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Federal Judge Questions Trump's Immunity From Liability For Jan. 6; GOP Senator: It's Time To Acknowledge Trump Lost; McCarthy Says As Speaker He'd Remove Dems From Committees. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 12:30   ET



LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: But the idea of plausibility is really the key word here in the judges consideration, John thinking, would it really be a stretch to believe that the President of the United States was doing nothing when we have indication that in fact, he was not doing all that he could to actually try to stop it, including the bare minimum of a tweet the bare minimum of not essentially going along with it and just being very vocal and adamant about his truth position, if he in fact did not want this to take place.

And so the judge's questions really raised a bigger issue about if that's the case, if it's not a stretch to actually wonder if he in fact was culpable, then would it be too far of a stretch to allow him to have immunity and evade all liability?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Those are civil suits. So the standard is one there, as you know, better than I do, separate standard when you come to criminal cases, which is why this line in the New York Times today jumped out at me, I want to read it to you.

In plea negotiations, federal prosecutors recently began asking defense lawyers for some of those charged in January 6th cases, whether their clients would admit in sworn statements that they stormed the Capitol believing that Mr. Trump wanted them to stop Mr. Pence from certifying the election. In theory, such statements could help connect the violence of the Capitol directly to Mr. Trump's demands, that Mr. Pence help him stave off his defeat.

So let me ask the question, does the Justice Department use case A, B, and C to effectively build case D? Meaning if you get several people to say I did this because Trump wanted me to do it, does that give you a stronger case to ultimately build a criminal case against the former president United States?

COATES: It gives you a stronger case in a civil case, which of course, probably judges also can overlook as well and think about these cases. But remember, just because somebody says, I acted, because I believed is not going to be the straightest line if somebody is saying I instructed, and I expected compliance.

These are very different realms of possibility here. And so it can buttress the argument that these people were not spontaneously or coincidentally, all thinking the same thing, and dreaming up and conjuring up a directive, they can act, so help to think about this what Trump actually wanted.

But there's not the same, you know, vigor and the same ability to say, if the person has instructed, it's a much more clear case here. But to give you the idea of liability in general here, it's not a clear issue right now for the court, whether a president during the time of his tenure could be held civilly liable for behavior that he presently claims was in accordance to the official duties.

Now, we believe, of course, thinking about this objectively, that the actions of a president who were encouraging an insurrection could not possibly be inferred to the official duty. But the argument he's making right now with an attempt to say, look, I am shielded by virtue of the fact that I was the president at the time and I cannot be held accountable. I was just being the president, sue me, you cannot.

KING: So a person who knows a lot, a person knows a lot about the president's mindset heading up to that day, and the person who knows a lot and was at risk, because of the president's inaction for those two plus three hours that day is the former Vice President Mike Pence, spent a lot of stories in recent days, including new ones today about whether Pence will voluntarily cooperate and give an interview to the Committee.

From a public standpoint, from a trust of the Republic standpoint, I think it'd be critical to get Mike Pence on the record. From a legal standpoint, whether we're talking about these civil suits, or potential criminal cases, how important is direct under oath testimony from a man who knows a hell of a lot.

COATES: It's critical, and I just for the transparency of the public sake, John, but also from this notion of it is the direct evidence, the direct evidence you would need. Remember, talking around the issue, and maybe he hoped that his own chief of staff or other people in his camp would provide the testimony and have his fingerprints off, but there will be nothing like getting from the proverbial horse's mouth not to call Pence a horse, I'm talking about the figurative phrase alone, people out there, the idea of hearing it from him directly the person who, for whom the gallows were built, talk about for whom the bell tolls for whom the gallows were built, John.

Not to mention, I want to know, was there a call made from the Vice President to the President United States asking for help? What was the reaction? How were you rebuffed? How was it advanced? What actually happened? That can only really come from the gravity of the vice president of the United States.

KING: one of the many giant questions as we move into the next phase of the Committee's work floor. Laura Coates, grateful for the important insights. Thank you so much.


Ahead for us, a Republican senator tells a simple but important truth and it sends Donald Trump into a tailspin. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The Bible teaches us the truth will set you free. Donald Trump, on the other hand teaches us the truth will get you a childish rant. Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota is the Republican on the receiving end of the former president's new outburst, weak, ineffective, a jerk. Those are among the nonpresidential insults Trump hurled at Rounds after the senator dare to say this. The 2020 election was fair and Trump lost. To his credit, Senator Rounds is standing up to the bully. Here he is on Capitol Hill this morning.


SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): Republicans, Democrats alike have made it very clear that we believed that the elections were fair and that they were correct in the outcome. And that there were some discrepancies that were found but none of them would have changed the result in any state.


