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Biden Battles Multiple Crises Going Into Midterm Year; Twitter Suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene's Main Account; Ukraine's Pres: U.S. Promised "Unwavering Support." Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: The New Year is also the Biden midterm election year and it begins in an unsettling way for the President and for his party. COVID disruption is everywhere. And the next few weeks should tell us whether the President can salvage key pieces of what was supposed to be his first year domestic agenda.

Now we don't know what the climate will look like, come fall. We don't. But we do know history favors Republicans. And we know if the President and his fellow Democrats are to defy history and keep control of Congress, then he needs to improve this. Presidential approval is the North Star of midterm elections. And President Biden begins the year underwater. You see it right there. The latest CNN polling average 45 percent of Americans approve of the President's job performance, 51 percent disapprove. The panel is back with us to discuss.

And Ayesha, if you're at the Biden White House, you can look at how this played out and we can put it up on the screen over time, the President was above 50 percent when he took office, 56 percent now you see him down 13 points when it comes to approval, up 11 points when it comes to disapproval. You see the lines crossing the summer, when Americans realized COVID wasn't going away. Maybe the president on July 4th had over promised a little bit or over suggested that COVID would disappear. How does the White House, they have 10 months to do it try to change those numbers?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, I think a lot of what they tried to do is that they tried to make sure that they can do something to make sure that, I'm sorry, we have some technical difficulties here. What -- a lot of what they can try to do is to make sure that they have their agenda that they can get their agenda through. And that means that they're probably going to have to cozy up to Joe Manchin.

KING: Cozying up to Joe Manchin is one way to look at it. I appreciate you're trying to wrestle through the technical difficulties here. Lauren Fox another way I'm holding up a letter here. This is a letter from Chuck Schumer, the majority leader who says in addition to trying to work through the Build Back Better plan, which I used to just mention there, the Biden domestic agenda that he is prepared, Senator Schumer is, to try to change the Senate rules so the Democrats can move on to pass voting rights. What are the odds of that happening?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Pretty slim, John. And this is about showing momentum. If you can't actually enact your agenda, perhaps you can show people that you're trying to try to turn Democrats out to the polls. That's what Democrats are going to try to do. But remember Manchin and Sinema, they don't support the kinds of rules changes that Schumer is threatening the Senate will vote on before Martin Luther King Day.

KING: And so Margaret Talev if you look here just a presidential approval rating at the end of their first year in office, Obama was at 51 percent, Donald Trump was at 36 percent, Joe Biden if 43 percent. Then we can show you what happened to Obama and Trump. Obama in his first midterm lost 63 House seats. You see the numbers right there, lost 63 House seats. Trump in his first midterm, lost 42 House seats. Now the margins are so close and the districts are drawn in a different way. Joe Biden is probably not going to lose if these numbers continued anywhere near that number, but he doesn't have to. He doesn't have to because the Democratic margins are zero in the Senate and just a handful in the House. Again, the question for the White House is what's the plan?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, that great shellacking. Joe Biden was around as vice president that year and it hangs over him like a very threatening persistent storm cloud. I mean, there's a couple of things that Biden has to do. And one is that either the economy has to continue improving and people have to believe that it's improving, or COVID has to be under control in a way that it does not appear to be because of Omicron right now. And I think that messaging challenge, you know, we keep using the word messaging and then, you know, eye roll. But it really has been a challenge for this administration is to take the positive news out of the economy, economic growth in the face of a pandemic, right?


And at least for now gas prices coming down and convince people that it's real. But the other is just to show some momentum on this Build Back Better initiatives that White House is talking with Manchin again, the negotiations have resumed. That's important. But having said all of that, the only time in recent this pattern has been disrupted was during 9/11, in terms of midterm losses. And while you can look at the pandemic and say, that should be a 9/11 style event that galvanizes the country and makes Americans want to stand behind, you know, their president, it's broken in a completely different way. It's so polarized. It's nothing like 9/11 in terms of the public response. And so even if Biden and his team do everything, right, it's not clear that they can turn the tides --

KING: Well, that's -- I'm sorry, Margaret, for interrupt. That's a great question, Ayesha, for the White House, how much do they think is we need to prove we can get things done in Washington, and how much of it is simply COVID exhaustion in the country, the psychological impact on Americans, again, this is our third COVID January, that the President, you know, has some control over because he has the levers of government. But of course, it's a pandemic. He can't control it in some ways.

