Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Adam Kinzinger: Committee Mulls Criminal Contempt for Defying Subpoenas; Grassley Embraces Trump's Support as Former President Spreads Lies; Trump Continues to Peddle the Big Lie as GOP Embraces Him; Study: Democrat-Led States Saw Slower COVID Spread than GOP-Led States; Merck Seeks Emergency Use for Pill to Treat COVID-19. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 11, 2021 - 12:00   ET



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

It could be a major breakthrough, a pill that threats COVID. Merck asked the FDA to green light a drug it says cuts by half the rate of severe COVID in those at high risk. Plus, the Democrat is on defense as the Virginia Governor's race enters the stretch.

Terry McAuliffe walks back a critique of President Biden and walks into a storm of apparent schools and critical race theory. And George Clooney talks politics. He says he knows Donald Trump and just wait he has a very colorful description for the former president.

We begin though with a threat to democracy playing out in plain sight now, with the open support of leading Republicans. Donald Trump is not only still selling his big lie, he is making taking direct aim at those who might try to stop him if he tries to steal the 2024 election.

It makes the search for the full truth about Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election all the more important, And we are about to learn much more about just how aggressive the House January 6 Committee is prepared to be in that search for the truth?

Trump allies now define committee subpoenas as lawmakers try to document how the former presidents' rage over failing to get help to steal the 2020 election, fomented the January 6 rally and the insurrection. CNN's Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill for some big days ahead for this committee, Ryan?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no doubt about that, John. This is the week that that first group of individuals that were subpoenaed by the January 6th Select Committee is scheduled to be here on Capitol Hill for closed door depositions.

We're of course talking about Dan Scavino, the Former Deputy, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the Former White House Chief of Staff, Kash Patel, who was an official at the Department of Defense on January 6, and of course, Steve Bannon, the Former White House Counselor and Trump booster who was part of that group of people urging people to come to the Capitol on that day.

Now, we already know that Bannon has said that he's just not going to comply with the subpoena that he is going to follow the former president's marching orders and help him defend executive privilege. The level of cooperation amongst these other three men is unclear at this point, but the committee is making it very clear to them that should they try to defy these subpoenas?

They're going to use every tool in their toolbox to make sure that they cooperate. Listen to what Adam Kinzinger one of the Republican members of the committee said about that this morning.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): If it gets to a point where we realize they're stonewalling or they're not serious, there's contempt things you can file you can do it through Congress, you can do it through the DOJ criminal contempt. I think that's our leanness to say criminal contempt. There's going to be someday I still pray and hope you know people wake up from kind of this, this Donald Trump buzz/hangover flash/whatever drunken thing is going on, and realize that the country is actually pretty important.


NOBLES: So there are a lot of obstacles right now that the committee is being forced to contend with that could play out in a big way this week, John, as we see how they respond to the lack of response from this group of individuals that have been subpoenaed by them for information, John.

KING: Fascinating few days ahead, as we see, as I said, a very important search for the truth. Ryan Nobles I appreciate it. We're kicking us off with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Francesca Chambers of McClatchy, CNN's Phil Mattingly, and Margaret Talev of "AXIOS".

Now there are a lot of people out there who say, let the committee build the history, that's fine. But why don't you all stop talking about this? Why'd you stop talking about Donald Trump? Sorry, because this is important. This is Donald Trump this weekend in Iowa, listen.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: First of all, he didn't get elected. OK, forget that. And you hear these numbers of swing states; there was no reason to concede they should have conceded. Mitch McConnell didn't have the courage to challenge the election. He should have challenged the election.


KING: Donald Trump is on that stage with Chuck Grassley, who is running for reelection next year, a senior member of Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans. He does on that stage with a Republican member of Congress, the elections, remember the Electoral College comes to the House first. He's on the stage with the Chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and he's targeting Mitch McConnell there.

He has targeted secretaries of states, he is trying to elect governors in the swing states that would make a difference, maybe make different decisions in 2024. And now standing on that stage, and there's Chuck Grassley right there. He's essentially Phil Mattingly laying the groundwork if we take the Senate meeting, Republicans take the Senate; let's dump Mitch McConnell, who said no, in 2020.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The absurdity of dumping the guy who essentially was responsible for every major achievement that Former President Trump had while he was in office, whether it was judges, whether it was the tax bill, also dumping a leader that has a ton of respect inside the Republican conference, so they're making them choose between the former president and the Senate Minority Leader would be a little bit complicated.

I think you kind of hit on a key point here. The idea of you hear from Republicans stop talking about the past stop talking about January 6, OK, well, the front runner for your party who has made very clear he's considering a presidential run, talks about it - never actually stops talking about it and is lying about it through his teeth, while other elected Republicans, including some were very well respected, stand up onstage next to him and generally concur or at least nod their heads.

