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Inside Politics

Casper Star-Tribune: Wyoming GOP Votes To No Longer Recognize Liz Cheney As Republican; New Court Filing: Trump Warns Against Giving Congress Too Much Power As He Seeks To Keep His W.H. Records Secret; Jan. 6 Cmte: Bannon Charges Send Message On Non-Compliance; KFF: 60 Percent Of Unvaccinated Adults Identify As Republican; AR, NYC, CA, CO, NM Expand Booster Access To All Adults; Rep. Jackie Speier Will Not Run For Re-Election. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 16, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And you see this play out out in the country as well, the Wyoming Republican Party, essentially saying Liz Cheney is not a member anymore. This is a -- the daughter of a conservative vice president, now a conservative member of Congress in her own, right, who has a 100 percent voting record from the National Right to Life organization, 80 percent voting record from the conservative Heritage Action for America, 78 percent of the American Conservative Union.

So this is a this a dyed in the wool Conservative Member of Congress no longer welcome the Republican Party because she thinks the insurrection was bad and the big lie is horrible, both of which he's correct about.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Yes. And you know what's interesting about that, and this discussion about death threats, like there are some things in politics where there is room for nuance. There are reasonable people who disagree on reasonable policy things.

There's nothing remotely reasonable. And I'm not giving up any journalistic neutrality and saying it's not OK to be supportive of death threats --

KING: Right.

MASON: -- for any reason, even more outrageously when it's about something like this. So in that as Melanie said, it does encapsulate just a strange place for the party right now because of --

KING: You can't be against violence.

MASON: I mean --

KING: Think about that. Think about the brand of the Republican Party.

MASON: Yes. KING: We're for the big lie, but we won't speak out against violence. That's stunning.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I mean, I think that in some ways we could talking a lot about the midterms but, to me, the real interesting question is where the Republican Party will become the next presidential election in 2024. Because I think this is politically unprecedented, at least in modern history, to have the most recent loser, have such a hold of the party. I mean, think back Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton --

MASON: Right.

KHALID: -- they did not have this type of political hold over their party that Donald Trump has. And --

KING: It's --

KHALID: -- it's -- just it's mindboggling to me as to why he has that hold. And to the degree that, you know, members of his own party seem just unwilling to move beyond and forward looking at --

KING: It is -- it's colt-like to a degree, in part, because they fear not just the former president, but they fear his voters and they fear -- and Kevin McCarthy, they fears losing members who could deny him the speakership, which is again, you're right, I think we're -- will they be by the next presidential election. But the next election is right here before us. And part of this, the Republicans are incredibly transparent about who they are right now, the new head of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group in the House, is the Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry just elected.

I can show you some headlines from back earlier this year. He was a big part of trying to help the former president overturn the results of the Pennsylvania election. He was a big part of trying to help the former president throw out people at the Justice Department who would not support his effort to cheat and he gets rewarded by House Republicans.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. It's not just another example of Trump's grip on the party, but it's how these members who helped or tried to help overturn the election are suffering no consequences. In fact, they're being elevated within the conference. And with the House Freedom Caucus, if Republicans win back the majority, they're going to have an immense power over the conference, especially with Kevin McCarthy in charge.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA'S JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: And I think it also raises questions about what will Republicans be willing to do to support Trump to support keeping their party in power? You know, we're looking at not just redistricting, but elections at the state, local and national level, will they, you know, support overturning an election if another preferred candidate isn't the victor. And because they've seen how supporting keeping the party in power has led to more power, has elevated those who were the loudest on the big lie. And to me, that's a message that says, this is what we want you to do.

KING: Yes, Cheney is a pariah. We're OK with Gosar. That's it. Forgive me, we need a competitive two-party system in this country, but that's a dangerous Kool-Aid right there.

Up next for us, the January 6th investigation and witness defiance. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon surrenders to the FBI but promises, quote, a misdemeanor from hell. Today, the committee debates whether to also cite former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows for contempt.



KING: On the agenda for the January 6th committee today, Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and the question of contempt. Meadows like Trump ally Steve Bannon defied a committee subpoena demanding documents and testimony. Bannon now faces federal contempt charges and he spoke defiantly as he went to his first court hearing yesterday.

Our panel is back with us to discuss. The former President Donald Trump just filing some new legal papers, he is trying to make the case that he has some privilege, even though he's a former president, that he can keep the committee from getting any documents because he was president and he has the right to keep them secret. It's just tough legal argument to make. But his new brief filing says that, "If you give Congress these documents, you will forever change the dynamic between the political branches. In these hyper-partisan times, Congress will increasingly and inevitably use this new weapon to perpetually has its political rival."

I guess, find an argument and make it until you lose.

MASON: Yes. And that's what he'd been doing on so many things. Certainly on this, it harkens back to not too many months ago when he -- his legal team was seeking every avenue it could to turn over the results of the election and every court shot it down. So far, these arguments have also been rejected. And as we were discussing during the break, my guess is he would change his tune on that if, in fact, Republicans took over Congress and started to investigate the current occupant of the (INAUDIBLE).

