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House Dems Push Biden To Get More Involved In Agenda Talks; Sen. Cassidy: Trump Could Lose Nomination If He Runs In 2024; Ex-UK Spy Defends Controversial Trump-Russia Dossier. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Word just in now from President Biden responding to the death of Colin Powell. The President statement reads in part quote, Colin embodied the highest ideals of both warrior and diplomat. He was committed to our nation's strength and security above all, from his front seat view of history advising presidents in shaping our nation's policies, Colin lead with his personal commitment to the Democratic values that make our country strong.

Time and again, the President says, he put country before self, before party, before all else in uniform and out of it earned him the universal respect of the American people, that statement from the President of the United States just moments ago on the sad passing of General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Other political news here in Washington today, frustration is running high among the President's fellow Democrats today including Senator Joe Manchin. Manchin of course part of the party center that is trying to chip away, liberals say at the size and scope and the boldness, they would argue of the Biden agenda. Friday night, Senator Bernie Sanders called Manchin out in his hometown paper for standing in the way of what the President wants. Well, today, Senator Manchin responds with this.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He says you're holding up the Biden agenda?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There are 52 Senators who don't agree, OK. And there's two that want to work something out as possible and the most rational, reasonable way that's all.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Melanie Zanona, Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post, NPR's Asma Khalid, and CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere. So Melanie let's start with you. Senator Manchin, no big deal. Sinema and I just tried to work this out in a rational way. Others don't see it that way. MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: No, certainly Bernie Sanders doesn't see it that way either. They've been publicly sparring with each other. Sanders, of course, went so far as to write an op-ed in a West Virginia publication last Friday, which Manchin did not take kindly to.

But look, the reality is they're going to have to start making progress this week if they want to meet that self-imposed October 31st deadline. And they're still not going to have legislative text by then. I think it's going to look more like a framework or a top line number, if they can even get to that. But that is going to require turning talk into action and making these tough choices, which they haven't done yet. So that's what we're looking out for this one.

KING: And I was just hearing, the control room telling me that the President met today with Congressman Jayapal, the head of the Progressive Caucus down at the White House, you're part of some reporting with our colleague Manu Raju. And a lot of Democrats are saying, Mr. President, it is time for you to get everybody in a room, essentially lock them in until we get a deal.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Or if not get people in a room, start talking publicly about what you want this to be, what you want this to land on. We know it's not going to be what Biden said originally it was going to be. But we know that everybody in the Democratic Party at this point seems to have a different idea of where it's going to go. And the Democrats are saying it's time. There was a call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Biden last week, saying it's time and it's time also for Biden to take that more leadership role, a lot Democrats on the Hill very eager to see him do it.


KING: And you're watching this play out publicly now for weeks. But as we get into what the Speaker wants to be crunch time, it gets more intense. We just show you pieces of the agenda, if you talk, if you look where Sinema and Manchin are. And look, Democrats, they can be as mad as they want. They need their votes. They cannot do anything without their votes.

Just over the weekend, maybe means testing of one of the childcare benefits. You know, you have the Clean Energy proposal, Senator Manchin says no, no, no, we're not doing what you want, Mr. President, we'll have to do something else. Should the government negotiate prescription drug prices, Senator Sinema saying I don't like the way, I don't like that, or at least I don't like the way it is worded. There's a lot of tension right now. The progressive is essentially saying they're not Democrats.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: You know, President Biden has often said he's not somebody who wants to negotiate in public. Anytime journalists ask me any question about this. It's completely swatted away and shut down. And so what I'm struck by is how much we are seeing negotiation between, say, Sanders and Manchin currently happening in public or sparring in public. That is not the President's style. And to your point then, I think a lot of Democrats are left wondering, well, then, where is the President's leadership if this is not how he wants to even have these negotiations conducted, he needs to sort of take ownership of this at this point and get his fellow members in line.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And then realizes, you know, he's the President, but he is the President with a 50-50 Senate. So any one of those senators has veto power, which normally we say the President has veto power. But right now, you know, President -- Manchin in a way he has veto power over the agenda of President Biden. And I think that's part of the reason you don't see President Biden saying it's going to be this or nothing or my way or the highway, because he knows that Senator Manchin is really responding to his constituents back in West Virginia, and he's not going to be --

KHALID: But is he fully responding to his constituents? I mean, there has been public polling showing some of these things are actually really enormously popular in the state. I mean, like the child tax credit.

KING: Right. That's one of the reasons Mondaire Jones, one of the progressives in the House, again, you're running in New York City suburbs very different than running in West Virginia. You know, that's a fact. That's a hard thing for the Democrats to work out. They come from very different places. But he's, you know, tweeting inside of the American people and his constituents deserve to know how terrible his positions are. You have this public feud among Democrats. In the end, again, Mondaire Jones can't get anything without Joe Manchin vote. I know that's unpalatable to him.

