Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

January 6 Committee Subpoenas Target Trump's Inner Circle; Flynn in December 2020: Trump Should Implement Martial Law; New 1/6 Subpoenas Focus on Pressure Campaign to Overturn Election; Rep. Ocasio-Cortez says GOP will Not Hold Gosar Accountable for Video; GOP Rep. Gosar Tweets Anime Video which Shows Him Killing Rep. Ocasio- Cortez, Attacking Biden. Aired 12-12.30p ET

Aired November 09, 2021 - 12:00   ET




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

The January 6th Committee sharpens its focus six new subpoenas all for close Donald Trump associates and why what Merrick Garland does next could make or break the January 6th investigation?

Plus anger and extremism in plain sight Republicans who voted for President Biden's infrastructure plan face disgusting threats. And the Republican member of Congress posts a video in which his cartoon character kills a liberal colleague and yes then targets the President of the United States.

And winter is coming in with it sticker shock the pandemic travel rebound collides with pandemic inflation. Up first for us though the January 6th Committee and it's turned for Donald Trump's innermost circle.

Six former Trump advisors now targeted by new committee subpoenas the list includes Trump associates involved in Oval Office meetings about how to keep Trump in power, as well as to Trump associates who are in Steve Bannon's Willard Hotel bunker the day before the insurrection.

The subpoenas are an important new marker and make clear Trump and his closest allies are central to the committee's investigation. But wanting the truth and getting the truth is not the same thing. Bannon ignored his earlier subpoena and now the Biden Justice Department has still not decided whether it will enforce a contempt charge.

Let's get straight up to CNN's Ryan Nobles up on Capitol, Ryan that's the key point wills these other Trump allies defy the committee if Steve Bannon himself is not held accountable?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, that's exactly right, John. And you'd have to think that they are already at the first stage of not engaging with the committee that the committee was forced to take the step of issuing a subpoena because we know that the committee has tried to reach out to numerous people associated with the former president to get them to voluntarily cooperate with their investigation.

It's only when they take it to that subpoena stage that they feel that they're not getting the cooperation that they're looking for. And this particular group of subpoenas tells us a lot about what the January 6th Committee is looking into.

It's not just about what happened here on the actual day of January 6th it's about the events leading up to it. And in particular, the former president's efforts to peddle the big lie about the election results. And this group of people Jason Miller, his Former Campaign Spokesman, Bill Stepien, the Former Campaign Manager, Michael Flynn, the Former National Security Adviser.

These were all among a group of people that were out pushing the big lie throughout the country firing people up which led many of them to come here to Washington on January 6th, participate in that "Stop the Steel Rally", which was of course the prelude to the January 6th insurrection.

But to your broader point, John, will any of these people cooperate? So far, the committee has had a very difficult time getting anyone close to President Trump to actually talk to them to provide the information they're looking for the fact that they should this criminal contempt subpoena or criminal contempt referral of Steve Bannon is so important.

Because if the DOJ refuses to prosecute that it does -- it shows that the subpoena power is not all that powerful and it will make it that much more difficult for them to get these people to cooperate down the road John.

KING: Important crossroads of the committee in the search for the truth and accountability. Ryan Nobles I appreciate you're kicking us off. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's Phil Mattingly, Marianna Sotomayor of "The Washington Post" and CNN's Paula Reid and so you see the six names that Ryan just put up there. And you think why?

Well, here's one person Angela McCallum mid-level aid in the Trump campaign. Why would the committee want to talk to her? Well, listen here this is a phone call she made to a Michigan lawmaker when this isn't just about the insurrection. It's about was there a bigger Trump plot? How deep did it go to overturn the election results?


ANGELA MCCALLUM, FORMER TRUMP STAFFER: My name is Angela McCallum and calling from Trump Campaign Headquarters in Washington D.C., you do have the power to reclaim your authority and send us a slate of electors that will support President Trump and Vice President Pence. We want to know when there's a resolution in the House to appoint electors for Trump, if the president can count on you to join and support.


KING: So there why the committee wants to talk to her? One more before we get to the conversation why talk to Michael Flynn, the President's Former National Security Adviser, he had left the White House he was in an Oval Office meeting in December where they reportedly discussed seizing election machines because they had this cockamamie theory of foreign influence why Michael Flynn, listen?


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER TRUMP SECURITY ADVISER: If he wanted to, he could take military capabilities and he could place them in those states and basically rerun an election in each of those states. I mean, it's not unprecedented I mean, he's people out there talking about martial law like it's something that we've never done. We've done martial law has been instituted 64 times.


KING: If you're building a case you want to take the before -- during and the after? And that's what they're trying to do here. What was the mindset of all of these Trump officials, not just the former president in the build up to what became the horrible insurrection day?


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. You have a spectrum of seniority here; right like you said mid-level staffers all the way up to two top advisors.

