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Trump Loyalists Could Withhold Support For McCarthy As Speaker; CNN: RNC Payments To Trump Attorneys Irk GOP Officials; Trump Selling $74.99 "Photo Book" & Wrapping Paper While RNC Uses Donor Funds To Pay Trump Legal Fees; Labor Dept.: Weekly Jobless Claims Lowest Since 1969; Texas Gov. Abbott Officially Launches Re-Election Bid. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 24, 2021 - 12:30   ET



MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You've got the number two in the wings and the number three in the wings who would stab you in the back in a second to get that job because they want it too. That's a lot of calculus and that's where he is right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And the part that I think McCarthy doesn't spend much time on is do you really want the job?

TALEV: Well --

KING: Do you really want the job if the foundation of your support are people you made a key point who used to be on the fringe, used to be in the fringe, used to be the people you looked at, and they were the cloud cars, or they were people with even their own members that we don't really listen to he or she, is sent here by the voters but we don't really respect. Listen to Matt Gaetz. Matt Gaetz says, no, we're not the fringe. We're the party.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): The ascended force in politics on the right doesn't emerge from the Cheneyesters (ph) or the Adam Kinzinger is, it's the MAGA teen. It's those of us pursuing the America first agenda. And we need backup in Washington because, frankly, we need more folks like Paul Gosar, Madison Cawthorn and Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene.


KING: We need more people who post videos online in which their animated character kills a colleague, a woman. We need more people like Marjorie Taylor Greene who stalks people, yells at them, shouts at them, then post phone numbers online of colleagues who voted for the Biden infrastructure plan, who then get death threats. That's what we need more of?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. Well, the Republican conference has gotten more Trumpy, even with Trump out of office, and it could get even more Trumpy next year because a lot of the moderates are the people who voted to impeach or either retiring or they're being pushed out or Trump is targeting them.

And you're seeing more Marjorie Taylor Greenes, more Lauren Boeberts, more Madison Cawthorns running for office and winning in these gerrymandered conservative districts. And so yes, it is possible and they are the ascendant and embolden wing of the Republican conference right now.

KING: Usually in a midterm election, it's what do you think of the President that motivates your votes, which is a perfectly logical reason to motivate your vote. But I hope people also think about what's the alternative if we act on our frustration.

Coming up for us next, a little bit more of this. Why is the Republican National Committee footing legal bills for the former president? That's the question some Republican officials are asking. Some more new CNN reporting next.



KING: Some more new reporting now, on a different slice of the GOPs what to do about Trump debate. We're learning about the frustrations within the party over the Republican National Committee's willingness to make a more than $120,000 payment just last month alone, just last month alone, to help Trump with his legal bills. The payment, raising questions among some former and current Republican officials about party priorities ahead of a critical election year.

CNN's Siemens Gabby Orr is here with this reporting. Some grumbling that why are we doing this?

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. You know, after we learned of these payments yesterday to Donald Trump's defense attorneys, I spoke with several Republican officials, both former and current inside the party. And their reactions ranged from dismay to disappointment. You know, some of them said that this could run afoul of the Republican National Committee's own bylaws regarding neutrality if Donald Trump does become a candidate for president in 2024.

But other said, you know, this is a money pot that should be going towards current Republican candidates across the country, not to self- professed billionaire or a former president. And one of those candidates is New Jersey Governor Jack Ciattarelli, who ran for governor earlier this month narrowly lost to the incumbent Phil Murphy, and whose campaign actually asked for more money from the National Party in October. They sought help trying to push him over the finish line.

Republican National Committee man, Bill Palatucci was one of the people who made that request. And I spoke with him yesterday and here's what he said. He said, "We sure as heck could have used $121,000. We were in the middle of hand to hand combat trying to win and those resources could have helped here. It just speaks for itself of what the priorities were." So there are questions among Republicans about the way that this money is being spent and whether this will continue so long as Donald Trump remains under investigation.