But at the White House, in particular, what's interesting reading the new reporting, and that top Biden advisors or like, well, they said, we were dead in 2020. They said we weren't going to win the nomination. This is that gloom and doom in Washington, they're underestimating Joe Biden again, campaigns and legislation are different though.

DOVERE: Poetry and prose (INAUDIBLE). But that is deep in the psyches of a lot of Biden people and then the President himself. He was counted out over and over again. He was never the winner of the daily news cycles during the campaign. And look what happened. He was the nominee. He is the president. They look at this and they say, look, he got the American rescue plan through. This is obviously a much more complicated and different thing.

But that, as he said a couple weeks ago, whether it's done in six hours or six weeks, it doesn't really matter that much. That's the mentality that at this point is pushing them through. But it is crunch time.

ZANONA: The bipartisan infrastructure bill also went off the rails multiple times before it came back. It took a while. I mean, it still hasn't passed the House. But that's another example that a lot of Democrats are pointing to, say we still can get this done. The clock is ticking. They need to get it done before the end of the year.

KING: What would Yogi Berra say at this moment, never mind, we'll just say it, it ain't over until it's over. Anyway, we will see.

Up next for us, the former president answering questions under oath sitting for a deposition for the first time since leaving the White House.



KING: For the first time since leaving the White House, the former President Donald Trump sitting for a deposition in New York City today. The case was brought by a group of demonstrators who claimed then candidate Trump's head of security rough them up outside the Trump Tower back in 2015. CNN's Kara Scannell is live outside the Trump Tower in New York City with more. Kara?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, John, we're about two and a half hours into this deposition that was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. And this all stems from this 2015 lawsuit that you mentioned where protesters were demonstrating just outside Trump Tower. And according to the lawsuit, they allege that they were assaulted by Trump's then head of security saying that he punched one of the men in the head. So the judge overseeing this case initially said that Trump needed to sit for this video deposition in 2019, saying his testimony was indispensable to the lawsuit, but that was postponed because Trump was still in office.

Well, now he's not -- and the judge said today is the day that Trump comes in and have to sit for this deposition. Now Trump has previously said that he had no knowledge of the assault, and then he delegated all of his security to taunt one of his top officials, Matthew Calamari. So a lot of questions today the lawyers will be asking on that topic, and also because they are suing for punitive damages in this case, the lawyer could also be explored Trump's net worth, his finances, topics that are of interest to the general public and also to criminal investigators that are still investigating the Trump Organization.

Now this is not the only lawsuit that Trump is facing. Of course, he's got a defamation lawsuit from Summer Zervos, the former contestant of the apprentice. The judge overseeing that case had told Trump that he has until December 23rd to sit for a deposition there. He's also been sued by his niece, Mary Trump and E. Jean Carroll who also sued Trump for defamation and accused him of assault. So this is just maybe perhaps the beginning of other depositions that the former president will now have to have since he's out of office. John?

KING: Kara Scannell, grateful for the live reporting, grateful for the focus amid the hustle and bustle of the New York City streets seriously, that's hard to do. That's a pro right there. Amid former President Trump's many legal battles, he's still of course toying with the idea of making a 2024 bid for the White House. He's quite serious about it. For the most part, many Republicans welcome back most with open arms despite, remember, he lost the presidency. He lost the Senate and he lost the House, not every Republican member though rolling out the red carpet. Our panel is back with us to discuss. To that end, this is Senator Bill Cassidy in an Axios interview, Axios on HBO, and listen to this, I just -- I was joking about this earlier, but maybe I'm not. It's like, you know, what is Senator Cassidy smoking in the sense that he thinks Donald Trump, no, people will want him back because he lost?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he runs, he wins the nomination.

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): I don't know that. President Trump is the first president in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate, and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think that if he ran he could lose the nomination?

CASSIDY: Well, if you want to win the presidency, and hopefully that's what voters are thinking about, I think he might.


KING: That's law, there's logic there. The guy lost a lot when he was in office but when does logical --


KHALID: I mean I think the challenges we have yet to see any Republican member of the party who is willing to stand up and even say that they are running for election in 2024 because of just the ominous possible threat of a Trump candidate. I mean, they have paralyzed, he has paralyzed, I'm sorry, all the other potential opponents, his point about wanting to win, I think is actually valid. And I think if a Republican was willing to raise their hand and actually just sort of toss, you know, jostle with the president, and take it on a former president, it's possible, but I don't think --

ZANONA: Cassidy is an outlier that we should also point that, he was one of the few Senate Republicans voted to convict Trump in the impeachment trial. I actually did the story this literally last week, we talked with dozens of Republicans, Manu Raju and I, and all of them said Trump would be the front runner, he'd win the nomination, and he'd have the backing of the party. I mean, he is still the dominant force in the Republican Party.