That's why it's important to pay attention to him. What it's doing inside the Republican Party. If you want to know where the party is at the appearance from Senator Grassley is telling us anything you're going to see into a window of things right now.

We had the Pew Poll that said, only 44 -- 45 percent of Republicans really want Trump to run again. OK, that might be true on that poll. We're elected officials that tell you where the party is more than anything else?


MATTINGLY: And Senator Grassley would not have been on that stage if he was not keenly aware, Donald Trump is still the Leader of the Republican Party and the front runner for 2024.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: I think that's - that all goes to this question of are Congressional Democrats and a couple of Republicans on the Committee really going to enforce to pursue contempt, and that sort of thing?

Is the Justice Department in the Biden Administration actually going to use their powers as they could? And it has long been true that Congress is like reluctant to hold people in contempt if they dance around at hearings and the Justice Department's last one aside, that traditionally law Justice Departments don't want to do anything that could be perceived as politically punitive.

I think there is a red line here. And the difference is that it's not true that the election was stolen. It's not true that the results are in question. It's not true that Donald Trump should be the President right now. None of those things are true.

And the people that they are calling that are resisting right now are part of the propaganda of these things that aren't true. And so I think breaking that that pattern and becoming more activists, whether you're Congress or the White House, the idea is that this isn't about politicizing this is protecting you against political.

And if you look at the Senate Judiciary Committee report last week, it is true. You just went through a whole lot of things that are not true. It is true that Donald Trump nine times directly reached out to the Justice Department trying to get them to overturn the results of an election. That's the fraud Donald Trump trying to reverse the election.

It is true, he's trying to take out secretaries of state and get governors elected in these key battleground states so that if you have a close election, again, things on the ground in those states turn out differently. They didn't 2020. If the Electoral College comes to the House, and the House is then run by Republicans, people like Steve Scalise is going to have a decision to make people like this.


REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): I hope we get back to what the Constitution says but clearly in a number of states they didn't follow those legislatively.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you think the election was stolen?

SCALISE: What I said is there are states that didn't follow their legislatively set rules.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last time, I promise. Do you think the election was stolen or not? I understand you think there were irregularities and things that need to be fixed? Do you think the election was stolen?

SCALISE: And it's not just regulated states that did not follow the laws set which the Constitution says they're supposed to follow?


KING: A, thank Chris Wallace for trying, repeatedly trying. B, that's not just about 2020 every one of the states the Trump campaign had every legal right to challenge in every one of those states it, did it lost.

Time and time again, it lost that is Steve Scully is leaving in the back pocket of House Republicans the ability when the Electoral College comes in next time to say we don't like how Arizona handled that? We don't like how Pennsylvania handled that. So we are going to change it here in Washington. That's what he's doing.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: And Donald Trump demands unflinching loyalty from Republicans. And that's core to the point that you were making before and that's exactly what you saw happening right there with Steve Scalise.

Nobody, not nobody, maybe sometimes it was McConnell many people who want to remain party leaders do not want to cross Donald Trump because they see that as a surefire way to be moved out of that position, John, but you are right about it being about the future.

And what I'm hearing from Democrats is that they want to see a hard line taken on these subpoenas. They want to see this brought to the forefront of the conversation, because they do believe that this is about 2022. This is about 2024 and potential actions that can be taken.

KING: And it's about power. Well, let's be clear, it's about power those Republicans like Chuck Grassley, Trump's popular in Iowa. Chuck Grassley wants to win another term. Chuck Grassley wants to be Chairman Grassley again, as opposed to Ranking Member. Grassley again, there are very few Republicans you saw Adam Kinzinger in Ryan Noble's report.

Liz Cheney is also a Republican on the Committee. This is what she said after she heard Steve Scalise on Fox News Sunday. Millions of Americans have been sold a fraud, that the election was stolen, Republicans have a duty to tell the American people that this is not true. Perpetuating the big lie is an attack on the core of our constitutional republic. She is right.

She is right. The facts support her that's not a political partisan statement. But there are so few Republicans who are willing to just tell the president he's not welcome. And there are so many Republicans who want to rush out to be on the stage at a Trump rally.

MATTINGLY: And I think that's -- Francesca hits at key point here. Congressman Scalise is essentially just trying not to piss off Donald Trump, right? And while doing so wittingly, or unwittingly, to your point is laying the groundwork for the potential for 2024 when it gets to the House, making a decision about electors becoming very, very problematic very, very quickly.

And this has been the Republican Party for five years, is, well, if we just survived today, and we just kind of push them off today. At some point someone will take him out or somebody else will challenge him or someone else will rise.

And they have been wrong every single day for the better part of the last five and a half years. And I get it to your point if you want to win the House majority, they're very close. They're on the verge of it. You don't want to upset the guy who rallies your base and can get voters out like nobody else your party has seen in decades.