RASCOE: There's a lot that's just not in his control. Now, as President, I'm sure and as the White House, I don't think they're just going to sit back. But the fact is, they don't have control over Omicron. And it's spreading like wildfire. That's not something that any, any leader in the world has been able to get a handle on. What they can do is try to show that they're getting testing, that they're getting people vaccinated, that their new treatments coming out.

But other than that, the other thing that they can do and that they do have control over is that they can try to get something done, because a lot of the complaints that you do hear from voters, as they say they voted for Democrats, and they don't know what they have delivered for them. Now, of course, the White House would make the case, but their key legislation has stalled. And that's what they're trying to get through now.

KING: It will be a fascinating year ahead. We're just beginning. We're going to have a lot of ups and downs. We'll do politics a lot here. That's our brand. Some of you think will be too much. Some of you think a bit too little but we're going to do this quite a bit. Everybody stand by more conversation to come. Congressman Marjorie Taylor Greene kicked off her main Twitter account for COVID misinformation, the tweet that went too far, next.



KING: Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene's personal Twitter account is gone. This is what it looks like when you visit that page. Twitter says it permanently suspended the Republican Congress woman's account for repeatedly violating its coronavirus misinformation policy. The final tweet before the ban, the congresswoman falsely suggesting deaths linked to coronavirus vaccines. Now Greene's official congressional account is still up and running. Let's get the latest from CNN's Donie O'Sullivan, who joins us. So Donie, we've talked about this before. How did Twitter decide, OK, she's reached the line?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, I mean, to take a step back from all of this, it is pretty remarkable to have a sitting member of Congress that a company has to find themselves in the position where somebody is so often breaking their rules sharing misinformation, whether it's about the election or COVID-19, that they have to take this step.

COVID -- Twitter has this kind of strike policy where they will allow politicians say a certain amount to BS about COVID and various other topics before they suspend them. Here's the statement from Twitter. They said, we permanently suspended Greene's account for repeated violations of our COVID 19 misinformation policy. And they said that they've been clear that this would happen for repeated violators.

Of course, Greene, I'm using this as an opportunity to say that she's being censored by big tech. She's posted that on Facebook and other platforms where she's still active. She said that Twitter is an enemy to America and cannot handle the truth. We're pointing out here, John, she does still have access to a congressional Twitter account. She has a Facebook account, but she just posted in the past hour or two, that she has been -- has a 24-hour suspension from that right now. But we're waiting for Facebook to confirm that.

But look, you know, I think a lot of folks are concerned when they see platforms, silencing or being able to pick off a elected representative. But also, you know, what are the platforms supposed to do when there aren't people like Greene who are consistently sharing lies about the election and misinformation about COVID-19.

KING: Well, that's the fascinating part. Because, you know, Andy Biggs in Congress, Lauren Boebert in Congress, two people who also repeatedly tell the big lie during your presentation about Congresswoman Greene. We showed the mask where she has up Trump won, that's a lie. When you have these officials who repeatedly lie, you know, some of the criticism of all these social media platforms is they don't act quickly enough, because as you noted, they give politicians more of a rope.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, and look, these platforms really don't want to do this, right. They don't want to kick people off. And they've been really slow to do it and perhaps for good reason, because politicians should be held to account for what they say. But obviously in this case, Twitter decided they had to take action.

KING: A lie is a lie is a lie. Donie O'Sullivan, grateful for the reporting.

O'SULLIVAN: Thanks John.


KING: Up next for us. President Biden talks to Ukraine's President about the Russian troop buildup and Mr. Biden makes a promise.


KING: A new weekend promised it adds to already tense U.S. relations with Russia. President Biden spoke Sunday with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky. Mr. Biden assured Mr. Zelensky that the United States would quote, respond decisively to any Russian invasion. That raises the stakes dramatically. That of course after a pre New Year's call between the American president and Russia's Vladimir Putin ended without progress and a warning from the Russian of a potential rupture, complete rupture in the strange relationship between Moscow and Washington. We're back with our panel. Listen here to a man who should know the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who sees much more than we do about this Adam Schiff says he is very worried a Russian invasion is almost a fait accompli. Listen.


[12:50:10] REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I fear that that Putin is very likely to invade. I've still frankly don't understand the full motivation for why, why now, he's doing this. But he certainly appears intent on it unless we can persuade him otherwise. And I think nothing other than a level of sanctions that Russia has never seen, will deter him.


