Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Rep. Jordan Says He Won't Meet with Jan 6. Select Committee; Mayor Eric Adams Updates on Deadly Apartment Fire in Bronx; President Biden Traveling to Georgia For Voter Rights; Two Senate Republicans Announce Running For Re-Election in 2022. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: In a four-page letter to the committee on Sunday Congressman Jordan said he had, quote, "No relevant information." And he raised questions about the panel's fairness. The letter was a response to a committee request for cooperation.

With me now to share the reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia- Malika Henderson, CNN's Melanie Zanona and Jackie Kucinich are from "The Daily Beast."

Nia-Malika we'll start with you. No surprise here. Jim Jordan did, you know, he acknowledges he spoke to Donald Trump on the day of the insurrection. So how can he has, quote, "No relevant information," not his decision to make?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, not his decision to make at all. He spoke with the president, as you said, a big proponent of the big lie. And a big proponent also of this idea that Vice President Mike Pence, at the time, had something to do with the outcome of the election. That he could, in fact, overturn it.

So, I think the next question is, do they subpoena him, right? This is sort of a voluntary please come in of Representative Jim Jordan he, of course, has said no. Will this escalate further to where they compel him to come in? And then what would his reaction be then?

KING: Right. And Jackie Kucinich, let's go back in time. In a Rules Committee meeting back in October this came up. Jim McGovern, the chairman of the committee said, hey you talked to the president that day. Hey, you talk to the president a lot. Hey, you wanted to overturn the election. Jim Jordan then had a different line.


UNKNOWN: Are you willing to tell the Select Committee what you know about events leading up to, during (ph), and --

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I've been clear all along. I've got nothing to hide. I've been straight forward all along.


KING: What happened, Jackie, to I got nothing to hide?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: I mean I think the request actually came and he doesn't feel like he owes anyone an explanation. But, there is a question on whether they even can subpoena Jim Jordan.

I -- I -- don't -- I don't know that that -- that that has been. I know the committee is looking into it. But, I don't know that that question has been answered because he is a sitting member of Congress.

But we also know that he was involved in the -- and as Nia pointed out, but in the days before the insurrection, he's in those text messages with Mark Meadows trying to have the legal -- this - this bogus legal basis for Mike Pence being able to overturn the election. And these are just the things that we know about.

Also still unanswered, what this means for someone like a Kevin McCarthy who also, we know, spoke to former President Trump on the day of the insurrection. And if these members are not required and never tell their stories, that's going to be a big hole in -- and potentially in the committee's final report. And that's problematic for everybody.

KING: And Melanie, Jackie right there hits on a big question, the committee deserves, you know, praise for the scope of its search. Talking to state election officials, going high up the Trump chain of command inside the White House and within the campaign and the Republican Party.

But, this testimony from members of their own, members of their own like Jim Jordan and others could be critical. Is the test case of will the committee force cooperation from sitting members of Congress?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right, I think that is the big question facing the committee right now. Are they willing to subpoena a sitting member of Congress? I mean, it would be unprecedented, as Jackie pointed out. I think there are a lot of legal questions. I'm sure it would be challenged in court.

But an insurrection on the Capitol is also unprecedented. And I think that's sort of where the thinking is right now with the Select Committee. It also would be a dramatic escalation of tensions.

Republicans have already threatened retribution if they go down this road. But I really think that we are, you know, gearing up for a major showdown between these Republican members of Congress and the subcommittee.

And one other thing we should think about is that Jim Jordan initially was supposed to be on this committee. This was Kevin McCarthy's pick before Speaker Pelosi rejected him. And now you see why the fact that the committee is asking for his cooperating just shows why he is a witness and it would be problematic for him to be part of the investigation.

KING: Well, and to that point, it's another reminder of will -- I'm sorry I want to take everybody up to New York City. This is the Mayor Eric Adams.

ERIC ADAMS (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, NY: Members of the FDNY, EMS, of Law Enforcement, as --

KING: We've lost an audio from the scene there. Obviously we're having some technical difficulties. We'll take you back to the -- that event as soon as we can. In the meantime, a quick break.



KING: We fixed the audio issues. Let's get straight back to the New York City Mayor Eric Adams.