KING: Great reporters are back to discuss. Dana Bash, it should not be news that a Republican senator says Joe Biden won fair and square, 2020 was a fair election, game over. Yet it is news because of Donald Trump.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is. And the facts that Mike Rounds, a senator a former governor, is saying the truth and public, frankly much like others, John Thune, the number two Senate Republican who just said that he was going to run for reelection, even though he has been on the wrong side of Donald Trump, many times for saying outrageous things like Joe Biden is the actual president.


But it seems as though people like Mike Rounds, grownups, people who've been around a long time, who feel like they can't do it anymore, are stepping out with a little bit, maybe a baby toe. And it shouldn't be this surprising. It shouldn't be this controversial to say something like that. But it is, every time this happens, it is a prime example of the tantrum that the former president has and the grip that he thinks he has on the GOP still.

KING: Right. So you don't want to overstate it because it is still a minority of Republicans who are willing to stand --

BASH: Yes.

KING: -- stand up consistently and say it. But in the case of Senator Rounds, instead, he seemed, first off, he said on Sunday show just matter of factly, Biden won, let's move on. Trump attacked him in a long statement in which he used those, as I said on presidential worlds, call him a jerk, said he never endorsed them again, so on and so forth, the typical Trump rant. Rounds then in another statement last night, this to me is he decided

I like this fight, actually, Vice President Mike Pence stood his ground, acknowledged President Biden's victory and acted with integrity, it's time the rest of us do the same. Bringing Pence into it as a poke right back at Trump.

ASTEAD HERNDON, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. And that was the statement I found really interesting. That takes it from just something that's off hand, certainly a truth that we all know and Republicans across the board should say particularly back to that democracy faith question we were talking about previously, but that seems to say that he thinks there's a little bit of an opening here, and that he wants to pick this fight.

And I don't think that's an accident, you have this window of time in which Republicans know that they get to after the midterms and that fate, and that turns towards the presidential cycle. And Donald Trump still has this type of vise grip on the Republican Party, particularly when it comes to election fraud, then there is very little hope of another type of candidate being able to rest and pull back on some of that rhetoric.

I think what we're seeing is some Republicans trying to use this window to say, for the coming of a fight for who will be the face of the party going forward to go up against the Joe Bidens and Democratic nominee of the world. They're trying to say that there should be another bit of a lane and maybe float some of the Mike Pences of the world as possible alternatives.

KING: And so that again, I don't overstate it, but it is important to be for the truth to be pro truth is part of our business's job. And so listen here, Toluse, to Kevin Cramer, who's another Republican senator, he's from North Dakota, he started to drift Trump's way is this evidence, perhaps he's drifting back? Listen.


SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): I've always said I agree that the election was not stolen. I at least to the degree, it was illegal theft. I think it's entirely appropriate for states to look at their laws and find ways to make sure that they can secure elections and protect the integrity of elections. But no, you know, I've moved on long time ago, and most members of Congress out including Mike.


KING: He doesn't look thrilled to get the question, but at least he gives the right answer.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it's amazing that he's sort of gets accolades for in, you know, January of 2022, saying that the election of 2020 that led to the press (ph) was free and fair, that seemed to -- that used to be sort of a normal turn of events. But because of Trump, because of the way he has handled his post presidency, it's become very antagonizing for some of these Republicans to even answer these questions. A lot of times they try to squirm away from it or run away from it,

because they don't want to say what everyone knows is the truth, what they all voted for, which was to certify the election in 2020, because it was free and fair because America has free and fair elections.

But they can't say that because they know they're going to be on the receiving end of a nasty e-mail from the former president, and that could harm their political chances. So it has become a tough situation for a lot of these Republicans who want to be talking about Joe Biden's presidency, want to be talking about different issues, going into the midterms, going into the potential a new presidential cycle, but because of the power of the former president, they have to focus on (INAUDIBLE) dealing with the election of 2020.

KING: A quick break, go ahead, go ahead.

BASH: Just I want to add really, what Astead said is so important, which is that it's not the first time that a Republican is said 2020 was free and fair. I think that the reaction, the overreaction from the former President couldn't be quite telling about his state of mind right now and his concern that the grip that we've all talked about, which is there might be loosening just a bit.

KING: Just a bit. We'll keep tracking that. The panel is going to stand by.


When we come back, a Republican who has a very different strategy, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the House side, he wants power. What does he say he'll do if he gets it? Take revenge against Democrats.


KING: Revenge is a central plank in the 2022 House Republican campaign strategy. Eager to keep the Trump base happy, the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy says if Republicans win the majority next year, they will strip key committee assignments from Democrats, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff of California. Now McCarthy twists the truth a lot including here as he explains the strategy to Breitbart.



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who could be on Committee. Never in the history, have you had the majority tell the minority who could be on Committee but this new standard, which these Democrats have voted for, this is a new level of what the Democrats have gone.


