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Tomorrow: Schumer Plans Senate Vote on Voting Rights; This Hour: Martin Luther King III, Civil Rights Leaders Join Speaker Pelosi and Dems to Push Voting Rights; Despite Activists Push Action, Doubtful Senate will Pass Democrats Voting Rights Bill; Trump Rewards Big Lie Loyalists with Phase at AZ Rally; VP Harris & Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff Volunteer at Martha's Table. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 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 this special day with us today.

The nation honors Dr. King and honors his legacy among Democrats there are both reflections and holiday rebukes anger at those who won't change the filibuster to advance voting rights. Plus, Virginia's new Governor stirs an immediate COVID showdown, Republican Glenn Youngkin strips away a statewide school masks mandate three of Virginia's largest school districts are saying no.

And Donald Trump makes his midterm your debut, he still leads the Republican Party and he is still all about the big lie. We begin the hour though with a calendar collision. This year's Martin Luther King holiday and a teetering democratic push for voting rights.

Right now the House Speaker and others from Congress, members of the King family as well at Union Station here in Washington D.C. about to demand action on voting rights just moments ago, the Vice President of the United States adding her voice.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: We must not be complacent or complicit. We must not give up. And we must not give in. To truly honor the legacy of the man we celebrate today. We must continue to fight for the freedom to vote for freedom for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: The outlook though is beyond bleak. The top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer plans an up or down vote on voting rights legislation tomorrow, and the math seems certain that it will fail.

So what is normally a holiday of tribute and reflection is raw this year, Martin Luther King the third says he's tired of those who claim to honor his father, but refused to do what is necessary to advance his cause. And King but one of many civil rights leaders who say President Biden waited far too long to make this issue number one.

With me to share their reporting and their insights Margaret Talev of "AXIOS" Zolan Kanno-Youngs at "The New York Times" and NPR Claudia Grisales and Margaret, that's what makes this day so interesting, is the rawness again. Normally tributes to Dr. King, reflections on the journey still to come and the challenges ahead, but the raw element to it today, which is why you have the president this morning.

You just heard the vice president, the president this morning and taped remarks to another civil rights breakfast saying I'll keep pushing listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Dr. King held a mirror up to America and forced us to answer the question. Where do we stand? Who side is we on? We're in another moment right now. Where the mirrors being held up to America being held up again. The question being asked again. Where do we stand? Who side is we on?


KING: It is fascinating, Margaret, that a President of the United States needs to allow this vote to go forward tomorrow even though he is going to lose.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes. Well, John, that's right. And you talked at the start of the show about a collision on the calendar. But it's no coincidence that this collision was occurring for weeks and weeks, as we headed towards the end of 2021.

There were strategic questions among Democrats about how do they proceed? How do they push this vote on voting rights? And they made the calculation at that time that, MLK holiday galvanizing of at least their party around debate on this issue might be enough to push.

Joe Manchin, who they saw as pivotal at that moment and perhaps Kyrsten Sinema along with him into a place where there could be a compromise, maybe it wouldn't be those two bills in the format that they exactly existed.

But something a compromise with that pressure point of MLK Day building toward that and it's now apparent there won't be but with that gamble, they're now faced with this moment where there's frustration, not just with the holdout Senators, but with the president and the party leadership themselves. KING: And so we're about to hear from the House Speaker, members of the Black Caucus members of the King family, who are most mad Claudia Grisales, that those two Senators Manchin and Sinema there, well, could be more we'll see how those play out tomorrow.

But we know those two sentiments have been foremost and upfront and public about we're not having a car about not amending the rules for the filibuster to allow voting rights to go forward. Listen to Jim Clyburn here the top African American in the house, the number three in the House leadership getting incredibly personal when it comes to Senator Sinema.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): No one has asked her to eliminate the filibuster; the filibuster is there for all of these issues. That may be a policy issue. But when it comes to the Constitution of the United States of America, no one person sitting down in a spot ought to be able to pick up the telephone and say you are going to put a hold on my ability to vote. And that's what's going on here.


KING: Again, it's personal, it's raw and it's within the Democratic family Claudia.


CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGREESIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Right very personal, very raw, we're hearing Clyburn say there is the frustration that these Democrats have at this moment. They feel cornered with these two Senate Democrats who are not budging on filibuster rules.