ADAMS: -- lost their lives. We sat down with the principal and the teachers and just wanted to have a private moment to let them know that we hare here to support them as they go through this tragedy.

They shared just personal notes of these children and it was something that we heard universally. Each child that we lost is how much they smiled, how much they brought life to the school. And not only did this fire leave a burning pain in the hearts of people in this community, but it has left a burning pain in the children and the teachers and the faculties of this school.

We will support these schools in every way possible in the coming months. Educators, students, staff, all of them realize that they're going through a traumatic moment and we want to be here for them.

And it is clear that these families and the entire community is receiving support from across the country. Just a few moments ago I received a call from President Biden and he has made it clear that whatever we need the White House is going to be there for us. He has just sent a very strong message that this is on the radar of the entire globe with what has happened here.

The consulate general of the Dominican Republic is here with us, and his team. This is a global tragedy because of the Bronx in New York City is representative of the ethnicities and cultures across the globe. And so, everyone is feeling the pain of what we are experiencing.

But, I would tell you this and I say over and over again, we're going to get through this moment. We're going to get through this moment and we're going to get through it together. And this tragedy is not going to define us. It is going to show our resilience as we help the families through this.

In the middle of such pain, we have witnessed such a high level of heroism from the hospital staff, to doctors, to nurses, the administrators who are already going through a crisis with the pandemic, but we also witness a high level of heroism through those first responders.

The EMS, the firefighters, I will say this over and over again, watching them go in the building, even without having a full air tank, still pushing through the dark smoke and rescuing families in this building.

Our firefighters, these first responders really showed why it is imperative to give them the support that they need. And I want to thank Commissioner Nigro for just really leading this charge yesterday, being out here throughout the day, leading his men and women to do what was needed to save as many families as possible.

And to every grieving family, 8.8 million New Yorkers see you as their family members and we are here together to push through this.

And so, some clear messages we want to send. One, for those who want to help please do not drop donations off to fire stations or EMS stations. Let them do their jobs. There are real outlets. Our elected officials are here. You can drop them off at the offices or other facilities that we will put in place if you want to do so.

If you want to help financially, we have the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York. Every dollar raised will go directly to the family members that are involved. So this way we can help families in a real way.

And if we take one message from this, that Commissioner Nigro has mentioned several times, close the door. Close the door. That was embedded in my head as a child watching the commercials over and over again.


We're going to double down on that message. My conversation with the chancellor this morning, we're going to send out communications to all of our schools that state that we want our children to receive the same level of reinforcement.

Muscle memory is everything. And if we can drill that in we can save lives by closing the doors, not only in the city but across the entire globe. This painful moment can turn into a purposeful moment as we sent the right message of something simple as closing the door. And we want to really thank all the community's leaders that are here and this community, a large member of the African --

KING: The Mayor of New York City, just his 10th day on the job, Eric Adams facing a major early challenge. A devastating fire in the Bronx on Sunday. The mayor revising the death toll. It had been listed at 19. He says the medical examiner now changing those numbers, 17 -- 17 killed in that horrific fire. Nine adults and 8 children.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is there on the scene for us.

An important update from the mayor. The change in the numbers is important, but also the mayor consistently saying now the test is, and he says President Biden called him as well, for the community to prove it will stand with those families.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes, that's right. And this is something we are hearing echoed as well, not only now from the president but from the Governor of New York saying that she's going to put a line in the budget for these families. Also, of course, the city is giving their services. The Red Cross too we know is helping house a number of these families.

And honestly, talking to some of the victims who have come back to the scene today to, again, just take a look at their home, what it looks like now, to bring in all that feeling of surviving this or possibly losing a loved one, they're just banding together, John. They're just deciding that they are having like family meetings, as one person told me, to just figure out they can rely on each other. And they've been so grateful.

One quick thing though, you heard the mayor say, let's make this painful moment a purposeful one, to close the door. That's something they want to spread the word on, not only just in the communities but in the schools as well. To make it a muscle memory to help save lives. John?

KING: Brynn Gingras, appreciate the live report from a horrific scene in the Bronx.

Brynn, thank you so much.

Ahead for us, another big test for the President of the United States, voting rights dominating his agenda. The president will travel tomorrow trying to break a log jam in the country, but especially in the Democratic family.