KING: If necessary. So the Court of Appeals will hear arguments at the end of the month. Just after Thanksgiving, they will hear arguments, but this case is huge in the sense that Bannon is now been cited for criminal contempt. He's going to have a court case. But Mark Meadows has the question for the committee today. Everybody on Team Trump is saying the former president claims are privilege, therefore, I'm not going to act. This is how Mark Meadows describes it.



MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He's exerted and rightfully so his executive privilege and it's not up to me to waive it. And so, you know, it's got me between a rock and a hard space. No one in the West Wing had any knowledge that anything, like what happened on January 6th was going to happen.


KING: The last part, if that's the case, turn over the documents. Let the committee see the documents. If there's no evidence, anybody in the White House do anything about this, no one -- nobody knew there was going to be violence. Nobody encouraged violence. Nobody incited violence. Why don't you testify? I want you to turn over the documents.

MITCHELL: That was my reaction to hearing what he said is, is if they have nothing to hide, why would they be fighting so hard not to give up the records? I think the question for the courts is, is executive privilege, something that the American government envisions as being indefinite and permanent. You know, it's one thing to say, while the President is in office, they can be shielded and have some privacy to keep, you know, the checks and balances in place.

But once you're out of office, you know, did our founding fathers envision that they could keep all their documents and everything private forever, out of personal preference. And I think that's something I don't know if the courts are going to agree with that.

KING: Especially when the reason they want the documents is that the American democracy itself was attacked through the institution of democracy, the Congress, but democracy itself didn't (ph), which is why this is Pete Aguilar, a member of the committee, Steve Bannon cited for contempt by the Congress. The Justice Department took the case to federal court. Mark Meadows is the next question. Pete Aguilar says we have to have accountability.


REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA), JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: Nobody's above the law. The chairman has said that, the vice chair has said that time and time again. You know, we're going to continue this pursuit of getting the truth. And stonewalling Congress is not an answer and that has consequences. We've set the precedent for non-compliance.


KING: So from the subpoena to the indictment of Steve Bannon was 50 days, and now that will play out in courts. Is the committee prepared to do this, and we can put up on the screen. There are a half dozen, more than a half dozen former Trump officials who right now are saying, no, we're not going to cooperate, or at least not fully cooperate with the committee. Is the committee prepared to cite Mark Meadows for contempt? Hope the Justice Department picks it up. Cite Kayleigh McEnany for contempt? Hope the Justice Department picks it up.

ZANONA: They are wrestling with that right now. I mean, Steve Bannon was an easy case for them. He wasn't a White House employee at the time of the January 6th insurrection. You know, he also -- I mean, he just -- he was an easier case. He also was not cooperating with the committee, whatsoever.

Mark Meadows has a different situation. He was, at least, communicating with the community -- committee in some ways. He also was a White House employee. And so they really are trying to, you know, cross the t's and dot the i's here.

The other consideration is that criminal contempt isn't necessarily the end game to try to get these people to testify. It's a punishment mechanism. And it's to try to encourage other people to cooperate. But the end of the day, you're essentially giving up having Bannon come testify.

KING: And what you're doing at the moment, we can listen to him yesterday outside the courthouse. Bannon thinks he can turn this to his advantage that he's a pro-Trump martyr.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is going to be the misdemeanor from hell for Merrick Garland, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. We're going to go on the offense. We're tired of playing defense, we're going to go on the offense on this and standby.

We're going on the offense. Standby.


KING: Most defendants will get charged in federal court think, I need to protect myself. I'm going to keep quiet. I'm going to go try to win my case. Not Steve Bannon.

KHALID: No, not Steve Bannon. I mean, I do think there is a political calculation that would play to your point, Melanie. I mean, how long if these various subpoenas running? I mean, you're running into a situation where you will be moving into the midterms, as a lot of this happens. And I'm not convinced that this is really what a bulk of the voters want Democrats to focus on right now.

And I'm not saying that it is an ethical or moral judgment for them to move forward in this or not. I just think it's a political calculation of, is this actually what a bulk of voters want Democrats focused on? You know, I'm not sure and I think that part of that is going to be a political calculation.

KING: Yes, I think the Court of Appeals decision will be the next big step and we'll see how it plays out from there. That's a fascinating point you make, though.

Up next for us, why wait for Washington. The COVID case count is edging up and some governors are urging residents, go ahead, get a COVID booster shot now.



KING: Today, stunning but I guess perhaps not after the last year we live through. New data tells us the greatest predictor of your coronavirus vaccination status is your political party. I'll bring up the poll right here from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Among unvaccinated adults, 60 percent are Republicans. 17 percent of the unvaccinated say they're Democrats. 17 percent say they are pure Independents. Six in 10 of unvaccinated adults say they are Republicans.

At that point, let's bring in for insights in her expertise, Dr. Leana Wen, the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, we live in a world, I guess, where these two things that should never collide, public health and politics are in full collision.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right, and unfortunately, that's the way it's been since the very beginning of the pandemic. I suspect that if we were to look back and the numbers for the number of people who are wearing masks or the people who are abiding by other COVID-19 precautions that there would be this partisan divide as well. At this point, we really need to get on the same page. And I think for the people who remain unvaccinated, they share a similar belief which is this idea that the risks of the vaccine is somehow greater than the risk of the virus and, of course, that's totally wrong.