Now it is not likely that Flynn is going to come in and voluntarily cooperate with this investigation and tell them everything that he knows. So at this point, a lot of this really does depend on the Attorney General and whether he proceeds with an indictment against Steve Bannon?

Because Steve Bannon completely, of course, defied this committee, and unless you take some action against him, there's no way you're going to get people like Mike Flynn, like Ms. McCallum, any of these witnesses to come in and cooperate at all.

KING: So you mentioned the attorney general, a lot of pressure on him, and a lot of Democrats saying we need this investigation, we need the truth, and history needs the truth. So we need your help. The question was put to the Attorney General yesterday, and here's your almost non answer.


UNIDENTIFED MALE: Can you provide the status of the referral for Mr. Bannon, where you are on that?

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. This is a criminal matter, some ongoing examination of the referral. And as you know, the Justice Department doesn't comment on those we evaluate these in the normal way we do facts in the law, and applying the principles of prosecution.


KING: In other words, Phil Mattingly wait, if sorry, be patient. I know you want this decision, but you're going to have to wait.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It might be odd for some people to watch an attorney general respond like that to that question, unless you've followed the Justice Department for pretty much the entirety of the -- of the exception of the four years price now, right?

And I think that's it -- look, it's interesting to watch the show get on the other foot to some degree. And you hear Democrats on Capitol Hill that are very frustrated that things have moved forward already.

They feel like this is a very obvious move, a very obvious play for the Justice Department to move forward on this. And the fact that it hasn't happened within two weeks, I think is frustrating.

And you've heard members talk about that publicly, a lot of the same members who would get very angry if the last administration put any type of weight on President, Former President Trump's Justice Department.

But I also think that this is the reality and bold know far better than me. But this is the reality of this Justice Department under this Attorney General which is both very cautious not to look anything like the last administration, but also wants to make clear if they're going to move forward with this, they want to make sure everything is in a row to make abundantly clear.

It is not political in any way, shape, or form that may frustrate some Democrats on Capitol Hill. The mandate is not political at the Justice Department, at least in the Attorney General's view.

KING: And we see in real time though the importance in any investigation, but especially about something so important, such a historic day of getting people under oath and getting the documents before the committee because now you already see people changing their stories or shifting with public opinion or -- in a CYA, forgive me.

Johnny Smith is one of the president's attorneys that the committee wants to talk to. He wrote the memo, he's the one who was essentially pushing the vice president saying you have this power, and power doesn't exist.

But he still was pushing the vice president to stand up there before Congress and say, nope, we won't take the electors from Arizona. Nope, we won't take the electors from Georgia, we won't take the electors from Pennsylvania.

Eastman, now telling this to "The National Review" with somebody in the legal team, I just don't recall, it was by a phone conversation. And I've gone back in my phone records, and I have so many calls. I can't tell you, you know what call it was. So anybody who thinks

that's a viable strategy is crazy. So he's running away from his own advice, which might be the smart thing to do in the terms of public conversation. But that's why the committee needs to get him under oath with all of his documents to figure out how he built this cockamamie legal argument and who else was involved?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's completely right. And they really want to know who very much told him directed him to do those things. And, you know, Phil to your point, really, what the committee wants to do is, try and see what the DOJ says?

You know, Jeffrey Clark, a former DOJ official under the Trump Administration, he did go and meet with committee staff last week but he didn't tell them anything. And you know, when you ask Chairman, Bennie Thompson, what is the next step to bring him forward? They haven't said if they're going to try and hold them in contempt, simply because they just don't have the answer yet about whether the DOJ is going to make sure that happens?

KING: And you see even here throughout the four years of the Trump Presidency, we sometimes laughed at people paying out a position or people doing things for which they simply were not qualified. But sometimes it's just not funny.

Jonathan -- has a new book coming out about the Trump presidency. Some of it is excerpted in "The Atlantic". He talks about when White House Counsel Cipollone told Trump that Pence did not have the power to overturn the election McEntee drafted his own constitutional analysis with an assist from his own road legal advisors, directly contradicting Cipollone and every other serious expert in the country.

McEntee sent the memo via text message on January 1st Dependents Chief of Staff this is Johnny McEntee, a Trump political aide, not an accomplished attorney. This was this -- we want to help the president and so anybody loyal to Trump was trying to make the case despite their knowledge or lack thereof.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: And the important thing to remember is this didn't happen to Democrats or Republicans, it happened to the country, there was a very concerted effort to overturn a free and fair and multiracial election that happened in 2020.

And anytime, you know, I sit there and listen to Flynn this was months ago that he said that, but it's still frightening and chilling that people at the highest levels of government were planning this scheme that in some ways when it was going on, it seems sort of cockamamie, it seems sort of hit or miss.