Fair, except for when the actual kind of baselines of democracies is at stake. And I think that's the thing that everybody's trying to figure out right now is Republican leaders know this. They can play - if they want to publicly they're very cognizant of the dynamics that are taking place right now what's happening on the state level especially.


MATTINGLY: And yet, they've decided that in order to win the House, they have no other option. And we wonder how they sleep well with that decision?

KING: They need him they need his voters and they want power. And that's where it is right now. We'll continue the conversation because it's an important one. Coming up for us though politics and the pandemic COVID response, the new study suggests the politics of your Governor likely impacts the case count in your state.


KING: A just released study illustrates a very stark red blue divide in America's COVID response. States with Democratic leaders those of the states in blue on this map were more aggressive with COVID restrict things like masking, for example. And researchers at Binghamton University found those blue states had a significantly lower rate of COVID spread.


KING: 7 percent to 8 percent lower in fact. According to this research, which was just published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, so let's walk through some of this. Here's your states right here. 27 Republicans 23 Democrats, red and blue. You're familiar with how that map looks like.

Now take a look over here is how this played out. This map is COVID cases by population, right? Take a look of the worst 10 states Tennessee, North Dakota, South Carolina, Florida, South Dakota, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alaska, Alabama, and Rhode Island nine out of those 10 states, nine out of those 10 states with the worst case count per population have Republican Governors.

And you look at hospitalizations right here, right of the worst 10 states you see them across the top there. Eight of these in Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, you have Democratic Governors; eight of the states that have the highest hospitalization rates during COVID have Republican Governors.

At that point, let's bring in to share his insights and expertise Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University. Doctor, once again, the numbers the data don't lie. Democratic led states were more aggressive with things like masking, things like shutdowns and other COVID restrictions.

The Republican states were not. And it shows up when you look at cases and you look at hospitalizations without a doubt, right?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE & SURGERY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Right. And it's not a surprise, you know, a Governor has a very heavy hand in a state and a Governor can either help or Governor can actively hurt.

So if a state prohibits, for instance, mask mandates for schools that has an obvious impact, if a Governor promotes testing. If a Governor during the darkest parts of this pandemic kept the states relatively closed for a long period of time, you know, those closures had the greatest impact on preventing spread.

So we've seen - we've seen Governors, particularly in the Northeast, have a very, very proactive beneficial role in preventing the spread of this virus. And we've seen Governors in the south. I think the one notable exception to sort of the red blue gubernatorial impact is the state in which I live, which is Maryland, which has Governor Larry Hogan who adopted very proactive mask mandates kept the state relatively close for quite a period of time.

And Maryland has one of the lowest rates of COVID in the country now. So it doesn't have to be split simply by politics. It's - but those policies of the - of those southern states in particular led to the massive spread, particularly the summer.

KING: I think the Republican Governors of Massachusetts and Vermont would agree if you have that Mid Atlantic to the north, those states did tend to fare better because they had Governors of Republican and Democrat who were more proactive, if you will.

So some of this is rearview mirror, you're looking at hospitalizations, or you're looking at cases that go back to the very beginning. This map here, Dr. Reiner gets us into the here and now because we continue to see this play out the number one challenge in the country is to get people vaccinated.

These are the 15 states that have vaccinated less than half of their population. 15 states where you still have less than half of the population vaccinated. And guess what, 14 of the 15 only Louisiana of those 15 states has a Democratic Governor.

So you see this play out again, in terms of public messaging, public pushing public urging of people to roll up their sleeves, the republican led states are behind the others when it comes to vaccines?

DR. REINER: Right. And as we move into winter, what we'll see is we'll see large parts of this country have a relatively tame increase, if any, in COVID. Those are the states with the highest vaccination rates. And then we'll see pocket, particularly in South with these extraordinarily low vaccination rates, where COVID will rear its very ugly head again, as people move in indoors during the winter.

So these vaccines - we're really going to see a tale of two countries vaccinated America where COVID is relatively contained and unvaccinated America, where we're going to see again, hospitals filled with people, as the virus comes back.

KING: Reiner standby, I want to come back to you in a moment. On another COVID related issue I want to bring the panel into the conversation right now. The question is the numbers speak for themselves in terms of the public health response and the public health impact.

The question is what the politics will be and if you can't, if you just put up the cases here. These are COVID cases, percentage of the population of the 10 worst states or across the top only one of them has a Democratic Governor?

Well, we know there's a gubernatorial election next year here. There is a gubernatorial election next year here. Florida is one of the states that are on the worst list here. Will we see in campaigns, we did just see it in the California recall election?

Will we see in these campaigns, a lot of these states are deep red states pretty hard for Democrat to win? Is COVID response by these Governors likely to be number one, number two, maybe behind the economy in the states?