KING: Yes, let me jump in on that point. You also have an anonymous former top RNC official quote on your piece, "This is not normal. Nothing about this is normal, especially since he's not only a former president but a billionaire. What does any of this have to do with assisting Republicans in 2022 or preparing for the 2024 primary?"

It's a great point. What also strikes me though, is that the former RNC official, even a former official is still anonymous. So many of these people are afraid to speak on the record, because they know if they speak about Trump critically, there will be recriminations.

ORR: Absolutely. And it's not just people who currently work at the RNC or who are serving as committee men or on the rules committee, as you said, it's people who formerly worked at the RNC who are still nervous about crossing Donald Trump because they recognize the influence that he still wields over the party.

KING: Gabby Orr, appreciate the great reporting. Stay on top of it.

Let's get some broader perspective now. Maggie Haberman is with us. She is Washington Correspondent for The New York Times, obviously, someone who's covered Donald Trump extensively. Maggie, you take about this, the grumbling, over why is the national party still paying Donald Trump's legal bills. Also just some recent headlines, there's a lot of Trump in the news lately. One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is why.

Trump's latest media appearance, he sat down with Michael Lindell, the Pillow Guy, for 30 minutes. Trump says Rittenhouse visited him at Mar- a-Lago. Trump announces coffee table book. He's going to make some money off some old White House photos. "Every caption is mine, some in my own handwriting."

Some of this is trivial, but some of it is not including his role in the party, his sway over the party and not just his, quote unquote, title as leader as the RNC called him in defending these payments. But why would money be spent when the New Jersey Republicans are saying, we need help. Now we're going to pay Donald Trump's lawyers?


MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think Gabby has it exactly right, John. You know, there's a tremendous amount of sway that he still has within the party. There is a tremendous amount of fear of Donald Trump. There are very few people who have spoken out publicly against him. And there's fear not just about recriminations against themselves, there's fear that he could take his voters and if not, form an alternative third party of his own, which I have a lot of doubts that he ever was particularly serious about or has the ability to do.

But what he could do, as we saw with the Georgia Senate races is depress turnout. He could keep Republicans from voting. He is a really strong as a negative force in the party, less so as a forward leaning and positive force. But that can be enough to have a lot of power. So that's what you're seeing.

KING: And if you only see in your inbox, five or six Trump fundraising e-mails a day, that's a slow day. They are constantly raising money, including just today. I'm not recommending this by any means, but if you want to look here, official Trump wrapping paper with Trump with his Santa hat on there, they're constantly raising money. So there's no question Trump could use his own political funds to pay his legal bills. This is a power play.

He wants to make the RNC pay his bills to show the power play. But what else is going on, Maggie, in Trump land? If you think about it, just in recent days, they leaked their own polling, right? And then they had their pollster go on the record to say if we re-ran 2020 right now, Trump would win overwhelmingly. Is this insecurity on his part? Is it just narcissism, he wants the media conversation to be about Trump? Or is this some strategic piece of, you know, trying to keep together the plan for 2024?

HABERMAN: I just want to add one addendum to what you said about how it's a power play with the RNC to get them to pay his bills. It's also that Donald Trump will never spend $1 of his own that he doesn't have to --

KING: Right, excellent point.

HABERMAN: -- and that is a piece. In terms of keeping himself relevant, look, I think that they are aware that there has been some movement from potential contenders out there, you know, whether or not they are afraid of Chris Christie. I know that Chris Christie exhibits a specific space in Donald Trump's head that most people don't because they had been friends for so long.

I think Donald Trump is very aware of Ron DeSantis out there and the potential threat that DeSantis has. There are a number of Trump advisers who have been cautioning in his world, recent (ph) weeks. Look, you know, there is an area where somebody could try to run from Trump's right, could try to point out the things he didn't get done in office. The fact that he remained very friendly with China, even after the coronavirus was spreading in the U.S.