KING: Well you mentioned the need or at least the desire to be on the same page. We're not on that same page when it comes to the question of boosters. We're waiting to see if the Biden administration will expand the recommendations of access for boosters. Right now, select populations are recommended to get a COVID vaccine booster.

But you have a number of governors. On New York state says, if you feel at risk, get a booster dose. The governors of Colorado, New Mexico, California and Arkansas saying adults should go out and get a booster dose and they're seeing rising cases. I want to show you in the case of Arkansas, Arkansas is one of 10 states where you're still below 50 percent when it comes to the percentage of the population that is vaccinated. The governor says to those who are vaccinated, listen, go get another shot.


GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): We are seeing a need for making the booster shot more available. We want to make sure everybody that's 18 and over is eligible and is encouraged to get the booster. This is a change in policy that we're implementing here in Arkansas.


KING: Is it makes sense for you these are governors now getting out ahead of Washington, is that good policy?

WEN: Yes, it is because the governors are doing what's best for the people that they serve. I actually applaud these governors in Colorado, in various places in California and New York for doing this because, frankly, the CDC and FDA have made a major strategic mistake. They have made the booster guidance so confusing that people don't know who should be getting a booster or who shouldn't be.

At this point, we really should be saying that if you're even asking the question, should I get a booster? The answer is yes. And that's because we know that immunity wanes over time. At this point, we're seeing the number of cases plateauing. I mean, this is really not where we should be in this pandemic. We should not be heading into the winter, into holiday season with an uptick in the number of cases again.

The best way for us to prevent this uptick, of course, is to get the unvaccinated vaccinated, but the depth of protection also matters as well. And if we know that immunity is waning, we should be encouraging people, urging people to get their booster doses ahead of the holidays.

KING: You mentioned the plateau. I wish I could say that we're still plateauing in the sense that we're starting to trend back up. Let's hope it's temporary. Let's hope it stops. But seven-day average of cases is up 17 percent since the beginning of the month. 87,000 new COVID infections reported yesterday up from 74,003 in the month.

Dr. Wen, I know that, you know, if I go back to the beginning of last winter, and you see this horrific spike, we go up to 250,000 new infections today. Vaccines are widely available now. More treatments are available now. So from a treatment standpoint, a vaccination standpoint, the country's in better shape. But when you see us going back up again, or you look at the transmission map here and you see mostly across the northern half of the country, especially deep red, high transmission, what does that tell you about the weather, the holidays, where we're going?

WEN: Well, it tells us that we've seen this playbook before. And we know what happens when the weather gets colder and people start going indoors. We've seen surges with every major holiday before, some of that is going to be blunted because we have vaccines available. But we have to remember that, for example, for younger children, five to 11 coming into Thanksgiving, they are partially vaccinated, they're not fully protected.

And then we have a lot of people who got their vaccines within six months ago, they are not fully protected either. Hence the need for boosters. I'm really worried coming into this winter because we've seen this happen before. This is really not where we should be and we really should be doing everything we can to encourage people to get tested, to get boosted ahead of the holidays and, in general, to remember that COVID-19 unfortunately is still with us.

KING: Dr. Wen, as always thank you so much.

Up next for us, it's a sign of the times. The New Year's Eve Ball Drop returns to Time Square, but don't forget to pack your vaccination card.



KING: Topping our political radar today, Beto O'Rourke kicks off his run for Texas governor in San Antonio and Laredo today. A former Democratic presidential candidate and former member of Congress has a week of campaign events plan. Yesterday, he announced he's challenging the Republican incumbent Governor Greg Abbott.

Representative Jackie Speier will not run for re-election. California Democrat made the announcement on Twitter this morning. Speier was first elected to Congress in 2008. But her story began decades earlier.


REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CA): 43 years ago this week, I was lying on an airstrip in the jungles of Guyana with five bullet holes in my body. I vowed that if I survived, I would dedicate my life to public service. I lived and I served. It's been a remarkable journey that has surpassed my wildest dreams.


KING: The United States condemning a Russian satellite missile test is reckless and dangerous after a close call on Monday. The U.S. Space Command says Russia tested an anti-satellite missile that destroyed a Russian satellite. The strike created an orbital debris field, forcing crew members on the International Space Station to scramble into their spacecraft for safety. The NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says he is outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action.

A packed Times Square for the New Year's Eve Ball Drop, back, the long as you are vaccinated. The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcing the event will be back in person this year after that party was mainly virtual when it was held last year. Kids under five and people with disabilities who cannot be vaccinated need to wear masks and show proof of negative tests.

This quick programming note, here's a question, is there life on another planet? Humanity is getting closer to answering that question, closer than ever before. The new CNN film, "The Hunt for Planet B" follows the team of female lead scientist leading the quest to find another earth. "The Hunt for Planet B" premieres right here Saturday 9:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.