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Trump's Wait-And-See Approach Freezes 2024 GOP Primary; McConnell, McCarthy Take Very Different Approaches To Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 09, 2021 - 12:30   ET



DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: A couple of weeks ago, the German Health Minister stated something very starkly. What he said in Germany this winter, you're either going to be, after the winter, you're either going to be vaccinated, recovering from COVID or dead. And I think that's true in the United States.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: It's a stark way to put it.

REINER: After winter.

KING: I'm sorry, go ahead.

REINER: You're either going to be vaccinated. You're either going to be vaccinated, recovering, or dead.

KING: When you speak like that in stark terms, forgive me for interrupting, when you speak like that in stark terms about a war footing. Here's the new Kaiser Family Foundation poll, where you get your children vaccinated. This is among parents, you know, half of parents say 49 percent of kids this age say they're 12 to 17, that their kid is vaccinated.

But you see, definitely not, definitely not, 30 percent of parents with kids aged 12 to 17 say definitely not, 29 percent, so the same. Three and 10 say no, definitely not. How do you break through that if you say we should be on a war footing, and everybody should be getting vaccinated?

REINER: Well, I think school districts around the country are going to have to start putting in place vaccine mandates for children, you know, the same way they have vaccine mandates for polio and measles and rubella. If you're not vaccinated at some point in the United States, you're not going to be able to go to school. How else are we going to get people to understand, and what I would tell parents is that if you don't vaccinate your children, they are going to get sick.

Hopefully, they'll do well, but they're going to get sick, and then they're going to be out of school. And then perhaps you're going to be out of work taking care of them because they're going to be out of school for 10 days. The vaccines are safe and very effective for kids.

And kids don't mind getting the shot. These kids, it normalizes the life for kids because they can more freely interact with their friends and have sleepovers. Kids don't mind getting the shot. If you want to take care of your kids and you want to keep your kids from getting sick, get them vaccinated, talk to your pediatrician about this, your pediatrician will not be equivocal about it.

KING: Dr. Reiner, as always grateful, sir, for your insights. We'll keep the conversation going.

Up next for us --

REINER: My pleasure.

KING: Thank you sir.

Up next for us, the Trump effect now and for those thinking about 2024, the big lie has a big role, so does a big ego.



KING: Some fresh examples now of how the Trump effect defines and dominates Republican politics in the immediate focus on the next election and in the early maneuvering for 2024. David Perdue is our new exhibit A in the here and now. Perdue is making loyalty to Trump and his big lie central in his new primary challenge against Georgia's Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Governor Kemp remember refused to help Trump cheat back in 2020. Perdue told "Axios" yesterday he would not have certified the Georgia results.

This is what he said, not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. Now facts clearly do not matter to his former Senator Perdue. But remember this too, a recount confirmed Joe Biden won Georgia and several Trump legal challenges fail. Let's discuss and as we do CNN's Gabby Orr joins the conversation. Tarini to you first of this, it's just proof positive David Perdue once a mainstream Republican businessman, now a big lie.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: He's now a Trump, a full on Trump supporter. And it's not just Georgia, we're seeing this in other states like North Carolina and Ohio where there are these Republican Senate primaries where, you know, they're candidates who Trump has endorsed and then we're seeing someone like Pat McCrory in North Carolina, former governor, sort of more business oriented traditional Republican, who Trump thinks because he's lost in the past, he's not going to endorse him. And so we're seeing this Republican primary play out there.

So I think, you know, next year, there might be, we might have some indications of, you know, how Republicans can position themselves if there is any lane at all for someone who perhaps supports Trump policies, but doesn't quite support the president himself or the big lie so that, you know, we'll see how those primaries play out including this Georgia one.

KING: And to me the conscious (ph) the President of the United States holding a international forum today on protecting democracies, and you have candidates who are running actively, ignoring democracy.

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And Perdue, it's kind of forgotten. In the summer of 2020, there was this complicated two Senate races happening at the same time and different methods, but his race was just a straight head to head. And he was, he needed to get 50 percent of the vote. And he was actually running back then as a kind of mainstream establishment Republican who wanted to win the suburbs outside of Atlanta, and was saying nice bipartisan things about issues, contentious issues like police reform.

And then he was trying to get recruited to go back into the Senate race because he lost and Kelly Loeffler lost and now Raphael Warnock is running again. People wanted him to run in that Senate race, and he said no, because he didn't want to get caught up in all of the Trump stuff.

KING: And then he got nudged encouraged pushed into this. So let's take a leap forward now to 2024. Most Republicans assumed Donald Trump run, he had a conversation with Hugh Hewitt yesterday, who asked him, but what if you don't.


