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GOP Rep Pushes Misleading Idea "Natural Immunity" Might Provide More Protection Than Vaccines; McCarthy & GOP Face Another Test After Rep's Racist Remarks; DOJ Moves To Limit Bannon Media Circus Over Contempt Charge. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 29, 2021 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Why wait for facts or science when you can spin a conspiracy that ties the latest COVID challenge to Donald Trump's big lie. The former White House physician Ronny Jackson, now a Republican congressman from Texas, says he has already solved the Omicron variant riddle. Look at this tweet, here comes the MEV, the midterm election variant. They need a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots. Democrats will do anything to cheat during the election. But we're not going to let them.

With me to share the reporting and insights on this day, Jackie Kucinich of the Daily Beast, POLITICO's Laura Barron-Lopez, Francesca Chambers of McClatchy, and CNN's Ryan nobles. He is a doctor. During COVID, we've made fun of a lot of people or poked in a lot of people or questions a lot of people who play doctors on T.V., he is a doctor.

How reckless, this is a moment for the country to say as the President said, whether you voted for him or not, why don't we all come down, why don't we figure out what this new variant is, and what we need to do about it. But instead, Ronny Jackson says, he's got it figured out.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It is completely reckless. It is at odds with public health. But why care about that when you could just continue to sew the big lie and kiss up to the former president and foment the dissatisfaction that's out there in the country? It defies logic.

KING: It defies logic. And listen here. Unfortunately, it's not just Ronny Jackson, if it was just Congressman Jackson or Dr. Jackson, we could call him out, but he's getting help on you know where.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's always a new variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you can always -- you'll count on a variant about every October every 10 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, think it's going to -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you know, you're probably right. However, they could speed up the variants could come more quickly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to need a new variant there.


KING: If you want to get into the politics of cable television, the shame right now is that cases are higher, severe illnesses higher. There are some exceptions. But if you go through Republican counties in rural America, that is where you find lower vaccination rates, higher COVID case counts, and then you get that.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, what's so ludicrous and dangerous about all these claims is that look, Republicans on one hand are trying to blame Biden for not having COVID under control, while simultaneously with the help of "Fox News," sabotaging the recovery effort of the pandemic, by actively pursuing policies or rhetoric that says don't get vaccinated.

Don't wear your mask. And there's reports now that states like Tennessee, Florida, Iowa, are all incentivizing people who decide not to get vaccinated with unemployment benefits, that's essentially telling people go ahead put yourself at risk for potential hospitalization and death.

KING: Right. And it is striking in the sense that this President like the last president is a bit snake bitten by this virus or a lot of things happen to Donald Trump beyond his control. However, he walked into the White House briefing room and said, maybe we should ingest bleach and things like that.

President Biden is saying I trust the scientists, but he will be judged politically the same way. But it just doesn't help when the opposition if you will tell the American people this is not real. This is not serious.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, and you just heard President Biden saying he doesn't want to go back into lockdowns. He doesn't want to introduce new travel restrictions. He famously said he wanted to shut down the virus not shut down the country.

And when you look at his polling numbers, while he does the best on this issue, which is his handling of the pandemic, the White House has said that they believe that COVID fatigue is contributing to his bad polling numbers. And if you look, for instance, at 5:38 he's underwater on COVID-19 in the pandemic and it could hurt him in the midterm elections.

KING: There's another argument that plays out during this, this one might be more open to debate, if you will, because we don't have clear science. But this is Nancy Mace, congresswoman from South Carolina, saying everybody should just calm down about those vaccines because in places where people aren't vaccinated, they might be protected.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): One of the things the CDC has not done and no policymaker at the federal level has done so far is taking into account what natural immunity does and that may be what we're seeing in Florida today. In some studies that I've read natural immunity gives you 27 times more protection against future COVID infection then a vaccination. And so we need to take all of the science into account and not selectively choosing what science to follow when we are making policy decisions.



KING: There is an Israeli study that raises some questions about that to give the Congressman subdued. The CDC says that yes, if you had COVID, you have natural immunity for some time, but the CDC says the data it says that you should still get a vaccine because you get longer term protection from that. Again --

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In play out, the public health policy that emerges from the idea of everyone having natural immunity, or we're going to have COVID parties where people gather together and purposely give each other COVID like they used to give have chickenpox parties with kids, you know, two decades ago, it just doesn't make any sense because the risk of contracting COVID is so much greater, especially for those who are unvaccinated.

It could mean you would lose your life. It also taxes the healthcare system in a way that we aren't capable of handling. So the idea that you perpetuate this idea of not getting vaccinated and just get the virus just doesn't make any sense. It's not a practical application of fighting the virus.

