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Inside Politics

KY Governor: 64 People Known Dead, Toll "Likely To Grow"; KY Governor: "I've Got Towns That Are Gone"; Today: 1/6 Committee To Vote On Holding Mark Meadows In Contempt; 1/6 Committee: Meadows Participated In Meeting With Trump, Lawmakers To Discuss Overturning Election Results; Pelosi Will Stay Put At Least Through 2022 Elections. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 13, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Devastation in Kentucky more than 100 people now fear dead after tornadoes ripped through the heartland. President Biden is being briefed right now of the government's response was this?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won't even know it's hard to tell. Where the metal I don't know where it was. I truly don't know where that came from.

CLARK: And then--

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then this part of the roof because here's the new part of the St. Louis structure.


KING: Plus protect pro Trump people an email sent by Mark Meadows says that was part of the National Guard's role in the lead up to the insurrection. The January 6th Committee meets tonight to hold the former Trump Chief of Staff in contempt and new reporting on the two most powerful women in Washington Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris gearing up for the midterm election year and facing giant questions about their future roles.

We begin though with the urgent to do list in eight states now savaged by at least 50 weekend tornadoes in Kentucky alone the governor says 64 people are confirmed dead and sadly that that number is most likely to grow. The ages range from five months to 86 years old six of the Kentucky victims or children. One official likening this devastation is something you'd see in a war zone.


TOMMY ANDERSON, SURVIVED DEADLY TORNADO: Our kitchen here you can see it and the wind is blowing out here. I mean stuff just crazy and back bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a bedroom right here?



KING: Rescue crews are still hoping to find survivors the federal government now rushing in emergency workers in addition to food, medical supplies, and temporary shelter. President Biden will speak in just a few moments about the federal response. Mayfield Kentucky is one of the places hardest hit by these severe storms and tornadoes homes and businesses level. Debris strewn all across town lives completely upended.

And in the collapse candle factory there at least eight people died. Another eight still unaccounted for. CNN's Brynn Gingras is right there on the ground for us in Mayfield. Brynn, what are you seeing?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and John, honestly, we've been talking to people who are still holding out hope that there will be survivors pulled from that candle factory but you kind of set it there. And I want to underscore this is a landscape that has been completely transformed by the storms.

Just take a look behind me look at the school bus it just gives you the visual of the force of this storm that many of these people endured and were able to survive from we've talked to so many people about those stories.

I want to tell you about a young couple who you know said they're used to tornadoes certainly not in December but when they heard the warnings they didn't really take cover until they turned on the TV and were told to get in a shelter and they did underneath their home with about plywood this thick John between them in the storms. I want you to hear how they wrote this out together.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I and our daughter were sitting on that pallet. This store here is what kept us alive basically, along with him because he was holding it with a lanyard just a lanyard.

GINGRAS (on camera): So he's holding the door shut you're holding your six year old daughter, can you just describe being a mom?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just I just told her to close her eyes then. She started counting. So she's like, oh, like hide and seek mom?


GINGRAS: Can you imagine having to tell your six year old to pretend you're playing hide and seek so many of these heartbreaking stories, people trying to survive in bathtubs wondering if they were ever going to see daylight again.

And there has been so much loss not just the physical around us but also the people. John now they're trying to figure out how to go forward so many people stunned but grateful that they're getting the help they need from the federal government from volunteers all across this state in other states hoping that the next day things will get better but again, it's going to be a long road from here John.

KING: Long road. The courage of those parents is remarkable all the people Brynn Gingras grateful you're there to help us understand the depths - the depths of this. Let's go to Bowling Green now and CNN's Nick Valencia. Nick, the Governor gave an update just a short time ago. What'd he tell us?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he was very emotional in his press conference talking about all the devastation. He updated us on the numbers saying that the situation is fluid, and that we should expect those numbers to change one way or the other.

Here in Bowling Green there is devastation everywhere. It is expansive hundreds of miles or hundreds of yards I should say have scattered debris in this immigrant community very much so an international community family members that we've seen have started to come back and make their emotional return to salvage their belongings.


VALENCIA: And for some I've spoken to say they it's almost re traumatizing they're having flashbacks of living through that storm that ripped through here that EF3 tornado that just hopscotch through this neighborhood coming from that direction and ripping through these homes, leaving behind in some cases, just foundations.

