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WSJ: Trump Looks For Challenger To Depose McConnell; Texas Gov. Requests Emergency Declaration Over Border Crisis; Axios: Beto O'Rourke Considers Run For Texas Governor. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: How do you break it when, number one, the leader in the Senate is being targeted by the former president? And number two, these young Republicans who should be the future of the party are just deciding it's not worth it. It's too toxic?

MARK SANFORD (R-SC), FORMER GOVERNOR AND CONGRESSMAN: Well, I think he's right. I think he's a profiling courage and that he stepped down, I think he would have won that race as well. But you get to that point where this is just too crazy. I'm sick of it. I got other things that I could do with my life.

And so I very much relate to what he's getting at. But I think it again, illustrates the point at which, you know, the, you know, the four of us who spoke at originally against Trump, Corker and Flake in the Senate, me and Amash in the House are all gone, extinction.

I don't think that's the case anymore, whether that's with Cheney, whether that with Adam Kinzinger, where there would have been with Gonzales. I think that given his weakening hold on social media, given the fact he is no longer president of United States and has the all the accoutrements that come with that office. I think that his hold is weakening.

And I think that, you know, you may see, sadly, a blip up with regard to Republican power, if you want to call it that based on just the dynamics of House and Senate and where we are on the cycle. But I don't think his hand is strengthening, I think that it'll probably take an economic downturn, which we're not far from, to really sort of exercise him and what he stood for. But you're right. We're weird and curious spot.

KING: Well, the proof for me, you've always been a policy guy, which is why I enjoy our conversations, people at home can disagree or agree with you. But you've always been a policy guy. The proof to me that the fever is broken would be if leading Republicans would stand up to Trump on policy grounds because Trump was never about policy, as you know, you write in the book, and it's important, I want to read this.

As Republicans, we have simply lost our minds on the issue of science. How can there be any logic in trusting with our lives the science behind the miracles of modern medicine, but when that same science is applied to our planet, it's fake science. We should embrace science wherever it might lead and then look for conservative solutions to fix the problems science uncovers.

Why then is the current Republican Party four years of Trump climate change was a hoax. The science didn't prove anything. Why is the Republican Party still science in this -- still silent in this debate whether it's the science of the climate, and many Republicans even running afoul of the science on the pandemic?

SANFORD: You got me. I mean, again, it's a crazy time in politics it is contrary to conservatism which I've invested 25 years of my life to trying to advance it contrary to math and science and good on a lot of other very logical things. And it is this weird tribal, not called I wouldn't call it that, but a tribal embrace. That is toxic in an open political system. There are two things that will kill off a republic.

One is finances gone awry. And I think we're awfully close to some danger points there, then that's a longer conversation. The other is raw tribalism in a reason based Republic, which is what we have in spades right now. So why it exists, how I mean, it exists because Republicans for a long time didn't do what they said they were going to do.

And some strong man comes along and offers a bunch of crazy answers, which is exactly what high growth writes about in the road to serfdom in the fall of Germany after World War I.

KING: Governor, we'll continue the conversation as we go forward to this. This is the book, "Two Roads Diverged." Again, you can agree or disagree with the former governor of South Carolina. I like policy debates. So it's a good read. And it's a comfortable read. Appreciate it very much, Sir. We'll continue the conversation.


I said, when we come back, our panel is back with us to talk Trump, McConnell, politics.


KING: Some important news just in to CNN, the Supreme Court will hear a very important Mississippi abortion case on December 1st. That tees up one of the most substantive cases of the term the justices are being asked to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Mississippi law bans abortions after 15 weeks and it has no exceptions for rape or incest.

And it punishes physicians if doctors perform an abortion procedure outside the parameters of the law, those doctors could then have their medical license suspended or revoked and be fined. Again, the Supreme Court December 1st hearing a challenge to the Mississippi abortion.

More now on the Trump vengeance campaign and its new very high profile target. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting Donald Trump wants Mitch McConnell out or as "The Journal" reporters put it, McConnell's record-long reign as Senate Republican leader has lasted long enough for the former president. Our panel is back with us to discuss. These two have not been on the same page for quite some time. They have had though periods of data where they just both go about their business, word in "The Journal" that Trump is looking for Republican senators to essentially organize a civil war or revolt against McConnell not going too well, but just the fact that it's happening as you head into a midterm year, not helpful.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, but perhaps not helpful for McConnell. Sure. But I mean, I think the big takeaway for those of us who were on the Hill and reading the story was that, you know, Trump's clout really has it's been scaled back considerably, at least in the Senate.

I mean, you have people like Tommy Tuberville, who's Republican from Alabama, endorsed by President Trump saying that he supports McConnell you have people like John Kennedy saying that this would happen when quote, donkeys fly. And John Kennedy from Louisiana was a huge supporter Donald Trump.


