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CNN: At Least Five Former Trump Staffers Have Met with 1/6 Committee; Biden White House Rejects More Executive Privilege Claims by Trump; Pelosi on Scaled Back Biden Agenda: "Embrace it for what it is"; Sanders: Biden Agenda Deal Must Include Medicare Expansion. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 26, 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 a busy news day with us.

New to CNN justice our breaking new details about the January 6th investigation, five former Trump White House officials have talked to the committee. And decision day for the FDA this morning its experts meet to review how Pfizer's COVID Vaccine works in kids. That means children in kindergarten through sixth grade could be getting shots as soon as next week.

Plus, the fight over Facebook; Mark Zuckerberg fires back after an insider leak in Congress now trying to figure out how or if it should regulate what you see online? We begin the hour though with important new breaking news about the January 6th Select Committee and its investigation.

CNN is now learning at least five Former Trump Administration staffers voluntarily met with the panel. A big focus of those conversations we are told trying to gain insight into the former president's actions leading up to the insurrection. CNN's Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins joins us now she is breaking this news. Kaitlan, what are you learning?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes John, this is significant in the fact that these are people who are going in voluntarily to speak with this committee that's investigating what happened that day.

And this is because either the committee has reached out to them or vice versa to talk about what it is they know that was happening inside the West Wing? What information did they hear? What were they seeing on that day of course, as the committee is trying to paint a picture of what happened inside the West Wing, a lot of details that we still don't know yet?

And so we are reporting now that at least five Former Trump Administration staffers have gone in to talk to the committee about this about January 6th and part of their investigation. But we're also learning that the committee has also reached out to a range of other Former Trump Administration staffers to see if they'd also like to come in and talk to the committee about what they saw that day what they were hearing, of course, before, during and after what happened on January 6th?

And so we don't know exactly what has been told and what has been discussed in these sit downs with the committee what has been discussed in these conversations? But it is significant because their conversations could potentially help the committee figure out more details about what was happening that day?

We should be clear, this is different than the subpoenas that you've seen that have come for Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon, several of those other Former Top Trump Administration officials who they want to speak to, of course, and we've seen how that fight is played out with Steve Bannon, where he is refused to confirm to cooperate with the committee?

He's defied that congressional subpoena. It's still being worked out what's happening with Mark Meadows and Kash Patel, Dan Scavino, those other top officials who were around the president on that day or inside the administration?

I do think this is significant in the sense that this is happening on a voluntary basis. And I think that when you talk to people, there's a range of reasons for why they'd like to go and sit down? Of course, and this has been a big concern from some of the former staffers about what they can be legally compelled to do?

Would there also be a subpoena for them, and some of them clearly just want to share information about what they know that day? And so it is significant that five of these former Trump Administration staffers have gone in to speak to the January 6th committee.

KING: Kaitlan standby let me bring in to share their own reporting and inside CNN's Dana Bash, "The Wall Street Journal's" Tarini Parti, Lisa Lerer of "The New York Times" and Nolan McCaskill of "The Los Angeles Times", significant for a number of reasons.

Number one, it is harder for someone else to say no, if a committee is building a case and has a lot of information. If you go to court and try to say I have some secret, privileged information, I shouldn't be told to share this and the committee can say, well, he's sharing, sharing, sharing, what's your excuse? So the voluntary engagement of the staffers could change the dynamic in a big way.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It could in court, but also, most importantly, in the short term in information gathering, because the - you don't necessarily have to be Mark Meadows, the Former White House Chief of Staff to have information about what was going on?

I mean, Kaitlan's excellent reporting here is that there are five former staffers and they range in level from junior staffer to more senior staff. And we all know the way that the former president operated? There were people who were in and around what was going on who wouldn't necessarily be in a more traditional White House?

So yes, it's about precedent setting. It's about arguments that they can make when in court when and assuming that they do go to court to compel people like Steve Bannon, but it's also about building the information in the case that they're making for what actually happened?

KING: And a reminder of how a West Wing operates in the sense that yes, you have the former president you have his chief of staff who they're trying to get to you have his Deputy Communications Director social media guy right hand Dan Scavino could be no was - trying to get to Steve Bannon who's outside the White House.