I just spoke to this Bosnian family here. And if you could see this container was actually here, because they were planning on moving the next morning after the storms. Hemo, who was here inside the - his resident says that windows started breaking out, parts of his roof started to be ripped off.

And when I spoke to him early, he says earlier, he says that he's just his perspective has changed about the world. But he's not the same person that he was. And he'll never forget this type of experience. We heard a much more or similar emotional tone from the Governor earlier, during his press conference.


GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): I was working on getting the confirmed deaths this morning and realized I was writing on the back of, of notes that one of my kids took from school. And here's what it is. Its notes on inertia. That means that an object that's in motion will stay in motion. So we're going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and push through this.


VALENCIA: Yes, one foot in front of the other is exactly what residents here are telling us. They just have to keep going forward despite what they live through, knowing that they are lucky to survive knowing that some of their neighbors weren't as lucky.

You know, just looking at this we hear the story here. A man survived by being in the bathroom next door, the family according to the landlord, they listened to the news. But I mentioned this international community, John and language has been a barrier for police.

Communication has been difficult. That's something they're going to focus on today. They're also going to be keep going through this debris and clearing it out making sure that there's no one that's left behind John.

KING: Nick Valencia, thank you as you continue to track the devastation there, send our best wishes to everybody you meet. Let's go to the White House now the President's doing a briefing on this. We're going to hear from him any moment. Jeff Zeleny is there for us now, Jeff, what are we expecting to hear?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, we do know that President Biden for the last hour or so we're told has been meeting in the Oval Office with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandra Mayorkas and the FEMA Director Deanne Criswell they were both on scene yesterday in Kentucky, so they are delivering a firsthand briefing to the president about the needs that Kentucky is going to need over these many months to come.

Housing is a central issue, as well as other efforts. But the White House is taking this, of course, very seriously. The president over the weekend said he would visit the region at some point when he is not in the way when he is not a bother. So there has not been a trip scheduled or announced but we do expect that at some point.

But for right now, he is still being briefed. And we should get some images of that shortly after this briefing ends in the Oval Office John.

KING: Jeff Zeleny I appreciate it. I'm sure we'll be back here momentarily when we do hear from the president keep us posted. Up next for us, versus obviously when the president does speak we'll bring you that as soon as possible. Next though, the January 6 Committee prepares its contempt charges against the Trump Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.



KING: Tonight the January 6 Committee meets to hold Mark Meadows in contempt for defying a subpoena for more documents and for a deposition. The Committee calls Meadows essential insurrection witness and is releasing some evidence to back that up. The evidence includes an email Meadows sent claiming the National Guard would be ready to "Protect pro-Trump people" around January 6 that email part of a lengthy report detailing Meadows interactions with key big linebackers and January 6 organizers.

With me to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's John Harwood and Tia Mitchell of "The Atlanta Journal- Constitution". Meadows initially were cooperating, and then he pulled back so the committee says it has no choice but to hold them in contempt.

Just a short time ago, his lawyer sent this to the committee saying no, you shouldn't do that we should keep negotiating. But the committee seems pretty determined saying OK, fine contempt.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. And I think the committee is saying, you know, you were cooperating, you gave us documents. And now you don't even want to talk to us about the documents that you gave us to help us understand what we're reading in the story behind them.

In addition, those documents showed that he was talking about that rally on January 6 with people who were not the president who are not working at the White House. So I think there are a lot of questions about whether he can truly claim executive privilege. And they have you know, they have the evidence to say well, is all of this protected?

KING: And the evidence is important because remember, we focus too often on that horrific day just January 6, the committee is trying to go from Election Day through insurrection day, what was the coordination? Who knew what? Who was raising money?

And Meadows from what we do see here was pretty central to a lot of big questions John Harwood. This is one piece he exchanged text messages with and provided guidance to an organizer of the January 6 rally on the ellipse.

After the organizer told him that, "Things have gotten crazy, and I desperately need some direction". In addition, Mark Meadows participated in another such call just days before the January 6 attack it was Mr. Trump, members of Congress, attorneys for the Trump reelection campaign and some 300 state and local officials to discuss the goal of overturning certain states Electoral College results. Let me translate to discuss the goal of somehow finding a way to cheat and reverse the election.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He was in deep on this thing. He's tried to make a distinction and his lawyers have won the PowerPoint surface the other day, said, well, he received this he didn't originate it or didn't pass it on.

