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Inside Politics

Trump Ally: "Greater Than 50 Percent Chance" Trump Runs In 2024; Manchin: $1.5 Trillion Still Top Line Number; VA's Gov's Race In Dead Heat With Eight Days To Go; Youngkin Focuses On Critical Race Theory, Economy On Trial; Rand Paul Questions NIH Funded Research In Wuhan & COVID-19 Origins, NIH Says The Research "In No Way" Is Connected; Military Coup Underway In Sudan. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If he keeps lying, we do not want him raising money for us. They refuse to say those two, one would think simple things because power, correct? They're worried that Trump's voters wouldn't show up and they wouldn't win.

JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, yes. I mean, I think a lot of Republicans realize that Trump's voters are their voters. That those are the people that they are going to need to win elections in the future. And so, when you see -- you know, I'd go back to -- you mentioned Georgia, I mean, I was there when Trump came to try to help save Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in northern Georgia. And we were talking to people who were coming out of that rally about whether they would show up.

And they -- it was clear that they were energized by him, and not the two senators on the ballot. And they were influenced by the things he was saying, and not the things that the two senators were on the ballot were saying. And so, I think Republicans like Roy Blunt recognize that that's the reality of their party at this point.

KING: And Trump is watching all of this, of course, hoping to not to come

back in 2024. Two of his biggest supporters, people who worked in his White House and for his campaigns were on the Axios on HBO last night, listen.


MATT SCHLAPP, CHAIR, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE UNION: I think it's a greater than 50 percent chance that he runs.

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, FMR. TRUMP W.H. DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: I do think that it's going to depend also on how well the Republicans do in the House in the Senate.


M. SCHLAPP: I think that's a big factor. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're saying that if they won both chambers, he'd be more likely.

M. SCHLAPP: More likely to run.


M. SCHLAPP: That is right.


KING: I'm not sure they understand how telling that was, the last part, the flaps where, if the Democrats still controlled one chamber of Congress or both chambers of commerce, maybe Donald Trump wouldn't be interested. Why? Because governing would then be more hard?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's hard. Yes. No, that's a little bit more complicated. And I think if you look at what happened when Donald Trump was president, the people who actually got all of his legislative victories or all of his judges through were majority lead -- then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, the people that he has now turned against very sharply. They were the ones who got him across the finish line.

Look, there is no rash or there's no reason why the president, former president would say what he's going to do in 2024 at this moment in time. He keeps all of his power, so long is that still hanging out there right now. I think there's a lot of that's going to happen over the course of the next three years. But all you need to do is look at Senator Roy Blunt, who's retiring, who is considered kind of moderate is very blunt, to --

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: -- use the pun with all of us when we talk to him in the hallways and his unwillingness to answer that question tells you everything you need to know about where the party is. As they say, we just want to get to 2022. We just want to get to 2024. As the former president puts out another 800 word statement about January 6 or about November of 2020, so.

KING: Right.

JAMERSON: And say don't vote in those elections.

MATTINGLY: Yes, don't vote --

JAMERSON: If you don't believe that they (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Yes, don't vote. And that's one of the big issues. What will his impact be in 2022? He says don't vote if they don't back me on the big lie. Our Michael Warren of the weekend released a piece. Here's the headline from it, "Trump's pick -- Trump picks messy personal life worries Senate Republicans desperate to hold on a Pennsylvania seat."

Trump has endorsed a candidate there, Sean Parnell in the Pennsylvania race here, who's going through a messy divorce right now and a lot of Republicans why is he going to be our best candidate to the point where some other Republicans now thinking to get into the race. You've had Trump endorsements in places like Georgia of Herschel Walker, where again, some Republicans say is that the best candidate.

So as we think about 2024 and we watch the former president, we're going to see, again, part of his tactics, and some people say his not so great candidate picking skills at play in the midterms.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, this is a problem for Mitch McConnell. But it is interesting that with Herschel Walker, specifically, just a few months ago, you know, McConnell then was concerned, didn't want him running. There were a lot of people, senior Republicans who were basically saying on record, don't run. And then, you know, he had -- he got Trump's endorsement, he started to really raise money, and now they're backing him.