But when you uncover things which this committee is obviously trying to do, there was a concerted effort. And one of the issues I think Democrats have is they got this power now, obviously, some of their parents are being defied. But this power isn't going to last long going into 2022 and if Congress changes hands.

KING: Right, when you're trying to build a case, urgency, time, efficiency matter.

REID: And just how much have they uncovered? Because I know they told us, we've talked over 150 people that's supposed to be very impressive, but who are they talk to you? What are they actually learned?

Because I've talked to so many people who were in the Trump Administration who could potentially be lying. It's not a crime to lie to journalists. So they haven't been contacted people I'm pretty surprised they haven't been talking to you because they were with the former president during this critical time period.

We know certainly they issue these subpoenas. But will they hear from these people? That's unclear so right now a big question on how much they've gotten and how much they can get all eyes, of course, on the attorney general?

And as Phil noted, you know, some people have criticized him for not moving fast enough. But the U.S. Attorney who's overseeing this just installed on Friday, first full day of work yesterday.

KING: It's where they get in the end, not how fast they get there? But everyone else is going to wait until that decision to see whether or not they cooperate. Up next, angry threats against members of Congress here the disturbing voicemail to a Republican Congressman, after he voted for roads and for bridges. Plus, a sitting Republican Congressman tweets out an altered anime video in which he kills a colleague, and then targets the President of the United States.



KING: Republicans have an anger problem and an extremism problem and a leadership problem. In a moment, something that would get anyone at this table and I suspect just about everybody watching fired immediately.

A sitting member of Congress posting a video in which he kills a colleague first, though a glimpse at another very scary snapshot of Republican politics today. The Michigan GOP Congressman Fred Upton is among the Republicans who voted in favor of the bipartisan infrastructure bill last week.

The reaction included this voicemail and I need to warn you what you're about to hear is belligerent, and it is very profane.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- family dies, hope everybody's death dies.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Our panel is back with us. You could write that off to one angry, perhaps person in need of help out there. But we live now, nine months after the January 6 insurrection, no 10 months after the insurrection and knowing this anger is out there and it is very real.

MATTINGLY: It's very real. I think that the thing that I can't get my head around at this moment in time, it's an infrastructure bill, right?

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: It's not -- and I'm not saying there's ever a reason that would justify a voicemail like that. But in terms of the issues that fire people up that really drives the phone calls to congressional offices over the 14 or 15 years that I covered Capitol Hill infrastructure was not in the top like 500.

This is a bipartisan bill. It is a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats have tried and mostly failed for the better part of the last decade to figure out a path forward on infrastructure. And if it's infrastructure, roads and bridges and broadband and water systems, that's driving that kind of response it underscores what's bringing that response to the table, which is Fred Upton's colleagues.

KING: Right. But it's the warped world we live in, in that how many times did Donald Trump try to pass an infrastructure bill? How many times did Donald Trump say how important it was to pass a big infrastructure bill? How many times did Donald Trump say the country needed big grant infrastructure?

But now Joe Biden's President and Joe Biden got it done. And so Donald Trump says very sad. The rhinos in the House and the Senate gave Biden and Democrats a victory on the non-infrastructure bill. All Republicans who voted for Democrat longevity should be ashamed of themselves.

Forgive me there will be Trump supporters who get mad at me. But that's part of the problem. That's part of the problem when you say that this is a test for me you incite the people out there.

HENDERSON: I don't even know if it's part of the problem. I think it's almost the entirety of the problem. This is Donald Trump's Republican Party when that man talked about being a traitor. He wasn't talking about traitor to the country. He was talking about a trader to Donald Trump and Donald Trump's wishes and Donald Trump's cause.

And so, you know, you can't imagine this happening under a Bush Administration. You can easily imagine this happening with Trump as the leader of the party, his personality, his viciousness, his craziness has entirely infected this party. And we saw that visited on all of us on January 6th, and this is part of this phone call and God help us all in terms of what could happen next.

KING: And Republicans did not deal with this during the Trump campaign starting in 2015 when he started saying things about I'd punch him or drag him out of here when people stood up at his rallies. They did not deal with this for four years for the Trump Presidency. And they have not dealt with it since the attack on the United States Capitol on the insurrection day and they do not deal with that in their own family.

We're going to show you a screenshot here. We're not going to show you the video. This is Paul Gosar Republican Congressman of Arizona who thinks it's funny you see it right there. You see the face of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and you see the face of Paul Gosar this is a doctored edited enemy video in which if we hit play on the video, and we will not do it in the next couple of seconds he wields a sword and kills her and kills her in the video.

And then he turns to this an image of President Biden and it looks like the "Heroic Gosar" is turning to confront President Biden. If I did that if you did that if you did that if you did that you would be fired on the spot.


KING: Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Leader of the House has done what --?

SOTOMAYOR: Yep, nothing, no comment, no condemnation, anything simply because he knows that if he were to say anything against this very pro Trump wing of the party, you'll likely get a phone call from Trump.