But if you're the White House Chief of Staff, and you don't shut down discussions like this, you're part of it. And it is clear that not just Trump and not just a few fringe extremists like Flynn Sidney Powell Rudy Giuliani on the outside were involved. [12:15:00]

KING: People within the White House in the most senior positions were assisting this process, sustaining this process, encouraging Trump to keep going. And in terms of the committee now, Mark Meadows has been juggling three balls. I don't want to get indicted.

I want to sell some books. And I want to stay on the good side of the extremist wing of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump. And that's why we see these shifting stances.

KING: It is remarkable. Again, to the point the committee has done a ton of work. 200 plus witnesses, a lot of documents, they say these fights with Steve Bannon and the Mark Meadows tend to overshadow the case they've been building.

But when you read through what he was part of he is central here. And obviously he's had Trump's side most of the time. So not only does he have everything that came his way, but he knows how it was given to and reacted to by the former president?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Such an important point, Donald Trump famously doesn't text, he doesn't email and he communicates with his - with his top aide, his assistant, and also people who are near him, he sort of barks out orders, text, somebody's ex text somebody else why.

And so one of the questions is how much of that is in here? But even if it's not you, like John was saying, the notion that the White House - you know, again, this is one of those moments, we have to stop, take a breath and say, this is not normal. This is not OK.

The White House Chief of Staff participating in any of these discussions, never mind what these text messages reveal, which is scores of discussions is remarkable. One other point I want to make that we were talking about before coming on.

Another reality that is come to life - to light is that Mark Meadows used Gmail accounts, private accounts, used what's known as Signal which is kind of a more secured text, message, app, and also text messages. Can you imagine if Hillary Clinton did that?

KING: Yes, yes. Let's do - another one of the people who read Hillary Clinton up the flagpole.

BASH: Yes.

KING: --for having an email server and saw their house - doing 10 times - doing 10 times that with private email accounts. And so Meadows says, as you make the point that he received a lot of things from a lot of the Trump my word crazies out there trying to overturn the election, including this PowerPoint presentation, that there are different versions of it floating around.

But if you look at it's essentially how to stage a coup. It's what can we do? What things can we do to gum up the works throat, you know, getting away the traffic that was reportedly given to him by a retired U.S. Army Colonel Phil Waldron, who believes things like this.


COL. PHIL WADRON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): A lot of movements of votes, directly - direct access to Pennsylvania voting precincts, county tabulation centers, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, all of that coming in directly from foreign countries, China being the predominant one.


KING: Its lunacy, its lunacy. I will - I will levitate, you know, China was not - China was not running the vote count in your State of Georgia, or in any of these other states. These things have been investigated. People have run the audits of the elections.

But again, the White House Chief of Staff gets a document from somebody like that his job is to say we have a problem, not who do I share it with?

MITCHELLL: Right. And I think that's the question. And that's why the January 6 Committee is so intent on hearing from him, because that's what we still don't know. What did you do with the document? Who else got it? Who did you discuss it with? Did anyone else receive it? What was the - what was your response?

And it's, we've been saying this on your show a lot. You know if you have nothing to hide, and then why not answer the questions. And that is what I think has a former rep Meadows looking, you know, not so great in the light, because people want him to just answer the questions about these.

HARWOOD: --in this for one second. What a Republican elected officials in office right now saying about this, absolutely nothing. They are tolerating this situation that tells you where the Republican Party is right now.

KING: It tells - it tells you that as much as we need to better understand fully understand the history Election Day through January 6. We need to understand it not just for the rearview mirror; we need to understand it because there are many people who think it will happen again conversation will continue. Up next for us, Speaker Pelosi's next move of new CNN reporting on her 2022 plan and its impact on the House Democratic leadership.



KING: Speaker Nancy Pelosi understands power and leverage better than most way better than most. And she wants to maximize hers in a midterm election year in which the Democrats risk losing their House majority. You want to read this story. It's on CNN

Sources telling CNN the 81 year old does plan to file for re-election and she is not ruling out staying in the leadership even though she has acknowledged the time is soon coming to make way for the next generation of Democratic leaders.

CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere joins the conversation he interviewed more than two dozen House Democratic members. But this new report on the speaker and the leadership chocking it's a fascinating read. So help crack the code, right.

It's no shock that Pelosi would file for reelection because she's so critical to the fundraising operation. And if you're not running, it's harder to bring in all that money. But the idea that she would at least tell her team you know, leave open the possibility I will stay in leadership. She knows what's going on but ether and all the jockeying what's the goal?


EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, look this is the other big succession storyline going on here right? Nancy Pelosi has been the House Democratic Leader for almost 20 years at this point, under her are a lot of people who are ready for her to go, who feel like it's time for new leadership.

But who are also as a reporting story, terrified of how things will be without her? From her political perspective, though, she does not want to be seen as jumping ship. I think what Paul Ryan did in 2018, when he was speaker, and it seemed like there was a Democratic way of coming.

He quit in April, he said he wasn't running again. She's not doing that she plans to spend all this coming year focused on fundraising, trying to get over the billion dollar mark, or well past that she has raised for Democrats so far.

KING: Is it wrong to read this also, as someone who this is - this is high praise is so well organized, so disciplined years of building to where she is right now the most powerful woman in American politics that she wants to control the secession party, even if she decides.

Well, look, if the Republicans take back the majority, it's hard to see Nancy Pelosi staying on in the minority, but she wants to have as much influence over that as possible.

BASH: No, that's exactly how to read it. And I think it's fair to say she's not just the most powerful woman in politics now. But in political history in America, like there's no one that even comes close to her. And it is because of moves like the one that you've made, the series of moves that you talk about in your excellent piece that has made her the way she is today.

She is 10 steps ahead of where everybody thinks that she is. And one of the key parts of that is making sure that she has all of her options open because, you know, although the writing seems to be on the wall for Democrats, who knows how it's going to really play out when it comes to the election?

She also understands the notion of a succession plan and the fact that there are a lot of people jockeying for it. And it was, you know, before the new crop of Democrats, freshmen, now sophomores came and really created a lot of churning in the caucus.

It was - it seemed as though she was going to be able to hand pick that person. It's not clear if she's going to be able to do that right now.

KING: And I want to come back to the Speaker individually in a minute, but this leadership team Pelosi Clyburn Hoyer you've mentioned, it's been with us a long time. It's been with us a long time. And so one of the things - one of the conversations for almost a decade here in Washington is would they construct a plan to walk off together?

And it's always been impossible to arrange. But in your piece, you get Jim Clyburn on the record, being Speaker is not in my plans. Being Speaker is not in my plans. He says at some point, he wants to be in a rocking chair and enjoy more time with grandkids and the like.

That is that two - if you take Pelosi and Clyburn Hoyer would be the question mark, a giant generational shift at TBD point in the Democratic leadership?

MITCHELL: Yes, and I think - I think even those, those veterans are ready for the shift. But I do think to Dana's point, they want to have a hand in that shift, and help guide that shift. And I also think that getting to the point in your article, the rank and file Democrats are a little bit worried about what happens in the vacuum, the infighting, the disarray, the lack of direction.

And so we know Pelosi has that steady hand. And I think they'd like to see her around with the understanding that she's around to help the next generation get in place.

KING: To that point, a leading progressive Ro Khanna quoted in your piece. And this is - this is smart politics. She has a trust among Democrats, they trust her judgment and they trust her skill. Anyone who comes after her is going to have to earn that trust.

When you have a leader with such stature and there's not an open competition. Those questions are pushed off those questions will be here, sooner or later.

HARWOOD: She's going to be an extremely difficult act to follow. Think about the person who follows Coach K is the coach of basketball, right? You've got somebody who has an incredible record of success. But on that ultimate question, when have you seen a politician who has a more optimal exit strategy, led her party to the majority twice?

Now, second time serves with a Democratic President having enacted health care under President Obama, she's now in a position to act two major - enact two major pieces of domestic spending legislation, her party's likely to lose the majority. See you later.

KING: Yes, 11 months, though, we'll see. Let's - play. I think all the Democrat history, the current trend lines say they're likely to lose, but 11 months is a long time. So help me crack the code here. This is Kathleen Rice, one of the younger members who might want to be speaker, or at least be part of a more advanced in the leadership if Pelosi and the team step aside.

We're eating our own at a time when we should be doing everything we can to hold on to our slim majority. Progressives need to remember that Republicans are the ones who want to destroy our democracy, not moderates, in their own caucus. We have seen a lot of this family fighting throughout this year, first year of the Biden presidency.

DOVERE: Yes, and this is a big problem that the caucus as a whole is going into the future thinking about and wondering how they're going to hold together on that front across those divisions and across all the divisions that they've got here?