HUGH HEWITT, AMERICAN RADIO HOST: If Donald Trump decides not to run in 2024, who out there will that base flock to?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I do decide that, I think my base is going to be very angry. I'll discuss that subject right after the midterms. I know exactly, I mean, I have two or three that I think would be very good. But I'll make my decision.



KING: Gabby, you have a great piece on about how this affects everybody thinking about running in 2024. Nikki Haley, the former U.N. ambassador, South Carolina governor says I would not run. Kristi Noem says I'm counting on him running. Marco Rubio says he would support him. Rick Scott says he ought to run. There's a whole bunch of host of other potential candidates there who give different answer. There are some like Liz Cheney who are running against Trump, whether Trump's in or not. But if you're thinking about 2024, you have no choice but to think of Trump.

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely. There's no way around it. And, you know, as you mentioned, there are a few Republicans who have come out and explicitly said they would not challenge him in a presidential primary. There are others who are sort of in a different tier where they have said, you know, we're counting on him running as Kristi Noem has, Marco Rubio saying that he would of course be the nominee if he did run, others indicating support but not quite going that far.

And then you have this group like Liz Cheney, but also some Trump aligned candidates like Mike Pompeo, Ron DeSantis, who either just haven't weighed in on 2024, but are definitely talked about as possible candidates or haven't said that they wouldn't challenge him in a primary and that is notable, notable for people like Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence, you know, two people who served in the Trump administration who haven't explicitly said they would not challenge him in a primary.

KING: You mentioned Pence, CNN's Randi Kaye got the opportunity yesterday to ask.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If Donald Trump runs for president, will you still run?

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know our focus is on 2022. But I can honestly tell you in 2023, my family and I will do what we've always done. And that is we'll reflect, we'll pray, and we'll determine where we might best serve, and we'll go where we're called.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, he doesn't have a prayer against Donald Trump in 2024. Should he

run because he doesn't really have a lane. He thinks it's white evangelicals. But in fact, I think Donald Trump probably more popular among white evangelicals of then Mike Pence is to stay relevant.

He's sort of toying with it, and maybe I'll run maybe I won't die. And I'll pray and look for the Lord's guidance. But I think he doesn't have much of a lane outside of these white evangelicals. And I don't, the base doesn't like him. I mean, that's the other thing.

KING: Trump has turned to base again.

HENDERSON: Trump has turned the base against him.

KING: Again, because he didn't help him cheat.


KING: Again, that's the reason which we can never forget the reason because he wouldn't help him cheat.

Up next, look at the fraying relationship between two men who want to control Washington, Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Senator Mitch McConnell.



KING: Today some new and fascinating reporting new insights into what might be the most important relationship on Capitol Hill if Republicans retake power. Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Kevin McCarthy hope the midterm election translates into big promotions to majority leader and House Speaker. But they are very different men and they are often at odds.

It impacts GOP strategy in Unity now, meaning day to day and it could be an even bigger problem if the two had big governing responsibilities. We did get a glimpse of this in recent weeks. McConnell held a 30-minute meeting with Leader McCarthy and tried to get him to buy into a debt ceiling deal but the gambit fell flat. McCarthy informed McConnell that the proposal wouldn't fly in the House and warned him that Republicans would bail on the defense legislation according to a GOP lawmaker who later heard about this conversation.

Our chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju us now, Manu, this is your reporting. It's an interesting relationship to borrow a phrase from a previous dynamic. Who knew it's complicated?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's actually playing out on the Senate floor right now because of Senators going to vote on a fast track process to allow the debt ceiling to be increased on a simple majority threshold. Now, there's a long way of saying a deal to ensure that there's not a default on the national borrowing limit and who may cut that deal.

Mitch McConnell, he works behind the scenes with Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, and he tried to bring McCarthy in the fold. As you noted there, McCarthy did not want to go within the initial plan. So McConnell and Schumer worked on a separate plan to move this forward, because McConnell is in a much different position, both politically and also institutionally.

In the Senate, you need to have 60 votes to get anything through. They need to avoid a default by as early as next week. That means 50 Democrats, 10 Republicans need to hold hands, the Republicans in the minority, they don't -- the Democrats don't need their votes on mostly pieces of legislation.

And Kevin McCarthy has rallied Republicans to oppose virtually anything, and that's one reason why we've seen a split between McCarthy and McConnell, not just on this, but also keeping the government open. That was another deal that Mitch McConnell helped broker to avoid a shutdown and lead to keep the government open until the middle of February but also the infrastructure bill.

Mitch McConnell went to 19 Republican senators to vote for that plan, one of the signature achievements of Joe Biden's presidency so far. McCarthy on the other hand, whipping his colleagues to oppose it, all showing how these two are dealing with it. But looming over everything here, John, Donald Trump, Kevin McCarthy needs Donald Trump to make potentially become speaker in the next Congress. They take back the majority, Mitch McConnell wants nothing to do with Trump and says this next election is about the future, not the past.