KING: We've been through many cycles of this, but it is sad that public health and public safety should be immune from politics at least 80 percent immune from politics, but it is not, it is not.

Up next for us, yet another character challenged our House Republicans, a shocking burst of racism and Islamophobia. Congressman Lauren Boebert though now says she is sorry.



KING: We opened the workweek with yet another character and decency tests for House Republicans Congresswoman Lauren Boebert is apologizing to Muslims and says she is trying now to arrange a conversation with House Democratic colleagues Ilhan Omar. That conversation would be to discuss this.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): I look to my left and there she is, Ilhan Omar. And I said, well, she doesn't have a backpack. We should be fine. I looked over, and I said, oh look, the Jihad squad decided show for work today.


KING: That's vile racism, vile Islamophobia. And it's another challenge for the House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy to deal with extremism in his ranks. But McCarthy did not publicly condemn Boebert's remarks. Instead, he said he did speak with her. And then I spoke with Leader Hoyer to help facilitate that meeting so that Congress can get back to talking to each other and working on challenges facing the American people.

The panel is back with me. That's a punt. I'm sorry. Last week we were talking about Paul Gosar posting an anime video in which his animated character kills another member of the squad. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene the week before that posting phone numbers of Republican colleagues who voted for infrastructure on the internet. Does Kevin McCarthy not have the courage to stand up to extremists and other bad behavior in his ranks?

NOBLES: I mean, I think the reality of the situation is no, he does not. And his actions tell you that time and time again, he's presented with these challenges of leadership. His name is leader, he is the House Minority Leader, and he refuses to do so. Instead, he's guided by them. It's very seldom that there's any real consequences for members of the Republican caucus to face any sort of penalty for this type of behavior.

And furthermore, there's even evidence that they benefit from it, they raise a ton of money. They draw big crowds when they have rallies surrounding it. And you have to ask the question, why is it difficult to find bipartisanship in Washington, particularly in the halls of Congress? Why on earth would anyone like Ilhan Omar want to sit down and negotiate something with someone like Lauren Boebert when she accuses her, suggest that she might be a terrorist? It just doesn't make any sense.

KING: And so that's what we wait for now. We wait to see, number one, does Boebert backup for apology? We live in a world where everybody, all the perfect people raise your hands, right? All right, I mean this, she apologized, right? So, we should take her at her word, but she should have to prove it because she has a history of saying very provocative things. And now I guess the ball somehow is in Omar's court as to what does she do? Does she take a phone call? Does she take a meeting? Does she do what?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well to your point, John, this is a punt. It's upon also by Boebert. It's a punt by McCarthy to say, oh, well, it's on Democrats now to accept my apology, despite the fact that Boebert is a Congress member who has repeatedly demonstrated that she lies.

She lies about election fraud. She lies about the fact that Ilhan Omar is potentially a terrorist. So it makes sense that Democrats are going to approach this very carefully and skeptically about what her motivation is in trying to get this meeting with Omar to begin with.

KING: And this is what again, Kevin McCarthy has failed to deal with this so it will keep happening. Marjorie Taylor Greene after Boebert apologizes never apologized to Islamic terrorist sympathizers. Communists are those who fund murder with our tax dollars. Ilhan Omar and the jihad squad are all three and undeserving an apology.

Again, this is just reprehensible. It's reprehensible as a parent you think like, you know, what message does that send our children when people in public office are allowed to say things like that and are not held accountable?

CHAMBERS: And he's trying to walk a really fine line here, right, by saying that, well, he helped to facilitate a potential meeting between them he's doing more on this issue as he's getting pushback from moderate Republicans.

And John it doesn't change the fact though, that some Republicans are distressed about this because it is distracting from the type of message they feel won for them in Virginia and that gubernatorial election and the kind of matches they think will help them win in the midterm elections making an economic argument or an argument about some of these other issues about President Joe Biden's agenda, because we're talking about this again today.


KUCINICH: Well, it's also -- but it also says, who's in the driver's seat here, right? I mean, when you have someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene able to do this, average, she's already had a conversation with Kevin McCarthy because she was saying that she has a list of demands that includes punishing Republicans who are -- who have tougher reelection than Marjorie Taylor Greene, these middle of the road Republicans for voting one way or another.

I mean, and he calls her and she tweets out that that call happened and that they had a good conversation. That to me, doesn't not look. That to me, sends a very different message about who is exactly is leading, and who is just trying to keep people in line and following.

KING: Right, the tail is wagging the leader, if you will. You mentioned a key point, though, number one, McCarthy spoke out at all implicitly, you know, calling out Boebert when he says he helped arrange the meeting, implicitly it's weak, it's weak. But why is that happened because corporate interests who he needs Kevin McCarthy needs to fund the campaign next year, do not want to get involved in this conversation all they want nothing to do with it. So they lean on McCarthy.