KING: A giant test for President Biden this week as he visits Georgia with the goal of reinvigorating the Democratic push for voting rights.

Senior White House Advisor Cedric Richmond frames the two-state Georgia visit this way, quote, "Doubling down, kicking it into another gear, we are going right to the belly of the beast," Richmond says, "or ground zero for voter suppression, voter subversion and obstruction."

Two Democratic voting bills are currently stalled in the Senate. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says if Republicans continue to block them he will try to change the Senate rules. But, at least two Democrats oppose such a change and there is now enormous pressure on President Biden to somehow resolve this Democratic family divide.

The panel is back with me. Nia-Malika Henderson I want to start with you. To the point, the pressure on the president is that several civil rights activists down in Georgia, the state where he's going, essentially said, Mr. President, please don't come unless you have a deal. I want to read from their letter.

"As civil rights leaders and advocates we respect -- we reject any visit by President Biden that does not include an announcement of a finalized voting rights plan that will pass both chambers." The president doesn't have such a plan.

HENDERSON: No he doesn't. This appears to be yet another speech. The president gave a speech in June on voting rights. He gave a speech in July as well on voting rights and nothing much has changed in terms of what Joe Manchin, in terms of Krysten Sinema would actually do in terms of a carve-out for voting rights around the filibuster. So this could be deja-vu all over again for this president.

He's essentially bringing a speech to what is a knife fight. And you've seen this all across the country, in states like Texas. States like Georgia, where Republicans have been very successful in rewriting the voting rules in their states to make it more difficult to vote and also make it where the state can actually overturn the will of the people and risk control of the counting from different counties.

So, you know, this is going to be a speech. It's going to be a much- watched. But I think it's going to leave a lot of civil rights advocates as well as progressives very disheartened about the future in terms of voting rights in this country.

KING: This effort and the president getting some help, Jackie Kucinich, yesterday in the "New York Times." At the top of the show, I called her the most popular Democrat on the planet that would be the former First Lady Michelle Obama. A full-page ad with a letter fighting four our vote.

But if you look at the specifics there, recruit and train volunteers throughout 2022. Register more than a million new voters. Organize -- they do organize 100,000 Americans to lobby Congress essentially to push for it. But, recruit lawyers. Commit to educate voters. That last part, commit to educate voters on how to vote safely in their state.

Part of this is, yes, push for the legislation --


KING: -- but part of it also seems if we fail let's make sure at least we educate Democrats about the changes in their states.

KUCINICH: Well right, because there is a sense of reality that -- that it's -- it is unlikely that they're be able -- that they're going to be able to have a legislative change or in the near future because of the resistance to changing the filibuster and because there aren't enough Democrats to get it through -- to -- to break that filibuster.


So, this is kind of next best thing. But there has been some dissatisfaction even before this among voting rights advocates, saying that the Biden administration up until this point hasn't pushed hard enough, hasn't taken this as seriously as say they have Build Back Better or even the infrastructure bill that did pass both -- both houses of Congress.

So, the fact that they're kicking it into gear now I think is giving some hope. But, there is an acknowledgment, particularly you saw that from the former first lady, that this is going to be an uphill climb and they're going to have to figure out other ways to make progress.

KING: So Melanie, Chuck Schumer has to bring this to the floor. He has to try to change the rules because the Democratic base demands it. And Nia-Malika just well described the views of the civil rights leaders who think it hasn't been enough so far and they're very frustrated.

But, what happens? What happens if Manchin and Sinema and maybe one or two others don't change their mind? Is there a plan B or a Plan C or D in the sense that you do hear many academics, and some Republicans even, open to the idea let's fix the Electoral College Act, let's do a couple of other more modest things. Is that a possibility?

ZANONA: Yes, absolutely. Well, first of all, these votes are going to fail. They're just not in the votes right now to pass these reforms without Republicans. And there's just not the votes among Democrats to change the rules. So, it is going to fail.

I think once that happens we could potentially see some movement on a compromise over a much more modest reform. For example, the Electoral Count Act reforming that, that really outlines the process by which Congress uses to certify the state's electoral votes.

Top Democrats -- or top Republicans have left the door open to that. They're really nervous about this effort to potentially change the filibuster. So, I think that's why you're seeing them warm up.