KING: And it's such a fascinating dynamic to watch. Manu Raju, grateful for the important reporting. Let's bring the conversation in the room and let's just pick up where Manu left off because when you talk about Trump these two are very different. Watch.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How on the outs with him, are you? I mean, he's pretty critical of you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's pretty critical of you. He's not shy about it.

MCCONNELL: You get that impression, right.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When's the last time you spoke to Donald Trump?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell us about it?

MCCARTHY: He called up, he was on the golf course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he talked about yesterday at all or no, campaign and stuff?

MCCARTHY: Catching up, just, you know, no campaign either. I have lots of friends. I talk to a lot of people.


KING: It is in many ways you can talk about separate policy differences, but it's the dividing line. Is Donald Trump the future or the past?

HENDERSON: It is a dividing line. But I do want to note about Mitch McConnell, I'm pretty sure he said that if Donald Trump is the nominee, he would still back him. So he's sort of distaste for Donald Trump only goes so far. Listen, he's got a different body of folks to work with in the Senate, they've got to run statewide races in the Senate.

And if you're in the House, Kevin McCarthy, you've got these, you know, very red districts and redistricting, that's going to help you get back to the majority. So they're in a very different position. And that's why they're behaving in their different ways. These have become.

KANE: And they're totally different people. McConnell, McConnell turns 80 in February, McCarthy is 56 or 57. McConnell's autobiography is called the long game. He is slow and methodical, and he maps out each step. And it took him a couple decades to become Republican leader. McCarthy, it was just four years in the House became the House Majority Whip, the fastest person ever to get to that point on the leadership ladder. McCarthy is always sort of a man in a hurry, and McConnell is slow and methodical, and they are taking very different approaches to Trump. McCarthy needs to get every single Republican to vote for him to become speaker, just about least get Trump to give some sort of endorsement or stay neutral. So that's why he sucks up to him in public.

KING: And it'd be if they were actually, if the Republicans take both chambers, and as Leader McConnell and Speaker McCarthy, a Republican family feud makes governing even more complicated.

PARTI: It would. And I think it's interesting to see if McConnell strategy evolves at all, because right now he's trying to basically pretend that Donald Trump doesn't exist. He wants to move on. He's saying, you know, it doesn't matter if I've talked to him, nice try for asking me that question. So he's basically operating in sort of a very different reality, then what might happen, especially if Trump decides to run for president again.

KING: And McConnell says we have to accept the fact 2020 election is over. We know somebody out there who does not accept that fact.

Coming up for us, an emotional, very emotional tribute up on Capitol Hill as the President, congressional leaders honor the late Senator Robert J. Dole.



KING: Topping our Political Radar today an emotional tribute to former Senator Bob Dole up on Capitol Hill, his wife Elizabeth and daughter Robin saying goodbye as he lies in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. In a ceremony just a short time ago, dignitaries and dozens of others including the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, along with other congressional leaders, and President Biden said farewell to the late Senator.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, America has lost one of our greatest patriots. We may follow his wisdom I hope and his timeless truth, that the truth of the matter is as divided as we are the only way forward for democracy is unity, consensus the only way, God bless Bob Dole and God bless America.


KING: Dole, a World War II hero, former presidential candidate, and a giant of the Senate passed away on Sunday. He was 98.

Some good science today for the U.S. economy, weekly claims for unemployment benefits hit a 52-year low. The Labor Department says 184,000 people filed initial claims last week. That's the smallest number since September 1969. It shows again how workers are in the driver's seat right now, wages are up businesses trying to hold on to the employees they have an estimated 4.2 million U.S. workers quit their jobs in October.

Quick update developments from the January 6th Committee Kash Patel, the former Chief of Staff to the acting Trump's defense secretary is leading with the Select panel this hour. CNN spotted Patel flanked by a team of lawyers walking into the Capitol. The Committee subpoenaed Patel back in September.

Not having any real work makes him more powerful. That's the new line today from Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar. Democrats drift the Arizona Republican of his committee assignments as punishment for posting that anime video depicting him killing a Democratic colleague. Well today on the Matt Gaetz podcast, Gosar thanks Speaker Pelosi for taking away his Committee responsibilities. And he promised retribution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So when Nancy Pelosi took your committee assignments, did she victimize you or empower you?

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): She empowered me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we take the majority, will our leadership have the guts to throw some of their members off committees?

GOSAR: They'll have to deal with this dog if they don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What will you do?

GOSAR: I can make things pretty miserable.


KING: That time of year when the stars come out to honor some of humanity's best. Join Anderson Cooper, Kelly Ripa live as they named the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year. The 15th annual CNN Heroes All-Star tribute Sunday 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.


Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics today. Don't forget, you can also listen to our podcast, download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcasts. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.