And they don't see another way out a day like today, this holiday really highlights where they stand in the struggles they're having in terms of finding another path to try and push this legislation forward.

But as it looks, now, they're looking at a very difficult vote coming up tomorrow, where it will be again, and a reminder of how far they are in their own party of trying to get some federal regulations in to try and address these voting access concerns.

KING: And the House Democrats have just enough votes to advance this legislation, the challenges the Senate, there are two different pieces. As all in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which would restore some portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act?

The Supreme Court essentially stripped away some protections against voter suppression, expand and strengthen the federal guard's inability - federal government's ability to respond to voting discrimination, then there's the freedom to vote Act which expands voter registration and voting acts as essentially a counter to efforts in many states to rollback early voting and others? You see what establish Election Day as a federal holiday. The question those all in is, is there a plan B, in the Biden White House to the Democratic Party, if this goes down as it appears that a will or is it just have the issue for the rest of the campaign year?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it's as much right now for the White House about sending a message to those holdout Democrats we were just talking about as well as the president's supporters.

And some of the voting rights activists that have grown increasingly anxious as well as frustrated with the lack of or perceived lack of sense of urgency. I talked to somebody who was present for that Senate luncheon that the president attended, just last week, where he painted this scenario.

He talked about how Republicans in various states were already pushing different laws to make voting harder. And he as well as Senator John Ossoff, if I had heard, really spoke out about this, painted this scenario. For the White House it because it comes down to really this is the risk Raider, that Republicans if you change the rules surrounding the filibuster, is the risk greater what the worst scenario is.

The Republicans if they if they take majority, using a simple majority, to then push policies in the future, or not doing anything right now about the policies being pushed by state legislatures. But John, as far as a Plan B right now, this seems to be the track that the White House is going to go on.

It will be interesting to see if a bipartisan group grows around potentially changing something around the rules governing the Electoral College vote as well. It's unclear where the White House stands on at this moment.

KING: It is unclear because it has this promise to the Democratic base, and it wants to call out those two Democratic senators again, we'll see if there are more tomorrow when that happens.

But Claudia listen to Senator Mitt Romney here, he says he and other Republicans are willing to work on changes to the Electoral College act, perhaps some other changes to what a lot of voting rights activists as critical.

Trump talks about this all the time, putting people in power, which can essentially change the will of the people decide to throw out votes after they are cast. Governor Romney says we'd like to work on this. Somebody hasn't called.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The group about 12 senators, Republicans and Democrats that are working on the electoral account act will continue to work together. Sadly, this election reform bill that the president has been pushing, I never got a call on that from the White House.

There was no negotiation bringing Republicans and Democrats together to try and come up with something that would meet bipartisan interest.


KING: Is that a call Claudia the president should be making maybe after tomorrow or a lot of Democrats would say wait a minute, maybe Senator Romney, is there maybe Senator Collins is there maybe Senator Murkowski is there? But will you really in an election year get 10 Republicans to stand with Democrats on a fallback if that's what's necessary?

GRISALES: Well, when we're talking about this broader legislation to address voting access, that's something that Republicans like Romney have made pretty clear that they do not want to join forces with Democrats to go forward with so a phone call doesn't appear to have made a difference in any case.

For the push they're looking at to try and consider tomorrow on the Senate floor. That said there is a lot of momentum with the electoral count. And I just spoke to the Lofgren this past week about proposals that her committee, they're leading the charge on the House side, on the reforms there.

This is something that we saw very much highlighted with January six with Former President Trump in terms of seeing the threshold for example of objections to election results being raised from one House in one Senate member to 1/3 of each chamber, very dramatic change.

These are issues that Senate Republicans appear to be willing to join Democrats to perhaps consider a bipartisan solution here. And perhaps this can be some sort of consolation prize, if you will, for Democrats to try and look at once voting rights appear to not move forward.

KING: That may become a more significant count if you will of the Republican math and the counter the likelihood of that after we see what happens in the United States Senate tomorrow.


KING: Everybody stand by the conversation continues next year. COVID outlook depends on where you live. And when Omicron first hit there are some encouraging signs in the northeast, but a rising case count and hospital stress. Just about everywhere else on the map.


