the Capitol if they have those sorts of plans. So there's a lot going on that you don't see all of which is important to keep in the Capitol safe.

KING: So let me read from this DHS - DHS also warning lone offenders in small groups of individuals can mobilize to violence with little to no warning, particularly in response to confrontational encounters with perceived opponents or calls for escalation by key influencers.


KING: So you have the warning out there, Andy, where's the line? Do you have to have with -- if for law enforcement officials say to track somebody, let's say there was somebody online saying, I'm going to Washington, I'm going to cause trouble. They said that online, there's absolutely - there's a First Amendment right to say that.

Where are the lines for you to be able to - that person to be able to say, see if they leave their home in state X and make their way toward Washington?

MCCABE: So John, there - the government is allowed to read and see all those messages that are publicly available on social media just like anybody else's. So there, that's how they very preliminarily kind of keep a finger in the water to judge the temperature of kind of these communities and the rhetoric that's out there.

But in order to start surveilling someone in order to start using investigative techniques, from the FBI's side, you have to have an investigation, or at least an assessment open targeting that person. So you need some information that indicates that this person is thinking about taking some sort of action, possibly, that would be a violation of federal law.

There's got to be predication for that sort of investigation but once predicated, and then you have the full panoply of resources in front of you, like surveillance, like the use of undercover informants, things of that nature.

KING: One of the themes we know from January 6th, 610 people have been charged, some are already adjudicating their cases. Many of those people Andy say that they thought they had every right to be there every reason to be there, because they believe they were called there by the President of the United States. That's what they say. Maybe that's their lawyers coming up with a clever legal argument.

But that is what they say. The former president did issue a statement about this event, and he says our hearts and minds, with the people being persecuted so unfairly, related to the January 6th protests concerning the rate presidential election, in addition to everything else that is will be proven conclusively, we have a two tier system of justice. In the end, however, justice will prevail.

When Donald Trump speaks, you and I may hear at one way, or what is important from a law enforcement standpoint to study in terms of how somebody who plans to show up in D.C. again might hear it?

MCCABE: Well look John; we know that the former president has a direct and incendiary effect on these people. So these are statements what the former president says and what he does often two very different things. But nevertheless, I am sure law enforcement is watching whether or not he's going to engage in fanning the flames of this crowd.

And it seems that over the last few days that he's been a little more active in that respect. And let's be perfectly clear, the people who showed up on January 6th, did have a right to come to the Capitol did have a right to go to that rally, did have a right to walk around with signs and slogans and have exercised their first amendment rights.

What they did not have was the right to attack the Capitol to be present on that ground to be beyond the security perimeter to enter the Capitol buildings, break windows, destroyed property and steal things? Those are crimes, they're not political crimes. They're just federal crimes, and those people are being prosecuted, because there's evidence that they did it.

KING: Right. Very important point prosecuted, not persecuted. They have every right to make their case in court, but they're being prosecuted, not persecuted --

MCCABE: That's right.

KING: Grateful for the important insights. Joining us now to share their reporting and their insights here in the studio Karoun Demirjian of "The Washington Post", Catherine Lucey of "The Wall Street Journal" and Tia Mitchell of "The Atlanta-Constitution".

Tia, I know you've been looking at reporting, it's the organizer of this event. They call it "Justice for J6" "Justice for January 6th". But as always, there are personal and political interest involved here, too.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes, you know the organizer of the event. It was a former low level staffer in the Trump Administration. But now he's a political consultant, and one of his clients is running for Congress in Georgia, and is now one of the keynote speakers at tomorrow's rally.

It goes to show you that even if many mainstream Republicans aren't attending the rally, this line of thinking is ingrained in the party.

KING: Line of thinking is ingrained in the party. And the support of people like this is critical to the party, which is the dangerous part. And again, trying to talk to Andy McCabe there about how this law enforcement translates Trump in a way maybe that a political reporter might not?

He says these people are being persecuted. So clearly, he says hearts and minds, he is with them. He is with them. And he today released another letter, this went to the Secretary of State in Georgia, saying the election was rigged, and you should do something about it and overturn the election.

So Donald Trump is not being helpful, he would say he's not directly telling anyone to do anything wrong, but it's not helpful in this environment.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Now, certainly, he's using this moment to keep sort of fanning these flames and repeating these false claims about a rigged election. And so you're going to keep hearing that from him I think.

Although it is interesting he also did an interview where he talked about how this event could potentially be a setup that, you know if there weren't enough people there that you know, it would be viewed as not enough spirit. There were too many people there, they get persecuted.

So he is I think, trying already to sort of manage the outcome depending on what this looks like. But certainly yes, he's - he is continuing to make these claims and people are listening to him and they take the take what he says seriously.

KING: From a security and defense posture, it does appear that they have learned some important lessons at least about preparations.


KING: We'll see what happens tonight and tomorrow?

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, NATIONAL SECURITY & PENTAGON REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right and that was one of the big takeaways. Why weren't they more prepared for this? Now they have had the experience of January 6th, knowing they don't want to repeat that. So this will be the unveiling basically, some of the changes have been made at the outset.