TALEV: But not necessarily the way you think. And I think we're seeing that in Virginia right now that depending on how red or how purple the state is, the response is going to be different calibrated but on the Republican side what is popular is this idea of liberty or freedom where the choice to make irresponsible decisions that impact a lot of other people, right?


TALEV: And I think, as we're starting to see in Virginia, this is actually an argument that to some extent resonates with the center if you get it right. And so we were talking in the last segment about how a lot of Republicans in Congress know that Donald Trump did not win the election, and that the misinformation he's spewing is dangerous to democracy.

But they're going along with it anyway, because they want to stay in power. And I think there is, there is a parallel here on the COVID argument that Republican Governors all over the country understand the science they do. They understand it very well.

But there is a concern, obviously a political concern about getting too far ahead of your constituents, and that delivering the scientific news that they need to hear, could end your political career, and we're seeing that playing out.

KING: And you see it a play, let's put the vaccine map up. Again 15 states have vaccinated less than half of their population, all but one of them have Republican Governors right now. And again, you hear time and time again, for most of these Republican Governors, most of these not all there are exceptions. And I apologize to them.

Essentially, you know, I'd like you to get a vaccine, but it's your choice, things like that, as opposed to if you don't like a mandate, why not just aggressively advocate?

MATTINGLY: I mean it's a careful calibration that I think actually lines up directly with Margaret's point. I think the interesting thing, as we've seen the White House get more aggressive. Let's keep in mind for the better part of the federal strategy over the course of the first six or seven months, they wouldn't touch the rights or requirements, which they make very clear. It's a requirement, not a mandate, even though - go anywhere near it until they recognize two things. One, very effective, two on net tends to hold fairly well. And I think the question, when you look at it through that lens is, is it just a matter of these Governors not trying it? Or are they very clear that it would turn very poorly away from them if they ended up going in that direction?

And I think it's an open question right now, but I think there's no question about the fact that the White House believes that the posture that they've taken over the course of the last six weeks has been entirely merited and is paid off to some degree, both politically and through the health policy.

KING: We do see case counts going down and the like. Let's get working. One more other important piece of COVID news today, the Drug Maker Merck today asking for emergency authorization for experimental antiviral drug it says cuts the risk of hospitalization and death from Coronavirus in half. If approved Molnupiravir I think I got that right would be the first pill authorized for COVID treatment.

Dr. Reiner is back with us. You know, vaccinations obviously are key. Now the idea that especially for the high risk population, there could be an at home oral treatment, a pill, how important would that be? How - what new weapon would that bring to the COVID fight?

DR. REINER: Right to get it, it's a major step forward. But as you just said, the most important message is not to get infected in the first place. And the most effective tool for that is vaccination. But for people who do get infected, and are at risk of either severe illness requiring hospitalization or death, Molnupiravir here from Merck does appear to cut the risk of hospitalization in half.

Interestingly enough importantly, there were no deaths in the patients treated with this antiviral. And in contrast to monoclonal antibodies, which require an intravenous infusion, this is a prescription your doctor can give you a five day course of treatment, it's going to cost about $700. In the clinical trial period to be very well tolerated, and really takes a big bite out of the adverse events, in many patients treated with this.

So I think it's an important step forward. And it's just another piece of our toolbox as we sort of learn to live perhaps with a lower level of COVID but without fully eradicating COVID from our communities.

KING: That's the piece I want to get you say a toolbox. How many is - how different heading into this winter, which we know can be vaccinations and much more widely available now than last winter, obviously, but winter can be horrible as for COVID, when it gets colder.

You have a lot more tools in the shed, if you will to tools in the box, as you put it when it comes to these treatments that didn't exist a year ago, correct?

DR. REINER: Right. So we have over 200 million Americans have been vaccinated. And if you think about vaccines as sort of - vaccinated people as sort of a firebreak for the virus, last winter, the virus just burned through all this dry timber.

But now the - now 200 plus million Americans who have received a vaccine, at least one shot. This is essentially a firebreak. We will not see the kind of massive peak we saw in December in January this year. In pockets of the country it can still be bad, but other pockets will be relatively benign, I think this winter.

KING: Dr. Reiner, I hope you're absolutely right. And I appreciate your time, sir as always, thank you very much. Up next for us, the Democrat and the Governor's race plays clean up three weeks to Election Day. It is a very tight race. The president is an issue among other things, and it has national implications.



KING: Election Day in Virginia is three weeks from tomorrow and the off year Governor's race is always viewed as a bellwether of the national mood. The Commonwealth is trending blue in recent years. President Biden for example won it by 10 points just last year.

So it is noteworthy that the Democratic candidate is playing a bit of cleanup entering the stretch trying to move past a comment on a call he thought was private. The President Biden's sagging poll numbers are hurting him.