KING: Donald Trump made his midterm election year rally debut over the weekend and the defining choice for Republicans could not be more clearly. Support the former president's big lies about 2020 or brace for his scorn. Arizona was the venue and the warm up speakers reminded us loyalty to Trump requires severing ties with the truth then the main event.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, 44TH PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We had a tremendous victory in Arizona that was taken away. Last year, we had a rigged election. And the proof is all over the place. I ran twice. And we won twice. The Big Lie is a lot. That's what it is.


KING: Panel back with me to discuss Margaret Talev just about everything the former president said is not true. Most of it not even closes to the truth, not even in the same universe as the truth, which is who he is. That is not a surprise.

The question is will more Republicans say we cannot have this, we cannot ask the American people for power in Congress and have that, or will they just continue to kiss the ring?

TALEV: John, it's an important question. I mean, by overwhelmingly all accounts so far, the former president is still the person with the biggest ability to move and shake and shape the Republican Party. And that's important.

And so if Kevin McCarthy, that House Republican Leader is any guide, all of his steps and moves right now are meant with, at least in part, Trump's continued support or not opposition in mind as he mounts what he hopes will be a bid to be the house speaker after the next set of elections.

At the same time, I think we spoke in the last segment a little bit about that Electoral Reform Act that many Republicans are also on board with, along with Democrats. The purpose of that is to sort of clarify that no, the vice president can't overturn the Electoral College.

You know returns and that Congress and the Vice President's role is to affirm the will of the people through the Electoral College process and presidential election. So that's not exactly an affirmation of a President Trump.

But for the most part, he is very much in control of the messaging and the shape of his party. And this rally is meant as much for internal GOP messaging, as it is for messaging to Biden into voters.

KING: And if you watch this play out to me, Trump is Trump and he is not going to change the part that to me is dangerous when it comes to attacks on our democracy is Joe Biden won Arizona. Donald Trump had every chance to file the necessary complaints and recounts and all that Joe Biden won Arizona, but it was one like Georgia, like Pennsylvania, of the very close States. Listen here.

The Trump preview, if you will, was just a circus act of characters, but characters that may well hold huge power in that state for the next election list.


REP. DEBBIE LESKO (R-AZ): And they're going after everyone that supports President Trump with their sham January 6th Select Committee and they're pushing legislation to rig our elections again.

REP. PAUL GOSAR (R-AZ): Was there fraud? Absolutely was there enough to overturn the election? Absolutely and it has to continue. Somebody has to pay the price.

KARI LAKE, ARIZONA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: That election was rotten to the core. We all know it right. You know that right?

MARK FINCHEM, RIZONA SECRETARY OF STATES CANDIDATE: Ladies and gentlemen, we know it and they know it. Donald Trump won.


KING: Claudia, that's the bigger danger actually the candidate for governor, the candidate for Secretary of State People who could help Donald Trump next time, Republican Governor of Arizona.

The Republican Governor of Georgia did not help Donald Trump last time. The question is can you use the midterm campaign to put in place people who are open to helping them next time.

GRISALES: That is his hope that he'll be able to get in a new wave of supporters into pivotal seats with these midterm elections. And I think Margaret raises a very good point that a lot of this is messaging.

This is the script for Trump and his supporters that they need to follow, especially if they want to get that support, and see that success. They hope to get those seats garner those seats, and in turn, Trump can boost his base, if you will, when it comes to the various seats.

He's hoping to install more of his loyal followers. But there's a real test there in terms of the cracks. We're seeing more cracks in the Republican veneer and supporting Trump. For example, when we saw Senator Mike Rounds come forward recently saying that President Former President Trump did indeed lose the election going against that, that kind of narrative. So it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out going forward.

KING: But they continue Zolan in many Republicans to take his money to use his name, to say, well, you know, I don't agree with him, they whisper under their breath, but if I defy him, then he comes after me. Or I'll have trouble back in my district.

Listen here, Trump I was about to say to his credit, that's the wrong word. But at least he's incredibly transparent. This is a video, Sean Hannity posted, that is sent to Jeffrey Lorde, a Trump supporter in Pennsylvania, where Trump essentially concedes the point that yes, you can have a candidate but you also need people in power after the election.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: We have to be a lot sharper the next time when it comes to counting the vote is a famous statement. Sometimes the vote counter is more important than the candidate and we can't let that ever happen again, they have to get tougher and smarter.