And so, you know, I think there are concerns, but are they going to step into try to stop some of these candidates? That's yet to be seen.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And I would just say Mike Warren's piece is excellent because of how Pennsylvania is actually navigating this Georgia. It's just fascinating to me. Senator John Thune coming out --

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: -- and endorsing Herschel Walker today.

BADE: Right.

MATTINGLY: Again, not a bomb thrower, kind of a level-headed member of the Republican conference. It's kind of how you view him when you're on Capitol Hill. You make a great point. A couple of months ago, Republicans at that level, were dropping oppo (ph) on Herschel Walker.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: We're trying to ensure that he didn't run and the reality of former President Trump inside the party at this moment in time is if he's behind somebody, you don't have a choice. You just have to coalesce behind them and hope that they can figure it out, hope that they're not too damaging to the ticket. Because without Trump's support, you don't -- your candidate doesn't have a chance, is basically the calculation.

KING: Basically the calculation. So many interesting months ahead.

And next for us, something is quite interesting, and it's just days at. Terry McAuliffe gets high profile help as Democrats enter the final week of the Virginia's governor's race and they enter it. One word, worry.


[12:39:14] KING: Some important new information just coming into CNN, moments ago, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia says he thinks that, quote, conceptually Democrats can get to a deal this week. But he did push back on including any Medicare expansion. Also, Manchin telling CNN's Manu Raju his top line number for President by the social safety net has not moved.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: If $1.75 too much for top lines, is $1.75 too much?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm still 1.5 guys.


KING: He says he's still 1.5 guys. You heard the senator there. He did meet with the President over the weekend. There were indications out of that, perhaps he would go as high as 1.75. But this will be a week of TBDs (ph) in watching that.

That agenda, the Democratic agenda is a big piece of the challenge for Democrats across the Potomac River in Virginia. With one full week of campaigning left, poll show the governor's race is a dead heat.


Virginia leads blue of course now. So a win by Republican Glenn Youngkin would be a big blow to the Democrats there in the Commonwealth and nationally. So Terry McAuliffe now calling in a who's who of party luminaries to rally Democrats who, for whatever reason, are unsure about voting.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know a lot of people are tired of politics right now. We don't have time to be tired. What is required is sustained effort.


KING: CNN's Dan Merica, and Eva McKend, they're both covering the Virginia race. They've come back across the river to be with us from the rallies. Appreciate you being here in studio. It's important. On the one hand, you could say, you know, of course, it would be malpractice for Terry McAuliffe not to call out all the big names.


KING: President Biden will come, President Obama was in, Stacey Abrams was in, the Vice President was in, I could go on and on and on. So you could say, of course, that's a check your box. On the other hand, it shows you a sign, they are worried about turnout in this race.

MERICA: Yes. I mean, it's all about turnout. The audience is there, have either already voted early, or certainly plan to vote for Terry McAuliffe. There weren't people who are undecided. I mean, these are areas of the Commonwealth that voted for Obama by 78, 80 percent in 2008 and 2012.

You can get a sense from this race, talking to folks who work for the campaigns and at these rallies that there's this nationalization happening. You know, Manchin says -- what he says about infrastructure, that relates to this race. And this race is being nationalized both by Democrats who want to validate the Biden administration, and Republicans who want to use this as a check on the Biden administration.

And you've also seen that in money, the money that has come in, you know, McAuliffe 's campaign is about to put out that they have raised $13 million in the first three weeks of October, a total of 58 for the entire cycle. That is big money, and that's why he is blanketing the airwaves with ads. That will add to the fact that if he doesn't win this race with all that money, it is a -- that will be a huge check and a huge question mark going into 2022 for Democrats.

KING: And one of the big issues has been, you know, can these -- can the Democrats connect Youngkin to Trump? President Obama, former President Obama certainly tried, listen.