KING: Who the president was in contact with former president right around those days. But you also have a number of staffers who see and know and get the documents. They know the schedule, they know the phone calls, and they're around that's something we forget sometimes we focus on the big players. The White House is a pretty small operation Junior and mid-level people know a lot.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's absolutely right. And I think, you know, it remains to be seen exactly the kind of information that these junior level staffers will have. But I think as the subpoena fight plays out, we've seen in the past few years how Congress's power to conduct these investigations has really eroded?

And some of these fights could take a really long time. So in the meantime, some of this information could really help fill the gaps for the committee, depending on the information that is actually presented to them.

KING: And interesting, Kaitlan, noting that the conversations are not just about January 6th, but also about the days and potentially weeks before January 6th, because the committee has made clear, it's not just what the president - former president did or didn't do that day when his own vice president was under threat at the Capitol?

They want to know his conversations. Did he know who was coming? Did he know there was a possibility of violence? Did he know who was financing the operation?

NOLAN MCCASKILL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Right. I think this is definitely a significant development for the January 6th companies really trying to get to the bottom of this. President Trump, he's trying to make sure that people don't talk about this.

He's trying to invoke executive privilege; we've seen that Biden isn't having that he's, you know, allowing his Justice Department to not take that as an argument. I think it's just a pretty big development in that people from the Trump Administration are voluntarily complying with the committee. That we saw that House Republicans didn't really want to see, to begin with a Kevin McCarthy and other Republican leaders are really trying to make sure that this didn't happen that this committee didn't form.

Icon Liz Cheney, and Adam Kinzinger, Pelosi, Republicans. So I think it is a pretty big development that people are voluntarily willing to come forward to share information, not only about January 6th, but also what was President Trump doing in the days leading up to that? What did he know?

KING: And we know we know how the former president operates? And we know what is likely to happen in his world and in his mind, when he hears five former staffers cooperating or at least engaging and communicating with the January 6th Committee.

LISA LERER, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. He's going to try to lock it down and get these people not to talk and figure out who's talking and, you know, raise threats for other people not to talk?

But I think the point that people are talking is a good one. And the timeline is important too, this keeps as much as Republicans have wanted this thing to go away as much as they've tried to rewrite the history of what happened on that day?

The fact that this is still ongoing shows that's going to be harder for them to do. And it's not clear exactly how much voters want to hear about this. There's been some polling that indicates that voters would rather put this behind them too.

But new information can change public opinion, pretty fast. And we certainly, it's something that is very motivating for Democratic voters at a time when Democrats really need any additional enthusiasm they can get for their base, you know, as they look down the road to these midterms that are expected to be quite difficult.

BASH: And that does sound - of course, we are "Inside Politics" we're looking to see how this will affect the political election that's coming next? But this is about understanding what happened for history's sake and the biggest attack on the United States Capitol and on democracy in maybe ever?

KING: Right. And to that point, Kaitlan Collins, I think you're still with us that. Look, Nolan just mentioned this; the former president has tried to claim a privilege that the Biden White House says does not exist?

We'll get to the legal parts of that down the road. But that in and of it, plus all the statements he has issued about this committee, he has set very clear signals to everybody around him. I'm not cooperating, and I expect you not to cooperate, which is what makes this significant.

COLLINS: Yes, even to the point where his attorney has sent a letter to those who were subpoenaed, saying do not cooperate, whether that's giving testimony or documents, because we believe you're covered by various amounts of privilege that they listed in the letter.

And so this is different in the sense that these are people who are doing this voluntarily. That could be because they're fearful about getting a subpoena. That may be because they just want to share information.

But what we do know is that the former president is ready to engage in a legal battle about this, where he has gone as far as to sue the January 6th Committee and sue the national archives, because they have also tried to get documents related to that day whether it's from call logs to other various forms that they believe could help them piece together, what was happening inside the West Wing?

And so the former president has made clear what his stances on this and whether or not he thinks people should go in and speak to them, or even more formally cooperate on a level? But I think that this shows that there is a disconnect of how to handle this in Trump world where some people do want to provide the information that they know of that day, whether it's significant or just something small that they think could potentially help the committee.

And some people also just want to avoid any kind of legal trouble. And so I do think it shows you that there isn't this monolithic view in Trump World of how to handle this, you know, they're pretty split of people who obviously don't work in the White House anymore. They don't work for the former president anymore, and they're trying to figure out what's the best option for them here.