I mean, even these candidates that Trump has endorsed in the Senate races are refusing to go on record to say they think McConnell is should be out or should be removed. And so, you know, that shows us that, you know, Trump in terms of his clout in the Senate, it's just not there. The big question, though, is the GOP base, because with Speaker John Boehner, you know, it was the base that really rose up and said, no more Boehner. They started putting pressure on the members who then started turning on their leadership that hasn't happened here. But could it, we'll see.

KING: That's -- you raised an interesting question, because if the interpretation of Senate Republicans is we don't have to worry about Trump? Is that a Washington conversation? Or is that what's happening in the real world? You just heard Governor Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, saying he believes that, you know, the fevers lasted longer, as he put it in his terms lasted longer than he anticipated. But he also thinks, when will we know, does this means we have to go through the primary campaign in 2022?

OLIVIER KNOX, AUTHOR, THE DAILY 202, THE WASHINGTON POST: I mean, this whole fever breaking analogy, it can go away anytime it wants. We had Barack Obama saying that his reelection in 2012 would either break the fever or I remember once, not the blister, which is not an especially appealing. Yes. And of course, you have to wonder how you work with Republicans after you've described your ideology as a blister.

But in this case, I mean, I your -- Rachael is exactly right, that McConnell has a base problem. But here's the thing. McConnell's base is that the GOP caucus, and he's got a really firm grasp on this even if some of these longshot candidates get in, they're not going to get a majority of just mathematically they're not going to get a majority of that.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. The takeaway from that piece as well could have been just as interesting as Trump trying to basically press McConnell and try to find a poser is this -- is how he was met with skepticism, how some of the people that he is calling seem hesitant to actually go about finding that contender.

To go back to your question, though, John, as well about whether or not this is contained to D.C. Let's remember, I mean, just when we came back, you know, you were reading about a Supreme, the Supreme Court hearing a case regarding abortion rights.

I mean, you have a governor in Texas, that many would say is still playing by Trump playbook of going to the border, you know, pressing against Biden, whether it be voting rights, abortion rights, you have governors throughout the country as well, that are going by that playbook as well. So I don't think, wow, it's interesting that the former presidents being met with skepticism here when it comes to contending against McConnell. I don't know -- I don't think that undermines the argument that Trump still has an influence over the GOP national.

KNOX: But isn't one of the takeaways from the election that the Trumpism did just fine. But like Trump himself lost the presidency. But you saw all these other gains for Republicans, including a lot of Trump branded Republicans, I mean, isn't it and I think those are distinct conversations, you know, whether he's style, and that the issues that he exploited for political gain are still very much alive in the in the Republican Party, versus whether he is the vessel through which these voters have to express themselves.

KING: And depending where you are on the map in the country, that can be a different conversation as well, which I think that's what we're going to litigate this again as we go through the primaries and through 2022. And then we'll deal with the questions that could come after that about 2024. We'll save those for now.

Up next for us, another big Biden border dilemma, nearly 12,000 migrants huddled under a Texas bridge.



KING: The Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is at the southern border today. This as the United States scrambles to contain a surge of migrants in Del Rio, Texas. You can look at the pictures they are disturbing nearly 12,000 migrants currently living under the Del Rio International Bridge, hoping to be processed.

They hope of those migrants is to be allowed into the United States. Now CNN was given access to the area and saw many living in makeshift tents trying to shield themselves from the brutal Texas sun. A local hospital in Del Rio says it is overwhelmed by migrants needing medical attention. CNN immigration reporter Priscilla Alvarez joins us now.

You have the crisis there, Secretary Mayorkas is there. If he doesn't know already, the governor of Texas Greg Abbott releasing a letter asking for a federal disaster declaration essentially on the scene, some of that's a Republican governor who wants to be in the Biden administration's face saying you're getting this wrong but some of it is you can see the pictures, they have a giant problem there.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: Well, it's extraordinary. There is a migrant camp that is under a -- the Del Rio bridge under -- just under 12,000 migrants are there. This has been an ongoing challenge for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They are not equipped to process these many migrants. And this happened very quickly. So it is a challenging situation for this administration as they try to get a handful of this and ramp up those deportation flights to hopefully lower the numbers underneath that bridge.

KING: You mentioned the deportation flights. Let's listen to the Secretary of Homeland Security talking about hey, we're in a pandemic, these migrants sadly, should have known better. Listen.


ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are increasing the frequency and size of the repatriation flights. We have sent a very clear message early on in light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic, that the border is not open. And people should not take the perilous journey here.


KING: The Secretary goes on to say we're returning people to other countries. Now is it right, am I right here that some of these are Haitian migrants initially, but many of them have not been home to Haiti in many years, and that is where they're being sent.

ALVAREZ: So many of these Haitians are believed to have fled Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to South America where they have been residing for several years. And then the pandemic decimated those economies and some of them decided to make the journey up to the U.S. southern border. So that's right. Many of these migrants, as they're returned to Haiti haven't been to that country in years. And there's concern among advocates about what are they returning to. They likely don't have a home there.