KING: Ayesha, what do we know about the White House is obviously working to build a menu of sanctions. And the President clearly tried to convey to Mr. Putin that should you cross into Ukraine, you will get it but do we know how severe.

RASCOE: We don't know exactly how severe but they are saying that Putin will pay a heavy price if he goes ahead with this invasion. This is a very difficult situation for the President to deal with. Obviously, his predecessor, you know, former President Obama dealt with this and caught a lot of flak for not doing enough when the first invasion happened. And so now Biden is carrying this burden of not wanting to look weak, but dealing with a very serious international incident.

KING: And -- I'm sorry, potential. Well, it's just a buildup isn't it? You're right about that. And we'll see if it escalates from there. President Zelensky, Margaret, had an interesting tweet after the phone conversation with President Biden. Number one, he said, you know, it's the first conversation of the year. And he talked about the, quote, special nature of our relations. And he said, we appreciate the unwavering support of Ukraine. So there seems no doubt at least from the Ukrainian part, the President Biden means what he says the question is, where's the line?

TALEV: Yes, John, I think that's right. I mean, if you go back to like the summertime, Zelensky was finding out about what the U.S. was doing on Nord Stream 2, that pipeline through press briefings. And Zelensky was begging publicly as well as privately for some time with Biden for conversations, that relationship has obviously changed over the last several months, especially the last couple of weeks. And Zelensky now believes and his messaging to his own, you know, constituency that the U.S. is firmly at their side, I think Biden has made the calculation and his team that they have to come through when it comes to sanctions and the kind of tough behavior they've promised both for domestic messaging, this idea that Ayesha mentioned that he did not appear weak that did not appear in any way to replicate Afghanistan, you know, the U.S. running away from obligations or anything like that.

But second of all, this is a moment of opportunity for Biden to show strength on the foreign policy front and get Americans to see him in a different way. And thirdly, from a foreign policy perspective, if the U.S. does blame visa-a-vis sanctions, it could be a real problem in terms of Russia's position in the region going forward.

So I think U.S. is, has made a resolve that if Putin does go forward and further invade, as Biden says, Ukraine that they have no choice but to respond strongly. But precisely, what did the sanctions look like? And how scared is Russia really, how impactful financially could the sanctions be? I think that's a question mark.

KING: And Lauren, what are the conversations up on Capitol Hill? There's bipartisan support for standing up to Putin, even though there will be Republicans who constantly criticize Joe Biden. But what are the other conversations about where we're headed here?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is always an area of foreign policy, an area where Republicans and Democrats don't necessarily fit into strict party lines. There are some Republicans who want Biden to act decisively there are some Republicans, like you said, who will always find a reason that his actions are not strong enough or perhaps they are too strong. So there is going to be a moment on Capitol Hill where Democrats and Republicans have to come together potentially behind the President and whatever he decides to do in terms of the strength of those sanctions.

KING: Lauren Fox, Ayesha Rascoe, Margaret Talev, thanks for coming in today.


Coming up for us next, the new mayor of New York City hits the ground running. Eric Adams and his very eventful beginning, that's next.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today the Capitol physician says COVID infection rates, look at that, at the Capitol Testing Center have increased from just 1 percent to 13 percent. Mostly he says among people who've been vaccinated. This comes as we are learning the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is experiencing mild symptoms after testing positive for COVID on Sunday. And the statement, Austin telling CNN he has been vaccinated and boosted since early October.

Eric Adams has been New York City's mayor for just about 60 hours. But those 60 hours well have been incredibly eventful for the former New York City police captain. On his first day in office, Mayor Adams rode the subway to work and he called 911 to report an assault in progress near the station after witnessing two men fighting. Adams spoke this morning about how his administration plans to improve safety in the subway system.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NY): My police officers must be back in the subway system. I'm going to partner them with mental health professionals to be proactive to go and find people who are living in the system and give them the help that they need. There's no dignity in sleeping on the train or sleeping on the platform. That's the combination that we're going to need to turn this up with system around.


KING: The former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on January 12th. In a joint statement, the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Reid was quote a titan of public service and that it will be an honor to pay tribute to him in the capitol next week. Senator Reid died last week at the age of 82.


Thanks joining us today in INSIDE POLITICS and remember don't forget you can also listen to our podcast, download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcast. Don't go anywhere busy Newsday, Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.