KING: And you hope it's not necessary. But in this, you hope it doesn't become necessary, but it's certainly necessary to prepare. Up next for us, from rising Republicans store to early retirement one of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump bows out.


KING: Donald Trump is celebrating today saying good riddance to a Republican member of Congress on the former president's revenge list. Ohio's Anthony Gonzalez voted to impeach Trump and he now says he will not seek reelection next year.


KING: Trump's response, you see it right there. One down, nine to go. Gonzales insists he could have survived the Trump back primary challenge. But he says Trump is a cancer in the GOP and that he sees no point in serving when House Republican leaders are so beholden to the former president. Our panel is back with us now also including Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times" who broke this story last night and spoke with Congressman Gonzales.

Let's focus on that last point. He believes he could have survived primary challenge. But this once rising star in the Republican Party says I don't want a piece of it anymore. It's too toxic.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That was the most telling part of my chat yesterday with Mr. Gonzales was he basically confessed that, you know, I could have put together the money and run a pretty brutal campaign to survive the primary and I didn't want to come back.

I don't want to come back to a Trumpified House GOP Caucus. I don't want to bust my behind for the next year to get re nominated to come back in 2023 in the next Congress, and serve with a bunch of Trump sycophants. It's just not what I want to do.

I think that recognition that that's where the party is going is perhaps one of the most important stories in this years' Congress.

KING: There will be - there will be and we'll get to this part of the conversation in a minute. There'll be some who say; sure, that's what he says. But Trump is so powerful; maybe he would have lost the primary. We'll come to that in a minute. We'll come to that part in a minute.

And we won't know obviously, if he doesn't run on the primary, but I just want to read from the interview he did with you, "Politically, the environment is so toxic, especially in our party right now. This is the direction that we're going to go for the next two years and potentially four, and it's going to make Trump the center of our fundraising efforts and political outreach. That is not something I'm going to be a part of".

What does it say to the Republican Party? This is a 37-year-old guy, a football hero in college had an NFL career Cuban American Heritage, a State of Ohio, Midwestern state, this was a guy who a couple years ago, everybody was saying this is a future Senator or a future Governor, maybe a future national figure for the Republican Party. And now he wants no part of it.

LUCEY: That is one of those fascinating things here. I think this is someone who you think they'd be bending over backwards to try and get in kind of profile and credentials that he has. And it does, I think, to Jonathan's point, raised real questions about where the Republican Party is going, and what it means that they try and take back the majorities?

Because one of the - one theory of the case is that the path to getting back power is through suburban areas, more moderate areas, and what kind of candidates are you bringing in to try and win those types of seats if the party is moving in this direction? And people like Mr. Gonzalez don't want to run anymore? MITCHELL: Yes, I think it shows that like, the big tent populist approach is not where the Republican Party is going right now? Right now the Republican Party is being controlled by who is faithful to Donald Trump, and that's who they're looking for.

And I think it's so interesting that an incumbent looking to being in the majority is like, no, if this is how we're going to deliver, I don't want to be a part of that.

MARTIN: Right.

KING: Right. And you have a gleeful Trump today, and of course, he's never subtle. It's again, one of the statements one down nine to go in the statement a little bit before that, because he felt compelled to comment several times about this because he's happy.

He says Gonzales decided to quit after enduring a tremendous loss of popularity of which he had little since its ill-informed and otherwise very stupid impeachment vote there. He goes on and on and on. Again, not subtle at all and the guy's leaving, you could at least be quiet, if you want it to be.

The challenge here is this is a Republican district, but the candidate that Trump had already support as a former aide Max Miller, described as a cocky bully with a quick trigger temper. Mr. Miller himself concedes he has a lot of things in his younger days that he's not happy about not proud of.

In later days, he has been accused; he completely denies this, of striking a former girlfriend at one point. So this is - you have a 37- year-old Cuban American football guy, Ohio Stanford guy, great resume versus a Trumpy candidate who, let's just say has a more tarnished resume?

DEMIRJIAN: Unsavory details in his background? Look, I mean, yes, if it was a case on the merits, I think that the - neutral observer would say like, yes, yes, better candidate X to run an election in X, right? But that's not the situation that we're dealing with right now.

And I think that it's really important to notice that the former president is celebrating. This is part of the problem. People who speak out against the president - against Trump don't do so until they're on their way out the door by and large, except for in a very, very small subset of cases like the Liz Cheney and the Adam Kinzinger is his world and yes, Gonzalez's vote.

But it becomes too hard and so they go, and then there's nobody left except for the Trumpian people. So it's kind of like a self-cleansing situation in a way which I don't mean to use --

LUCEY: --right this is the first of ten Republican but is not the first Republican who clashed with Trump to exit. We saw a huge number of Republicans either retire or decide not to run for election.

KING: So you see, you see some up there. These are Trump Republicans who've been hurt by the impeachment vote. John Katko was trying to negotiate to create a bipartisan January 6th Commission he got rolled by the Republican leadership because Trump was mad.