KING: And it's crystal clear that the Biden White House in the Biden legal team, their answer is just no. When Trump tries to sort disproved now twice, they have said no. To Trump requests for executive privilege, which means only a judge now they're going to go to the courts and the former president will challenge it there.

Only the courts can block him now in most legal scholars will tell you never know how it's going to turn out. But mostly that the privilege lies with the existing sitting president protects the institution and the Biden White House, the Biden legal team last night saying they do not believe it is in the national interest to deny the committee, these documents. So we'll see how that plays out?

You made an important point. This is looking back at the last election and the aftermath of that election and in a horrific violent day at the United States Capitol to try to block the implementation of the last election.

But if you look forward, the president's also - President Biden also drawing a contrast to how the former president conduct himself in this new appointment? He is naming the Former Republican Secretary of State of the State of Washington to the Department of Homeland Security position that essentially oversees election mechanics.

Is there hacking? Is there shenanigans? What voting systems should you use? A Kim Wyman was a frequent guest on this program last year, one of the reasons Biden likes her one of the reasons Trump won't is this.


KING: And you're a Republican, the nation's top Republican saying fraud, saying rigged, saying things that frankly, are wrong, correct?

REP. KIM WYMAN (R-WY): That's correct. And every time, President Trump takes a swing at absentee ballots or vote by mail ballots, it undermines voter's confidence. And so election officials have even more work to do.


KING: At 14 or 15 states essentially put new restrictions in place. You have questions raised unnecessary questions - that are not based, in fact raised by the former president about the integrity of elections.

How significant is it that the Democratic president is picking a Republican state official to essentially be the clearing house? She has - she's held an incredibly high regard by fellow Secretary States and election administrators around the country.

LERER: It's really significant. I think it's an effort to show that the need to protect voting to protect democracy, like Dana was talking about, needs to be a bipartisan one, despite the fact that it's, you know, many in the Republican Party, all sort of levels of the party are trying to implement these restrictions that would really curtail voting.

And you know, under this guise of election integrity, and even states that once prey is how their election was run in 2020, like Florida, or now, you know, you have DeSantis and other officials, they're talking about how they need to protect voting, which is quite the turnaround in a very short period of time.

She's particularly interesting, because she's someone that was a really vocal supporter of mail ballots, which is something that's growing and traction. It's something her state uses something that I think we'll see more of, you know, in the next month.

KING: Right. And you explore this issue in a new documentary of this week on CNN. But then to Lisa's point, among the states, you visited, even Texas, a state that Trump won, and yet they want to go back and audit that because they didn't like the turnout in Houston.

They didn't like the turnout in the Dallas suburbs. They didn't like the turnout in Austin. Let's listen to a snippet of that, as you get to the point that what happened in the last election is not over. It is carrying on into the next election.


REP. TRAVIS CLARDY (R-TX): We want to restore that confidence that we should all have in our elections. I don't think it was lost in Texas. I don't think it was in jeopardy of being lost in Texas. BASH: Why do you have to restore confidence in an election that you're saying went well, that you're saying was free and fair? The only reason you would do that is because people have been gaslight.

CLARDY: I do have to - I think we do need to acknowledge in the political Zeitgeist that exist right now. That is hanging over like a cloud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A Zeitgeist perpetuated by the former president and his allies.

DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: We had a rigged election, we had a stolen election.

UNIDENTIFED MALE: Bigger picture is beyond Donald Trump. It is the changing demographics of the country.


KING: It is striking you have a Republican State Legislator there essentially by translation. But well, this is big lie out there. And enough Republicans believe it that we're going to act on it anyway.

BASH: Yes. And he's not the only one. I heard similar things from Republicans in Georgia and beyond. And it is the most striking thing to hear them say. It's not necessarily important what I believe all the Republicans I talked to told me point blank they believe that Joe Biden was really unfairly elected.

They didn't believe there was widespread fraud, but they're acting on the pressure that they are feeling from their constituents, Republican base, and they are being lied to. It is the tail wagging the dog in every - in every single way, shape and form and it's remarkable to talk to them it's on their lips.