And also another point about what the Secretary said there. He talked about messaging. And that is also the challenge for this administration. How do you message that the border is closed when you also have misinformation from smugglers and frankly, a number of families who are being released in the United States?

KING: And so we're seven, eight months into this administration, which you've had a lot of turmoil at the department that the Secretary leads in some tension with White House, officials at the White House who handle immigration. To a critic who would say you're the guys who came in saying, you got this and you could fix this, you could take away the chaos of Trump. What's her answer?

ALVAREZ: Well, the administration has always said that it's going to take time. Changing the policies of the Trump administration was not going to happen overnight, it was going to take time. So that's often their response when pressed on these matters.

But the reality is that within the span of a year, we had official scrambling to accommodate a record number of unaccompanied minors at the U.S. southern border and now 12,000 people underneath a bridge in Del Rio. So the problem persists for this administration.

KING: You have the urgent day to day, things they have to deal with like the crowd, the migrants, the camp as you put it under that bridge. Plus they need some help with the bigger picture, Priscilla grateful for the reporting.

Up next for us, Beto O'Rourke in 2022 is the former congressman and presidential hopeful now running mulling a run for Texas Governor.



KING: Topping our Political Radar today the longtime former Trump organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg was in New York City courtroom today. His lawyer telling the court he has quote strong reason to believe that more indictments will be filed in the ongoing criminal probe of the Trump organization. It's the first in person court appearance since Weisselberg was indicted on charges related to an alleged 15 year-long tax evasion scheme. He has pleaded not guilty.

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is attending the United Nations conclave this week despite being unvaccinated on social media Bolsonaro arrow bragging he was going to the summit where attendees are required to be vaccinated but the United Nations using an honor system to check or I guess not check vaccination status. Just moments ago, President Bolsonaro was seen on mast on his way the United Nations building. Bolsonaro says he has natural immunity since he had COVID last year.

The San Francisco Mayor London Breed under fire this after video shows her maskless dancing and singing during a live indoor performance by the 90s RnB group, Tony Tony, Tony. That's Breed on the left. Critics argue she violated her own health department's masking order. Here is how the mayor is responding.


MAYOR LONDON BREED (D), SAN FRANCISCO: I was there. I was eating. And I was drinking. And I was sitting with my friends and everyone who came in there was vaccinated. The fact that this is even a story is sad.


KING: Beto O'Rourke for Governor. Axios and the New York Times reporting the former El Paso congressman is now seriously considering a run against the Texas Governor Greg Abbott next year. You'll remember O'Rourke served three terms in the House before running for Senate and then the White House.

He became a breakout star for many progressives during his failed Senate race against the Republican Senator Ted Cruz, which he lost by just three points. That gave Texas Democrats some hope the state might eventually turned blue, and then propelled at the time O'Rourke's Oval Office ambitious.

The panel is back with me. It would be a strong candidate, there's always these conversations. Texas is ready to turn blue and then Texas stays quiet red. Yes, no?

KANNO-YOUNGS: It's an opportunity for the Democrats to challenge a governor that has emerged really as one of the Biden administration's prominent foes on a variety of different agenda items. For O'Rourke who really has made his name recently in recent months, you know, not just on advocating for gun -- new gun legislation, but also in the voting rights battle. It's if anything and bare minimum a chance to also increase his profile.

BADE: Yes, I mean, he's also got a fundraising network out the wazoo so we can raise that money, it's going to cost some money if they're going to actually turn Texas to blue, and I think a race like that, I mean, it's going to be interesting because it's going to be a battle of the base issues.

I mean, Abbott's going to be running against immigration. There's a lot of border issues right now. And then, you know, Beto, he'll obviously be talking about Abbott's abortion ban and his tried to scale back, you know, the COVID mandates in terms of mass and vaccinations. It's going to be a really intense battle.

KING: Texas is a great laboratory right now for every national big political issue. One of Beto O'Rourke's big issues was participation, voting, turnout, the Texas election that would be another campaign.

KNOX: Yes, that's right. We would be able to see just how much Texas politics have been shaken up by these various laws that Governor Abbott has signed into law. Definitely abortion one is the most, most interesting, most salient because that's the one that I was watching across the south. You mentioned the Supreme Court case that's coming up as well. It'd be interesting to see whether that changes the way Democrats mobilized say suburban Texas winning.

KING: Maybe the speculation we'll get a yes or no definitively for Matthew McConaughey, right? He's been there's polling that shows McConaughey competitive if not beating Governor Abbott.

BADE: All the women, he'll swim for sure.

KING: Oh, there we go. All right, the best that we have to end on that note. Well, watch for the race.


Thank you for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow, busy News Day article where it picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.