KING: Which is why it's interesting to hear someone who's willing to say that publicly because you know what will happen. Donald Trump doesn't have Twitter anymore, but he will find a way to go after Senator Cassidy, same and remember, Donald Trump won Louisiana and won it quite big. Donald Trump also won Arkansas and won it quite big. But again, another voice of the establishment, there are a few of them willing to do this. Asa Hutchinson says, you know what, the former president is still telling the big lie, we don't need that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): Relitigating 2020 is a recipe for disaster in 2022. Let's talk about the future. The election is past. It's been certified. The state's made decisions on the integrity of each of their elections and made improvements where need be.


KING: He gets at a very important point where the wind is at the Republicans back heading into 2022. It's early, we'll see if it changes. But President Trump keeps former President Trump, keep saying the election was rigged. Elections are rigged. Don't trust them. Governor Hutchinson thinks, well, Republicans then I'll stay at home, it doesn't matter.

OLORUNNIPA: Well, President Trump, former President Trump has actually threatened that Republicans will stay home if the Republican Party doesn't make the next elections all about 2020. So he thinks it's a political winning strategy to talk about 2020 and talk about the past election. If he doesn't think about it as a politically winning strategy, he think says -- thinks of it as something that's personally valuable to him, because as long as people are talking about 2020, they're talking about who, Donald Trump. And I think that's what he wants to happen over the next couple of years as he geared up for a potential second run or third run, I guess, for the White House.

ZANONA: I mean, maybe that message resonates with the base, but it certainly doesn't resonate with moderates and independents who you would obviously need to win over it.

KING: Right. You hit the key point, the former president strategy is keep them talking about Trump. It's all about Trump, still all about Trump.

Ahead for us, remember the Steele dossier? Yes, remember that? The former spy who wrote it defense's work and says he's confident the Russians have dirt on Trump.



KING: You can double check me if we need to hear but the year is 2021, yes 2021. But we are still talking about a 2016 relic. Christopher Steele remember is the British spy who compiled the salacious and unverified dossier detailing sorted allegations against them businessman now former President Donald Trump, the top line assertion that Moscow had reams of compromise, compromising information to blackmail the president into doing Russia's bidding. The most memorable claim is one the president and his allies say was slanderous and false. You might remember it. But Steele in a new lengthy interview with "ABC News" insists much of what he said holds up including the infamous tape. Listen?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, do you still believe that that tape exists? CHRISTOPHER STEELE, FORMER BRITISH SPY BEHIND TRUMP-RUSSIA DOSSIER: I think it probably does. But I wouldn't put 100 percent certainty on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So how do you explain if that tape does indeed exist? It hasn't been released.

STEELE: Well, it hasn't needed to be released.


STEELE: Because I think the Russians felt they'd got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was president of the U.S.


KING: Go around the table with the panel here. I didn't put everybody back into therapy, the Steele dossier back and you hear Michael Stewart, he said, well, they haven't released the tape because it worked.

ZANONA: He was trying to set the record straight in this interview. I'm not sure you cleared anything up. I mean, he just kept saying my sources were credible, maybe it's there, maybe it's not, even though the FBI was unable to corroborate the most salacious claims. In some cases, they disproved or said it's not true or is in the compromise. And the whole the Steele dossier, I mean, Republicans really seized on those most salacious aspects to try to undermine the entire legitimate investigation. So it does bring back a lot of memories to a lot of us reporters who their covering it in 2016.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes, and it really did shape the early months and actually the full term of the Trump presidency. It's important to note that, you know, former President Trump was so obsessed with these allegations that he made a lot of mistakes in his early presidency. I mean, he fired Jim Comey without any kind of plan for explaining why he had done that. And that led to a number of different things that led to him ultimately, getting into the realm of being impeached. And I think it's important to note that no matter how much of this dossier was actually verified, it really did get into President Trump's head and it really did an impact --

ZANONA: He did also joke about the golden showers last week at our S.C. retreat according to "The Washington Post." So clearly it is still something that he thinks about him as --

KING: And Michael Cohen remember dossier, the Steele dossier said Michael Cohen went to Prague to meet with Russians. Michael Cohen says he never took that trip. Michael Cohen has a huge falling out with Donald Trump. But even Michael Cohen says, I eagerly await the next secret dossier which proves the existence of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and that Elvis is still alive. I thought I'll just went home.

KHALID: I mean, I just think that his reappearance didn't really help anyone here. I mean I don't entirely understand the benefit at this point. We are years from the 2016 election. I think all of us would say there are chunks of that election cycle that we have just closeted away. It's not that it came back. So I just don't think it really benefits just the sort of political communication between folks in this country at this point. There is so much distrust. I do not think that he is helping to add to any value of the trust here.


KING: If the former president wants to come back, I suspect we will not have a Steele dossier in 2024. We'll go there.

Thanks, everybody for coming in today. Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right after a quick break. We'll see you tomorrow.