The fact that the border wall really didn't get built, despite what he says, and so forth and so on. And so I think that you're saying this is just trying to reassert, you know, dominance, basically. It will likely work, but we have no idea what next year is going to look like. And so the fact that they feel the need to do this, makes clear that there is movement they're seeing that suggests not everyone is living entirely in fear of him.

KING: Right. It's a great point you make in the sense that we just saw Republican Governors meeting, they were celebrating Glenn Youngkin's victory in Virginia, but also making clear that their resources, the Republican Governors Association, which is part of the National Party, but raises its own money, is going to support Republican incumbent governors, a number of whom Trump is at war with.

HABERMAN: That's right. And it's worth noting, by the way, that at that dinner was Mike Pence, the former vice president, saying the RGA is going to defend incumbents. But this is the position they find themselves in where Trump is basically making a number of threats. And they, you know, Republicans are trying to show that there is a party that isn't just about, you know, personality and Donald Trump's wins.

They do see, to your point on Glenn Youngkin, a path forward on how to win. I don't think that Youngkin's victory can be replicated in a number of states. It works specifically in Virginia for variety of reasons. But there is a way that you can talk about policy, and not have it all be this sort of personality contest that has existed around Donald Trump. I mean, basically, one of Trumps major successes was reorienting, frankly, not just his own party, but both parties around reacting to his emotions and Republicans --

KING: Maggie Haberman, thank you. Grateful for the insights on this day. Please have a great Thanksgiving for us. Thank you.

And if you're hitting the road for Thanksgiving, don't expect lower gas prices just yet. And how much more should you expect to pay for your Thanksgiving meal? Well, the White House crunched the numbers. Turkey and pie costs more this year. Stuffing? A little less.



KING: Some positive economic news today, weekly finds (ph) for new unemployment benefits are way down. You see the number there, not only to a pandemic low, but to a level not seen since 1969. Now, whether you process that is a different question. And that's a big part of the Biden White House economic and political challenge right now.

48 million Americans are traveling this Thanksgiving. Gas is averaging $3.40 a gallon. That's the highest Thanksgiving price for a gallon of gas since 2012. Hoping to help, President Biden order the largest ever release, 50 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. But he says be patient.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our combined actions will not solve the problem of high gas prices overnight. I will do what needs to be done to reduce the price you paid the pump. From the middle class and working families who are spending much too much and it's a strain, and you're the reason I was sent here to look out for you.


KING: Belatedly, some will say, but the President trying to help with the price of gas.

TALEV: Yes. KING: And there's just this conflicting economic data right now. If you're focused on the price of gas, if you're focused on inflation, you know, then you're seeing negative effects. If you're looking at jobs creation, those weekly unemployment claims, the stock market, there's a lot of good news. The challenge for the Biden is convincing people, things aren't as bad as you think.


TALEV: Right. So, don't get me for saying this, but let's play a little exercise called what would Trump do, because you know what it would be, it would pick all of the indicators that are good news, lean hard into them, take credit for them yourself, say, look what I'm doing, and then minimize the bad stuff or find someone else to blame. And this is not like a mantle that the Biden administration has eagerly seized on. But there's a reason why politicians do it, kind of work sometimes, at least for a while.

And I think what you've -- what we've been seeing in the last few days is a recognition, something clicked an effort now by the White House and Democrats in Congress to say we're going to focus on some of these kitchen table issues, the price of gas, inflation, the supply chain stuff and start doing stuff that we can message around, is what you're seeing them do. And whether it's the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, it's like three days worth of oil consumption, two days worth of oil consumption, but it's something you could have an impact before Christmas.

KING: It's something, but again, they're failing politics 101, or communication 101. A day, a President of the United States is making an announcement like this, it is imperative that you run all your traps, and you check around the party. And you tell people like Joe Manchin, who said yesterday, "It's an important policy Band-Aid for rising gas prices, but does not solve the self-inflicted wound that shortsighted energy policy is having on our nation."