KING: You see Liz Cheney, Fred Upton, Congresswoman Butler, Kinzinger and Gonzales, those are - they've all been hurt they're standing and their primary challenges against several, if not most of them. And then there's 17 Republicans who either voted in the House to impeach or in the Senate to convict you're making the point.

Congressman Gonzales, again, viewed by many as a future rising star in the Republican Party. This is about Trump, not about majority, not about Republican governance, the Republican Party has become about what does Trump want? Not about conservative principles or anything else? Is that wrong?

MARTIN: Yes. It is totally detached from policy, that's one of the most fascinating parts of this is, it's entirely a personality issue now. And you know, will you pledge fealty to the personality? It's not about policy X or Y or Z that's totally separate from this. I think that's what troubles a lot of conservatives, especially is that this is not the old Reagan versus Ford in 76 are going to be a moderate party or conservative party.

It's just are you for the big guy, are you against the big guy? And I think that is a whole different set of fish.

MITCHELL: It's just, you know, it's something that you see in a lot of other countries all the time. And we don't really think of American politics as being like that. But it's a pretty common thing to see around the world with this idea of fealty to leaders and populism. And you're seeing --

MARTIN: It can happen it can happen here as well.

MITCHELL: Remember, Republicans are likely to be in the majority in the House after the 2020 election just based on redistricting only. And so if this is the way the Republican Party is going that means this is the way that people who will control the U.S. House of Representatives will be governing from that standpoint. And that's something I think people at home should be thinking about.

MARTIN: Just one last fast --

KING: If you remember right after the impeachment vote, you know the 10 especially said we will be fine. We will survive. You would have to say on this day, on this day anyway, Trump is winning this argument in Republican politics.

MARTIN: Yes. And look, I think that this sets up a midterm showdown next year in 2022. That is going to be as significant in the Republican Party as any I can recall. Think about 2010 and 2014 the so called Tea Party versus - primaries, I mean, that looks small and inconsequential compared to what next year is going to be.

If those nine House members plus Murkowski, who was the only Senator in the GOP have voted to come back can survive or someone can survive. That will say a lot.

KING: But is there any --

MARTIN: But if they lose --

KING: Is there any evidence that Kevin McCarthy insert laughter here? Or Mitch McConnell, it's a more nuanced question, are willing to stand up to Trump and say, stop this, stop this, stay out of these primaries? We want these people to stay. You're laughing at me. I know. It's fine. It's fine. I asked it.

LUCEY: I do think you hear from a lot of party members and leaders that they would like to move forward and talk about other things. You'll hear them talk about that they'd like to talk about fiscal issues; they'd like to talk about Biden. They'd like to talk about inflation. But that's a different thing.

DEMIRJIAN: It would take a move of courage by either the leader, the GOP, or by these rank and file members and nobody seems to want to, you know, do that really, really hard thing that would take to actually execute the survival that is possible, probably, but not palatable.

KING: Right. So again, the people who seeking power, I'd say maybe get power both the House and Senate after the midterm elections continue to show fealty to a man who again today wrote a letter to the Georgia Secretary of State promoting the big lie. That is where the Republican Party wants to place its bet still.

Coming up for us, a brand new CNN reporting on Mike Pence and his growing political team and this question, can a man Trump sees as a trader succeed in today's GOP?



KING: It's brand new CNN reporting now on Mike Pence and yet another slice of the Trump effect on the Republican Party. CNN's Michael Warren has some brand new details of a clear effort by parents to kick his political activities into higher gear, building out a staff bringing in fundraisers planning trips to the early 2024 primary states.

Now none of that is unusual. What is, is the angry Trump cloud that hovers over any Pence political ambition? Our panel is back with us and we're joined by CNN's Michael Warren whose story on Mr. Pence just broke on our CNN politics page.

Its great reporting. So you're the vice president. You're out of power. There's an election cycle coming of course, you're hiring staff, you're expanding your operation. You've risen - going to raise some money, you're going to go to the early states except, except Donald Trump has made quite clear. Mike Pence is no longer his friend. Let me read loud. Let's just get right to it. This is in the new book "Peril" by Bob Woodward and Bob Costa. They're talking about the "Pence is refusing telling the president I cannot block the election results. I cannot block certifying the Electoral College. No, no, no, you don't understand, Mike, you can do this. I don't want to be your friend anymore if you don't do this" How does a not friend of Donald Trump run for president in Donald Trump's party?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, it's a difficult question that's looming over not just Mike Pence, but all Republicans who want to run in 2024. But of course, we know that Pence and Trump had this unique relationship.

I'm actually told John that they don't actually have much of a relationship at all right now that quote, kind of present where things are right now Pence and Trump have not spoken to each other. I'm told by two Republicans in five months since April, when Pence had heart surgery, Donald Trump did call his Former Vice President and say, I wish you well.

But what I'm also told is this expansion of his political team opening up a new office space just last month here in Washington D.C. for his nonprofit group. All of this crisscrossing across the country making plans to visit Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina all a part of this effort where Mike Pence is not trying to patch things up with the former president.