KING: Every single review, the votes were counted, honestly, last time, but Trump there again, gives the impression says straight out, Zolan, that they were not and part of his challenge is to get tougher and smarter. Meaning put somebody in place who when I call like he did, the Secretary of State of Georgia, when he tries to pressure like he did, those Governors will do it differently.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Right and no longer becomes about let's have an efficient, you know, election. And as you said, by the way, every report that has come out thus far has found that that the claims the former president is making are fraudulent.

And we should just continue to reiterate that for the former president really becomes the measure of credibility at this point for him and loyalty becomes who's willing to continue to push these fraudulent claims without the previous election.

And, and also when it comes to his support, and the trickle down the local officials that he may be supporting, who could potentially be in a position where you could have some power over a future election as well.

And that that should be as well, the takeaway, but as you said, John, you know, it's not just those officials in Arizona, which should be noted as well in terms of some of the statements and the fraudulent claims they were pushing about the previous election.

But it's also how this has become increasingly sort of the mainstream belief when it comes to particular the House GOP and how those who dare to defy the former president such as vote to impeach, such as speak out on the premise that we saw on January 6th. Such as say that the election was run efficiently and that everything did go accordingly.

That also whether or not they will be condemned or either resign or step away from office looking forward it will be interesting to see just whether this continues to command who remains in power in the Republican Party, specifically the House GOP and who can't.

KING: And you had a half dozen Senators making the case last week before this Trump rally what they thought of the big lie the question is will Republican stand up consistently if he's gonna travel the country doing this in the midterm election year?

I suspect the answer to that is no. But perhaps I would love to be proven wrong by other Republican leaders. Up next for us, Virginia's new Governor stirs immediate controversy. Glenn Youngkin says parents not local school districts get to decide whether their child wears a mask in the classroom. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: Now you see live pictures right here the Vice President of the United States her husband the Second Gentleman in nearby, a little community service visiting Martha's table here in Washington D.C., of course to Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.

Martin's Table there you see Doug emhoff. There to the left of your screen. Martha's Table one of the remarkable organizations here in the nation's Capitol that helps deal with hunger and food insecurity issues good community service.

There are no reminders schools are closed for the Martin Luther King holiday but they open tomorrow. And Virginia's new Republican Governor is in an immediate confrontation with some local school districts over masks mandates.

Glenn Youngkin, was inaugurated Saturday, you see the swearing in ceremony right there. And a flurry of immediate executive actions includes one ending a statewide school masks mandate. Youngkin says that decision should be left to parents but at least three major Virginia School Districts bow fight.

Arlington and Fairfax County Public schools in Northern Virginia and then Reiko County near Richmond all releasing statements saying Masks requirements for students and staff will stay put. The CNN's Eva McKend joins us now. Just on the job and just into controversy, Eva?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, John, if you read this four page executive order from the Governor, he essentially argues mask among kids in schools provides inconsistent health benefits.

Saying many of them wear them improperly or, or wearing cloth masks that aren't even clean. Now this of course, has triggered controversy one parent in Henrico, who supports both in person learning and mask mandates for kids telling me as adults we should be leading by example, a mass mandate should not be.

A political ping pong but if you follow Youngkin during his campaign, he essentially is making good on a campaign promise to give parents more agency and pandemic related decision making. He defended his authority to do so on Sunday. Take a listen.


GLENN YOUNGKIN, GOVERNOR, VIRGINIA: We will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parent's rights are protected.


MCKEND: Now school leaders in Arlington and Fairfax say hey, you want to stay open. We need the kids to be masked. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who happens to be an Arlington parent weighing in tweeting Arlington County parent here don't believe you are Glenn Youngkin but correct me if I'm wrong little sass from her.

Thank you to Arlington schools for standing up for our kids, teachers and administrators and their safety in the midst of a transmissible variant. Now the legal back and forth in Florida over a Republican Governor Ron DeSantis' executive order that was similar could be an indication of what lies ahead for Youngkin.

DeSantis secured a political victory last November when the state legislature agreed on a ban on school mask mandates the Santa sign the measure into law. Now while Youngkin has a Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, the state Senate is still narrowly controlled by Democrats, John.

KING: That means we're gonna watch this one play out in the courts big challenge for the governor early on will follow it it's an important national issue Eva McKend grateful for the reporting there. Up next, back to COVID and again you're out -