But even as he tries to crack down, look at the top, you mentioned this, but look at the top House Republican fundraisers of the top 15. This is not all of them, but of the top 15, you see the leader Steve Scalise and Kevin McCarthy one and two. But then Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, all in the top 15. The Trump base, the small donor base of the Republican Party sends them money, which makes them forces to be reckoned with within the Republican family. That's what Kevin McCarthy looks at which he should. BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, I mean, look, it's a choice that McCarthy is making that all Republicans are facing right now which is, yes, they want to win the majority. And yes, they're looking at what is actually going on with their base and the fact that their base is very much still loyal to Trump and also that their base is believing the big lie. So this party has to decide and these Republican leaders have to decide are they going to try to steer their voters towards the truth or are they going to continue to lie to them in order to win election.

KUCINICH: And just really quick so when Lauren Boebert made those comments in that video. Listen to the reaction to the crowd. No one was booing here. People were clapping.

KING: Right. And so well, we get to an election year next year where for all the frustration there might be about those empower becomes a choice about do you want to replace them with, yes, people like that.

Up next, a giant week ahead for the January 6th investigation, former President Trump faces a big court test and the committee expected to decide soon whether they will take action against his former Chief of Staff.



KING: It's a big week in court and at the capitol for the January 6th Committee, an appeals court will hear the former President Trump's claim that he can keep the committee from seeing his White House records and the Committee itself will turn to the Mark Meadows question. Trump's former Chief of Staff, defy the Committee's subpoena citing Trump's claim of executive privilege.

The Committee must now decide whether to push to hold Meadows in contempt as it did previously with Trump ally Steve Bannon. Ryan Nobles let me start with you. You spent a lot of time covering this Committee. Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republican members says this about Meadows.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL), JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: I expected there is going to be movement particularly on Mark Meadows that we'll know about shortly and the next day, next two days or so. And I think, you know, the people will be very pleased with that. The bottom line is this committee is going to get to answers. We're going to do what we need to do.


KING: If I'm translating that, right, that's 18 seconds to say we're going to hold him in contempt.

NOBLES: I don't know if I take that far of a step. I do think the Committee recognizes that there are some complications with the Meadow subpoena that are different than that of what they dealt with Steve Bannon.

KING: Because he was chief of staff.

NOBLES: Yes. So they have other options. They don't necessarily have to go right to criminal contempt, you know, the Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told us a couple of weeks ago that they were drafting a letter that was going to outline the expectations that they had for Meadows. We haven't seen that letter yet.

So my belief is that we may not see criminal contempt on Meadows in the near future. The other name that's still out there, though, is Jeffrey Clark, who's a former DOJ official, was peddling the big lie within the Justice Department. He's also defied the subpoena. He did come in and talk to the Committee but tried to put up some excuse of executive privilege and a combination of attorney-client privilege.

There could be some movement on Clark this week as well that we should look out for. But the Committee is going to be very busy this week on a number of fronts, Meadows and Clark included.

KING: And the Committee will in part be impacted by what happens in the courts. Number one, the appeals court hears the Trump arguments that he somehow still has executive privilege. We'll see how the court rules on that. And then the Department of Justice is trying to rein in Steve Bannon, who was cited for contempt, does now face federal charges.

And the Department of Justice filed the brief that says, the defense is misleading claims, failure to confer, unexplained wholesale opposition, and extra judicial statements made clear the defense's real purpose is to abuse criminal discovery to try this case in the media rather than court.

Again, my translation, the Justice Department is learning what it should have known from the beginning. Steve Bannon is going to use his podcast and use any other appearances he can to raise his profile seem like a Trump martyr and raise money.

KUCINICH: Yes. And I think -- no, I think all this could have been predicted. Welcome to the Steve Bannon show.

NOBLES: Yes. And same things going to happen with Roger Stone and Alex Jones, a lot of these high-profile people they've subpoenaed, they're going to go to the base -- the Trump base and try and raise as much money grift to a certain extent may not even help their cause, but does it move us any closer to finding out what happened in January 6th.


BARRON-LOPEZ: And just a reminder, right, and just a reminder with what's happening with the Trump case which is that those documents are documents that, you know, like the White House visitor logs, I think it's an important reminder that those are things that are typically made public by past and current administrations, and also just what Bannon is doing. You know, the reason Democrats are so adamant about this is because it's also about the future election. It's not just about what happened on January 6th and the past election.

KING: And they just -- they tried to turn every institution of our government into a circus.

CHAMBERS: But they key outstanding question is how aggressive does the Department of Justice want to get on this? This is what Adam Schiff was saying over the weekend, is that he wants to see them take more aggressive action.

KING: We will see if they do.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.