KING: Toluse, at maybe a new level, but he leaves out the context. The Democrats say they have to act against certain Republicans because Kevin McCarthy won't after egregious, egregious behavior.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. And McCarthy is not only thinking about the midterms, he's also thinking about potentially having to fight to be the speaker, if the Republicans take control. He's trying to give some red meat to make sure that the voters within his own caucus would put him in a speaker, there's some question over whether or not that would happen. So that's part of the politicking you're seeing there.

He's trying to look towards the future and see if he can put some of this red meat out there to see if he can get some support from all the Republicans, especially some of those who have been targeted to try to show that he would be speaker if he was able to win (INAUDIBLE) next -- in the fall.

KING: And to that point, why is Kevin McCarthy talking to Breitbart? Why is he so eager to throw red meat because he's always looking over his right shoulder a little bit nervous in part, because of this. This is on "Fox" the other night. Remember, Marjorie Taylor Greene was thrown off Twitter because she spreads COVID misinformation and Tucker Carlson is mad.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: Why wouldn't a guy who thinks he should be Speaker of the House be defending members of his own conference by calling up Twitter and say you get her back on right now or else we're going to punish you? This is censorship. But we're not going to put up with it. Like, how can you lead a political party if you can't even do that?

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): Well, that's what a lot of people are asking.

CARLSON: You defend your people. That's what leadership is. And if you're unwilling to defend your people, you're not worthy of leadership.


KING: Astead, there you go. Tucker speaks Kevin McCarthy supposed to act.

HERNDON: Yes. Kevin McCarthy's position makes him one of the most powerful Republicans in the country. But we all know that he is not the most powerful Republican in the country, the conservative voices that are leading this charge.

Our people like Tucker Carlson, I think what we're seeing is someone who wants to be Speaker of the House in the future, really following those voices, which gives us a hint of where the energy or the activism where the grassroots is. And that's with Trump. That's with Tucker Carlson. That's frankly, pushing the McCarthyism McConnell's of the world.

KING: I think historians, Dana, call that the Meghan Trainor rule in a midterm election meaning it's all about the base. BASH: It is all about the base but there's the base and then there's the absolutely undemocratic conspiracy theory QAnon people in your caucus and there used to be a line, a line between people who want smaller government, low taxes, or socially conservative, which is an ideology, and people like Marjorie Taylor Greene who are conspiracy theorists.

And the fact that the Republican leader is kowtowing to the conspiracy theorists, that is what's new and that is why the Democrats felt that they had to act to remove them from committees. It's because Kevin McCarthy didn't as you said at the beginning,

KING: Dana Bash, Astead Herndon, Toluse Olorunnipa, appreciate you coming in today.


Coming up next for us, if your tax refund is late, the IRS says, blame COVID.


KING: Topping our political radar today, the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell telling Congress this morning high inflation is quote, a severe threat to a healthy job market. Chairman Powell bow if you use the Feds tools to stabilize prices, including potentially raising interest rates, the IRS warns COVID related staff shortages could cause a chaotic tax season filled with what the agency calls enormous challenges. It could mean for example, your tax refund will take a bit longer to get to you, this year's tax filing deadline April 18th.

Senator Bernie Sanders not happy and he's calling out the Democratic Party. The Independent Vermont senator told "The Guardian" the Democratic Party has quote, turned its back on the working class. Senator Sanders also expressing concern about the Biden administration saying it needs to quote do a major force corrective. Sanders of course, you remember ran for the Democratic nomination in both 2016 and 2020.

It's Election Day in Florida's 20th congressional district, on the ballot Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick or Republican Jason Mariner. This district voted overwhelmingly for President Biden back in 2020. The special election is to fill the seat of Representative Alcee Hastings, the Democrat who died in April of last year.

Maya Angelou now the first black woman to appear, look at that, on the United States quarter. The new coin featuring the legendary poet now in circulation, it is the first in a series The American Women Quarters Program, which will honor groundbreaking women.

And remember I-95 the snowstorm, well, it came up this morning at a Senate hearing, listen to Senator Richard Burr rib his Democratic colleague Tim Kaine, who was stuck on Interstate 95 for 27 hours last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. RICHARD BURR (R-NC): I want to make sure that he's got an orange for his car, that he's got a Dr. Pepper and I've provided a Lumbee blanket to make sure that things are three things you've got in your car regardless what you run into on I-95. Tim, we're sorry, you had to spend 27 hours but you're now qualified to be the Secretary of Transportation if you are looking for a second job.


KING: Bipartisanship is not dead. Well you know her face but do you know her whole story, discover the life and the legacy of the true Marilyn in a new CNN Original Series Reframed: Marilyn Monroe premieres Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.


Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast, download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcast. Hope to see back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.