A disciplined White House checks base with who's not going to like this, and you say not today. Please, not today. The President needs this. Be quiet.

ZANONA: Right. I mean, look, I think, ironically, this stretch of turmoil (ph) is coming off of arguably what has been the best stretch of Biden's presidency. They just signed the infrastructure bill into law, the House finally passed the economic package, which contains so much of Biden's economic agenda. The problem is a lot of those provisions are not going to kick in right away. And they don't address what a lot of the voters right now care about, which is inflation and gas prices.

And are there going to be presidents going to meet (ph) the Christmas tree? And so yes, those victories for Biden's legacy, they're going to have transformative impacts in the middle class and on America. But right now, it's not enough to save the Biden presidency or the democratic (INAUDIBLE).

KING: And the way you fight and get the credit for that, and you're absolutely right, especially if they come back and pass the rest of the agenda, the Build Back Better bill. But you have to fight through that. One way you hurt yourself is with unforced errors. So I just mentioned Joe Manchin. There are people out there going to say, oh they can't control Joe Manchin, Joe Manchin is going to be Joe Manchin.

Now there are days when a president can try at least with the hammer down. But there's also the Energy Secretary walking into a briefing --


KING: -- at the White House on the day you're announcing, you're tapping the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and this happens.


ED O'KEEFE, CBS NEWS SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many barrels of oil does U.S. consume per day?

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: I don't have that number in front of me, sorry.

O'KEEFE: So some suggest it's about 18 million, which would suggest you're releasing less than three days worth of supply from the Petroleum Reserve.


KING: The Secretary of Energy has to know how many barrels of oil the United States consumes a day, especially on the day she's walking into a briefing about that very issue. Again, it's an unforced error on her part, but as a broader part is why didn't the White House have talking points for all Democrats with all of those numbers on it so that these things don't happen?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, it certainly seemed like a confusing moment that she wouldn't know that. I'm wondering if she didn't want to say, if, you know, she know folks at home would be doing the math in their head and think, well, 50 million barrels. That is not that much in the in the issue that we're facing here.

I will say, though, we have seen that this administration finally come around to trying to message on inflation, right? They were running from it for a long time. It's evident to them that they can't outrun this issue anymore. And they are -- even though it's a bit of a -- not really a disciplined effort, as we can see, they are making an effort to address this.

KING: They are making an effort, but they're clouding their own effort by unforced errors, I would say, but we'll see. We'll see as we go.

Arm wrestling, sprinting what some House Republicans are trying to do to win? Yes, that guy. Kyle Rittenhouse as their intern, that's next.



KING: Topping our political radar today, President Biden just nominating Shalanda Young to lead the Office of Management and Budget. If confirmed, Young would be the first black woman to hold that critical post. She is currently the Deputy OMB Director. Nani Coloretti would replace her as the number two. And if confirmed, she would be one of the highest ranking Asian Americans in the administration. And the Biden White House would have two women of color leading one of its most powerful agencies.

The Texas Governor Greg Abbott, officially now in the race to remain leader of the Lone Star State.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I want you to know I'm running for re- election, to protect and secure our border. I'm running for re- election to support our police officers in the great state of Texas.


KING: Before Abbott even made it official with that video, he put out an attack ad against Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke. That had deceptively edited O'Rourke's comments about policing. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert made this offer yesterday to one of her Republican House colleagues.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Madison Cawthorn, he said we would arm wrestle me for this Kyle Rittenhouse internship, but Madison Cawthorn has some pretty big guns and so I would like to challenge him to a sprint instead. Let's make this fair.


KING: If you didn't know it already, the North Carolina Congressman Cawthorn uses a wheelchair after in 2014 car accident left him partially paralyzed.

Please join Fareed Zakaria for an in depth look at the Chinese President Xi Jinping. "China's Iron Fist, Xi Jinping and the Stakes for America" begins Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

And thanks for joining us on Inside Politics today. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving. Please stay safe. Ana Cabrera pics of our coverage right now.