Democrats have ruled that out so far because they don't want to undermine their effort to get something larger, but I think once they see there is no other options we could potentially see them come together in something much more modest like that.

KING: Watch as that plays out. Everybody stand by. Up next for us, two very different Republican senators make the same weekend decision and Mitch McConnell is very happy.



KING: Two senior Senate Republicans announced over the weekend they will run for reelection this year. One of the races in battleground Wisconsin could loom large in the midterm 5 percent of control. The incumbent there, Ron Johnson, a Trump ally and frequent peddler of conspiracy, says he wanted to retire but decided the stakes are too high.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): And I think this countries in trouble. I think Democrats in power in Washington have put us on a very dangerous path. And I think I'm in a position to help -- help improve things.

We need the truth. And unfortunately, the truth is being censored today in an alarming, very disconcerting rate. And so, I'm -- MARIA BARTIROMO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Yes.

JOHNSON: -- just one of those truth-tellers.


KING: I'll have to come back to that in a minute. Senator John Thune of South Dakota is the other Republican ending the 2022 suspense. Thune is the number two in the Senate Republican leadership. His announcement included this, "South Dakota deserves a strong and effective Senator who can deliver the results they expect. I am uniquely positioned to get that job done."

Our panelists back with us and Nia-Malika Henderson, Ron Johnson says he's a truth-telling. Not exactly.

HENDERSON: No, he's a conspiracy theorist. He's a proponent of the big lie. He believes all kinds of crazy things about COVID and the vaccine. But, he's a true Trumper. I mean, when I saw this announcement that he was going to run for re-election, no real surprise there even though he said he wouldn't run.

You know it makes sense. It makes sense, and not only for 2022, it also makes sense for 2024. I mean, is he someone who sees himself when he looks in the mirror somebody who could run for president, particularly if Donald Trump doesn't run in 2024.

There are all sorts of people, people like Ron DeSantis, people like Greg Abbott who were trying to fill that sort of void should there be one if Trump doesn't run in 2024. So running in 2022 makes sense to set him up possibly for 2024.

KING: And if you look, Melanie, at the land -- the landscape here, the Cook Political Report does it this way, 10 seats Solid Democrats, they're 34 seats up, 1 Lean Dem. The Wisconsin seat is one of those 6 Toss-Ups, you see two Lean Republicans. The Thune seat is one of those Solid Republicans. But even if you're Mitch McConnell, even though Ron Johnson's a Toss-Up state, you don't like uncertainties. So, you like your incumbents.

ZANONA: Right.

KING: You like your incumbents saying I'll go again.

ZANONA: Exactly. I mean, the landscape is looking better and better for Republicans. Mitch McConnell and others in the Party worked really hard to get both John Thune and Ron Johnson to run again because, as you said, typically you'd rather have an incumbent than an open seat.

But I will say, with the case of Ron Johnson, Democrats actually, this is rare instance where they potentially wanted the incumbent to run again because of all the things he's done with the big lie and his COVID misinformation. They think they can really beat him in this state. That's going to be a huge battleground. Went for Trump, obviously, in 2016 but went for Biden in 2020. So, it's going to be a very tough race in Wisconsin. KING: And Jackie that John Thune actually thought about retiring tells you a lot in the sense that he could be the air to Mitch McConnell.


KING: He has a lot of support among Senate Republicans. He's the number two right now, but he has to deal with months of this from the former president, Ryan -- or John Thune, Mitch's boy, Donald Trump calls him among other things. That was part of it. He was thinking about, should I just get away from this, but he decided to give it another run.

KUCINICH: Well right. And you -- Melanie mentioned this, Mitch McConnell played a very big role in keeping John Thune just where he is, not only because of his strength within the conference but also as -- as stated, it's a lot easier to have an incumbent in there.

But John -- at the same time while Trump has blustered a lot about John Thune it doesn't seem like anyone stepped up that could really give him a real challenge. So, this might be one of those cases where, you know, Trump talked a good game but at the end of the day John Thune is -- has a pretty good chance of staying right where he is.

KING: And Mitch McConnell has learned from recent elections, sometimes his friends disappear and he doesn't like, even if they're Republicans that replace them, so he's happy. He's happy to keep John Thune on hand. Appreciate everybody coming in today and thank you for joining.