OBAMA: You can't run ads, telling me you're a regular old, hoops playing vish-washing (ph), fleece wearing guy, but quietly consummate support from those who seek to tear down our democracy.


KING: Now, Youngkin take some issue with that in the sense that they talk at most democratic rallies now about this rally for Youngkin. It was was for Youngkin. It was for his campaign in the other Republicans where they had a flag from January 6th, and they said pledge allegiance to a flag that was at the insurrection.

And Youngkin at the time did say, "It is weird and it's wrong to pledge allegiance to a flag connected to January 6. As I have said many times before, the violence was sickening and wrong."

So he has tried to distance himself from the insurrection. A Democrat say that it's not the same of breaking full distance from Trump, whereas, Youngkin's answer has been I want to hug everybody. I want to hug the Trump voters, I want to hug the never Trumpers, I want to hug, you know, disaffected independents.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes. Former President Barack Obama really spoke to the heart of some of the contradictions that we do, frankly, see in Glenn Youngkin's campaign. When I spoke to voters on Saturday evening in the Richmond area, they told me and this is -- their quote, not mine. I'm not for the transgenders. I'm not for the LGBTQ, whatever. That's what they said.

And so for some reason, those are certainly not the hallmarks of Glenn Youngkin's campaign by any stretch, but they do feel as though they have found a home in him. So it's sort of a catch all of conservative issues that he's able to benefit from, even though he's not talking about these issues out on the trail.

KING: And Glenn Youngkin has tried to turn this into a referendum that Republicans are going to try all across the country next year. He's talking about critical race theory, even though critical race theory is not taught --


KING: -- in Virginia schools. It is not taught in Virginia schools. But he says if he's elected governor, he will ban it. That's part of a broader Republican effort to try to say they want you to wear masks, they want to -- the Democrats want to take away your power.

MERICA: Yes, I mean, this is why these races have national implications, because 2020 was a race obviously dominated by Trump. But going into 2022, you're going to have a different set of issues that Republicans want to talk about. And Youngkin, in many ways, is going to test that out, see what works, but Eva is 100 percent correct.

Republican voters are seeing in Glenn Youngkin what they want to see in Glenn Youngkin.

MCKEND: Exactly.

MERICA: I mean, you talk to voters these events, and they love Trump, they wish Trump was stepping out on that stage in Henrico on Saturday to rally the crowd. Obviously, he's not. And that is something they have to deal with whether they like Youngkin enough to overlook the way he's handling Trump.

But that is why this is, you know, a unique situation where both campaigns Democrats and Republicans are sort of testing out messages that will then be used based on the success of November 2nd for Democrats or Republicans in the 2022 midterms.

KING: Always overused to say it's all about turnout. Of course it is.

MCKEND: Of course.

KING: Of course it is. But it's about who turns out in Virginia in the sense of, can McAuliffe get Republicans in the suburbs who left the party and went Democrat?


KING: Can he keep them in the Democratic fold? Can he get Latinos to turn out? Can he get African Americans to turn out? It's who turns out with pieces.

MCKEND: Absolutely. Yes. It's -- it is -- at the end of the day, it is about turnout and that is why we see Terry McAuliffe sort of pulling out all of the stops.


I will say that the numbers at the Youngkin rally are surprising. There are a lot of people there and he doesn't have any headliners, no big names. And yet all on his own, he is able to command these pretty significant crowds.

KING: Yes. It'd be fascinating to watch. One full week left. Appreciate you both coming up. I know we'll have you back.

This quick programming note, what is the cost of new changes to voting laws across the country? Dana Bash explores how the big lie is becoming a bigger threat. A CNN special report, "Stop the Vote" premieres Wednesday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here.

When we come back, Rand Paul and allies on the right say Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to Congress about COVID. And they say he should be fired. Dr. Fauci says that's not true. We'll give you a fact check next.



KING: Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky says in a new interview that Dr. Anthony Fauci lied to Congress and that President Biden should show him the door.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): He should be fired. I mean, the thing is, he still --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Fauci should be fired?

PAUL: Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By the President?