KING: It's forgiving me. These are my words. It's a liar wagging the party is what it is. This quick programming note what is the cost of the new changes to voting laws? Dana Bash, as we just noted, explores how the big lie is becoming a bigger threat? You see it right there. CNN Special Report "Stop the Vote" premieres tomorrow night right here 9:00 Eastern on CNN.

Coming up for us, no bill is everything that from Speaker Pelosi this morning urging her caucus reaching agreement on the president's economic agenda that as the president prepares to head overseas.



KING: Today, lots of talking but still no deal or scheduled vote on the two pieces Biden agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi telling Democrats this morning in a family meeting, "Embrace it for what it is". To progressives who see way too many compromise here. The Speaker says this "No bill is everything. We cannot miss this opportunity". Let's get straight up to CNN's Manu Raju on Capitol. Manu that from the House side of the Speaker earlier today you talk to a key Senator and all of this and he didn't seem all that pleased.

MANU RAJU, CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORREPONDENT: Yes Bernie Sanders, who's Budget Committee Chairman and represents the viewpoint of the left pushing back at the moderates in his own caucus.


RAJU: Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin over two key issues that are emerging his major sticking points, allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices that are something that Kyrsten Sinema along with House moderates have resisted and also expanding Medicare to include dental vision and hearing.

Joe Manchin yesterday told me that'd be fiscally irresponsible to include in the bill. But just moments ago, Bernie Sanders made clear both need to be in the final package.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): So to my mind, any serious reconciliation bill must include real Medicare negotiations with the pharmaceutical industry to lower the cost of prescription drugs. And a serious reconciliation bill must include expanding Medicare to cover dental, hearing aids and eyeglasses.

RAJU: Is that a red line for you? Is that a red line for you?


RAJU: So not only there is our division on the policy still, but again, on the process. We are replaying this debate that the Democrats had back in September. The liberals have won the larger bill agreed to signed off on and approved by the House at the same time is that separate $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill has been awaiting final House action for months.

But Manchin and Sinema have called for that infrastructure bill to pass the Senate - the House this week. So it's unclear exactly how this plays out John? Will it be another punt? We'll have to see. But the House Democratic leaders are racing to figure out a way out of this.

KING: Manu Raju important breaking news on the Hill. Thank you very much Manu keep us posted throughout the hour. The panel is back with me -- you heard Manu just mentioned. This is complicated for the president.

Number one, there's a Virginia Governor's race a week from today we count the votes. Number two, he goes overseas in a couple of days he wants to say number one, getting things done on the economy. I'm getting a big climate deal. All of that is TBD.

The progressives, you're getting some new reporting, who are saying, Mr. President, we would love to give you what you need. But on that bipartisan infrastructure bill what the president had hoped for is reached a framework, a handshake; write it down on the big deal, and then get a vote this week on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, presumably to help the politics of Virginia progressives are saying no.

BASH: Yes, I'm hearing from multiple progressive sources saying that that's not going to happen. And I know Manu has been doing reporting on this as well. And when I say that's not going to happen, what I mean is, it's kind of back to the future right?

This is kind of where this whole debate within and among Democrats started? Would they take up and vote on the infrastructure bill, that's roads and bridges, the traditional infrastructure bill that passed now several months ago in the Senate with a big bipartisan vote?

Would they take it up now and even this week before the president goes away? And the answer still is no. And the reason is because of the trust deficit, particularly among many progressive who just don't believe that a framework is enough of - enough to give them to make sure that what they at least the - what they want?

What they wanted is half of it is not going to be there. But at least what they're being told they will get is really in there.

KING: And that trust deficit. This is from Ilhan Omar to "POLITICO" today. Progressives are troubled and deeply concerned with the cuts we are seeing reported. They are saying their votes need to be earned and support for a deal that does not adequately fund their priorities is not guaranteed.

So you have look, it's only three votes, Nancy Pelosi can lose. We always talked about they can't lose any in the Senate. They can only lose three in the House. If Bernie Sanders is unhappy the one way to get Ilhan Omar on board is if Bernie Sanders was over the house progressives and says this is the best we can get if he's unhappy, and progressives want to see the final text. We're not close enough yet?

MCCASKIL: Right? Bernie Sanders in the Senate essentially has just as much power as Joe Manchin when it comes to whether or not we see this bill actually become law, you know, make it to President Joe Biden's desk.