And not to mention on infrastructure you know, a lot of Republicans actually don't want to attack those 13. The NRC isn't going to do it. The RSC, the Republicans within the conference, don't want to do it. But who is listening to Trump who is reading those statements?

It is that pro Trump wing of the party, and they are the ones who are calling, and probably going to really pressure McCarthy and others in leadership to strip those 13 from their committee assignment.

KING: Right. And again, this is reprehensible. This is -- his staff is saying everybody needs to just calm down, like is this some kind of a joke? It would not be a joke anytime, anytime a Republican member of Congress in a video where he kills a colleague, then turns on the president it is not a joke anytime.

But again, after January 6th, you would think anybody who takes an oath to the United States government into the United States Constitution would think I should be extra careful about what I might be inciting out there in America right now.

But it's also not Gosar has raised money from white nationalists. You've had Republican House members try to carry guns onto the floor of the House because they're mad about the magnetometers. You have had Marjorie Taylor Greene, stalking other members of Congress and yelling at them.

There is a problem in the Republican Party about basic decency and civility even before this Gosar video that would get us all fired. And Kevin McCarthy will not stand up and deal with it. Why?

HENDERSON: Because he wants to be speaker. MATTINGLY: Yeah, he wants it -- it's really that simple.

KING: Power.

MATTINGLY: For the same reason --

KING: He might make Donnie --

MATTINGLY: -- for the same reason those 24 hours after January 6, he wouldn't disown former President Trump and everybody who pushed the attack on the Capitol that led Kevin McCarthy to be escorted out of the Capitol into an undisclosed location and him calling President Trump asking him begging him yelling at him to call his people off.

It's the reality of this moment for House Republican leadership. And it's reality for this moment in the House Republican Conference. And I think you're up there every day you're seeing it. It's unbelievable to me that a group that has no legislative juice has no committee juice has no power in the sense of what used to matter in Congress, because of social media because of antics because of memes and gifts and the garbage that Paul Gosar put up.

All of a sudden, they matter. They raise money, their voices matter. And more importantly, they drive the conference towards specific outcomes, not outcomes legislatively not outcomes related to votes or committee work outcomes related to this as a game, red versus blue let's see who we can kind of hold up and attack --

KING: Red versus blue policy versus policy. That's all fine and fair game. We need a debate about big issues in the country. This is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the Democratic Congressman's response; she was on her way to the Climate Summit in Glasgow.

So while I was en-routed to Glasgow, a deeply creepy member, I work with who fundraises from Neo Nazis, a shared a fantasy video of him killing me. And he'll face no consequences, because the GOP cheers him on. Fact check true, at least up to this point and that --

HENDERSON: And possibly not from Twitter, either because he sort of gets a pass because he's an elected official.

KING: Right.

HENDERSON: And if I am AOC, I am afraid I mean, this is sort of obsessive and -- behavior kind of mixed with toxic masculinity. And she has been on the other end of a lot of this kind of viral actions. And I'm sure she's nervous about it.

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah. And one thing to remember is Republicans right now are in the minority. This is still a small group of the conference. And they're really impacting how leadership deals with them. Because of redistricting, which is already showing that a lot of districts are only going to become more partisan, this group could grow.

So imagine even if McCarthy is majority leader, they are going to continually probably pressure him to you know, condemn others in the conference. And that is going to be probably really messy for him and speaker.

MATTINGLY: Just one quick point on this. Paul Gosar has been in the conference for a long time. And he was the -- that nobody paid any attention to right? Under Speaker Paul Ryan or under Speaker John Boehner he was just that guy. Everybody knew he was crazy. And but he didn't matter.

And the difference now is those types of people in the conference matter. And those types of people to your point are a small group, but they're a vocal group and a group that gets a ton of attention. You cannot push them aside, just because you're in the majority, they are now moving and growing. And that is going to be more of the center of the conference if they're in the majority in 2023 than anybody thinks at this point in time.

So that calculation of we'll just deal with it because we're trying to keep everybody together to win. It's just going to go away because you're Speaker of the House.

KING: You're absolutely right. We're seeing the price of that today. If Kevin McCarthy will say well, I don't do that stuff. And he might not do that stuff. But by not cracking down on it by allowing it you encourage it, you embolden it and it spreads --

HENDERSON: Which is the story of Donald Trump right? I mean they didn't do anything in terms of are really trying to tamp down on a lot of the things we saw from Donald Trump.


HENDERSON: And it spread it metastasized, it has grown and it could come back in 2024.

KING: And the inner voice of the one has now become a lot of outer voices of the many. That's what the Republicans have to deal with in the country has to deal with sadly. Coming up the Biden roadshow to highlight the big infrastructure projects coming soon right where you live so what's in the bill? And how might it benefit you? We'll break it down next.