PAUL: Yes, absolutely. The thing is, is just for lack of judgment if nothing else. You know, he's probably never going to admit that he lied. He's going to continue to dissemble and try to work around the truth and massage the truth.


KING: CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes joins me now. Walk us through what this is about.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So let's start with the facts, because there's a lot of speculation here and there's not a lot of facts. But there's one thing that we know for sure, which is this is all about the coronavirus origins and the National Institutes of Health, which is Dr. Fauci's agency, did provide grant money to a research company called EcoHealth Alliance that then conducted experiments in a lab in Wuhan. That is an undisputed fact.

So we know that they were working on bat coronaviruses there. Now the big question is everything else, right? What exactly happened here? Now Republicans say that there were these gain of function type experiments that were going on that led to essentially the pandemic that we're seeing now. That they were manipulating this kind of genes and chromosomes to create the virus that would then infect humans.

Health officials say this is absolutely not true, that they weren't conducting, that Fauci has said on numerous occasions that no federal funding went towards the gain of function type of experiments. And we've heard from health officials say over and over again, it is not possible that the experiments that they were conducting within this lab could have led to the pandemic we're seeing now, despite Wuhan being the epicenter for some time, because the chromosomes were just so different, the genetic makeup of these two viruses.

But now we are seeing a letter that was written by NIH, essentially saying that there were some experiments that happened in this lab, they were taking these bat coronavirus cells and putting them into mice that had some significant findings.

And the big problem here is not the findings, but the fact that the research group did not turn over those findings to NIH, which was a stipulation of their grant money. So that's what you're starting to see. Now Republicans are saying this is a sign that Fauci actually lie, that there were these gain of function experiments happening.

KING: Let me stop you there just so people can hear it at home. This is what Republicans say is not true.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute.


KING: Is he accurate there or does he need to clean that up?

HOLMES: Well, it's very complicated answer, because you're hearing from some health officials who say this didn't meet the threshold of what an actual gain of function experiment would be that the findings weren't so significant, that they would put a stop to this kind of research, they would even classify it as gain of function. And you can see in the letter that the NIH sent, they are very, very careful.

They never use the word gain of function. All they say is that there were significant findings, significant enough or unique enough that they should have reported them. But they do not go as far to say, oh, we would have done some kind of other review, that kind of thing. So it's a fine line here.

KING: And Dr. Francis Collins who's leaving soon, but he's the head of the NIH, he's Fauci's boss. He says they're doing an investigation of all this, it will be transparent. We will have all these answers someday. Come back when we get them, OK? Come here back, please.

HOLMES: Yes, absolutely.

KING: For us next, four years after the deadly rally. Jury selection begins in the civil trial of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" organizers.



KING: Topping our political radar today, protesters blocking bridges and burning trees in the streets in Sudan as the military is taking power in a coup. The country's interim prime minister now under house arrest was pressured to issue a message in support of the takeover. But instead, he urged peaceful protests. Military forces have also detained a number of senior student these government officials.

President Biden talking to a potential nominee to lead the FDA. In the middle of this COVID pandemic, the FDA has been without a full-time leader since January. Dr. Rob Califf, though, was FDA commissioner at the end of the Obama administration, and his call with the President over the weekend is the next step, seen as the next step in the vetting process. The acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock cannot legally stay on, last November 15th.

In Charlottesville, Virginia jury selection starts today in a trial to determine if organizers of that 2017 "Unite the Right" rally had pre- determined that event returned violent. The plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit include Charlottesville residents and counter protesters injured in clashes with the white nationalist. The trial expected to take about four weeks.

It was quite the scene that the Nets home opener as anti-vaccine protests, as you see them there, gathering outside of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. They are to support unvaccinated player Kyrie Irving. At one point, the protesters tried to break through the barriers. Spokesperson for the arena told CNN they briefly had to close the doors to clear those protesters. Local regulations in New York do not allow Irving to play in home games because he is unvaccinated.

Great to see you on INSIDE POLITICS today. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.