And so somebody has to cave, is it going to be the moderates? Is it going to be the progressives? I think when you look at this debate; progressives have been very transparent about their five priorities that they want to see in the bill.

Whereas when you look at Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema, Manchin has gotten credit for being transparent. You know, he has his $1.5 trillion top line. They say he's been negotiating in good faith, but when it comes to Senator Sinema, people for weeks I've been saying, what do you want?

Jimmy Gomez was talking to a gaggle of us reporters after the Democratic Caucus meeting this morning. He basically said to the two Senators, stop talking stop effing talking. He wants to say - he wants them to say yes or no to policies to figure out what's going to be in this legislation so that members can vote on it.

KING: Well, thank you for being polite about it. No, but it's important. It's important because it's important because there are the tensions are real. And sometimes, you know, we make politics of it. It is good drama.

Sometimes it's they come from different places, right? And so your Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez campaigns back home well, her district a lot more liberal than Joe Manchin's West Virginia or Kyrsten Sinema's Arizona for that matter.

But let's - is lost in this let's just put up on the screen. We know in there - they have a basic framework that includes Universal Pre-K, Obama care subsidies, the child care tax credit extensions, affordable housing funds.

Right now they're trying to figure out how to deal with what's out? A clean energy electricity program has been put out they're going to have some climate package but they're trying to figure out how to remake that? Free community college appears to be gone from this


KING: Medicare coverage for dental appears to be gone that's one of the reasons Bernie Sanders there may be a voucher program in that. But it - my point is, is lost in this the idea that if you add up the first Biden COVID bill, that bipartisan infrastructure bill, and let's say it's 1.5 to 1.7 5 trillion. That is still a lot of Democratic agenda that I think gets lost in the idea that the two sides are fighting with each other.

LERER: And I do think part of what happened here was the administration might have misplayed their hand a little bit. Remember, Biden came in, everyone was talking about a narrative that the administration themselves helped foster. He would be the next FDR that he was going to do these really big things.

And this is a really big bill. But it feels a lot smaller within what the initial proposal was. So there is a sense that the perception is could be that it is less. I also think that they made a choice for a lot of political reasons that, you know, makes sense, particularly their razor thin majorities to try to essentially package the entire domestic agenda in one giant bill.

Rather than try to do a piecemeal, they thought it was their best shot, get it done before you start getting into the politics of the midterms. And now I think there's some questioning about whether that was the right choice. And like, what is going to - what can get done that's left out of this? And can Biden fulfill the kinds of campaign promises which were quite big and bold that he laid out in his run?

KING: So how important is from the White House perspective? How important is this idea he's getting on Air Force One, he's going overseas, he would like to be carrying a gift with him.

PARTI: He sure would. And we heard from Jen Psaki today that, you know, there are still two days left and also their phones on Air Force One and in Europe, he's going to be engaged. But you know, when negotiations started stalling out last week, we saw some urgency from the White House.

The president invited lawmakers over there was a momentum that we saw now that they're sort of on the verge of the deal, that they're that they're saying there's still some major unresolved issues here. And what role can the president now play? Can you bring back that same momentum and sense of urgency that we saw last week to close this deal out?

BASH: And just adding real quickly, the notion if you are Bernie Sanders of initially put something that was, you know, $7 trillion, which he knew was pie in the sky, let's just be honest. But now that you're down to what's really going to be in this?

And the notion of not expanding Medicare to include hearing for seniors to include dental to include vision, the notion that you will not have something in there that allows for negotiating the price of prescription drugs, which is wildly popular.

But because Joe Manchin is saying it is just too expensive right now, it will cost too much and it will deplete the Medicare trust fund even more than it is. That's the reason you start very angry. Bernie Sanders talking to Manu Raju earlier.

KING: Right. He came up short two times, but he got millions of votes in two campaigns.

BASH: He did.

KING: Campaigning on those very issues.

BASH: That's, right.

KING: Yes, that is - we're going to - we're not there yet. We'll watch this as we play it out. I think we're in the red zone use of football metaphor, but we'll see how this one goes? Coming up decision day; the FDA Advisory Panel is meeting right now. And it votes later today on authorizing Pfizer's vaccine for children's ages 5 to 11.

Plus, take a look here thousands of New York City workers protest the city's vaccine mandate. Friday is the deadline, be vaccinated or go without pay?