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Texts Reveal GOP Lawmakers Encouraging Then Warning against Trump's Efforts to overturn 2020 Election; Blinken Tells Europeans War May Last the Rest of 2022; 21 States Suing Biden Administration over COVID Border Policy. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 15, 2022 - 12:30   ET



LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That an alternative slate of electors should be sent to Congress -- that's contrary to the law. Also the fact that this is exactly -- that exact gambit is what election law experts are concerned about happening in 2024.

And they've warned that states don't need to change any laws. Those state legislatures could just decide they want to send a fake slate of electors to Congress if Republicans are in power of the House and the Senate. They can decide, we're just going to accept them and declare the loser the winner.

That would be a huge deal. And the only way that Congress can protect against that is by fortifying the Electoral Count Act, which we know that there are bipartisan group of senators that want to do that. But nothing has come of it so far.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And this is -- I want to start early on and then come back to it closer to the end because both of them did dramatically change their tune. And we should point that out to be fair to them.

But this is Chip Roy, Congressman Roy from Texas early on. November 7th. Just after the election. "We need ammo. We need fraud examples. We need it this weekend."

So early on when the president was saying I'm going to fight this, his allies in Congress were willing to stand with him. They wanted specifics. The White House never had specifics.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They never had specifics and from the outset there was no evidence of any widespread voter fraud.

And I think Laura brings up a really interesting point because these are two sitting members of Congress who ultimately soured on these Stop the Steal efforts. But the former president is still very much elevating pro-Stop the Steal candidates right now in these midterm elections.

There's still a number of Republican members of Congress who are willing to entertain the idea that the 2020 election was fraudulent, and there's this effort within the states to also appoint people in the legislatures and in these important positions of secretary of state who are sympathetic to the former president's claim that the election was stolen.

So there are very real implications also for the midterms as well as for 2024 because this is not something that's in the past. It's very much still at the fore of what the Republican Party certainly former President Trump, who is still the figure head of the party, what they are pushing now.

KING: And again, it's interesting when you watch the trajectory, encouraging the White House to push, push, push. First Senator Lee, for example, listened to Sidney Powell. He realized that was a mistake. Listened to John Eastman.

And then late, late, I only know this will end badly for the president unless we have the constitution on our side. He figures it out closer to January 6th that this is not going well. Chip Roy, "The president should call everyone off. It's the only path. If we substitute the will of the states through electors with a vote of congress every four years we've destroyed the Electoral College, respectfully."

Chip Roy understanding. If we elect presidents by popular vote, that's not good for the Republican Party.

KASIE HUNT, CNN+ ANCHOR: I mean he's right. And he was saying days before there were literally members of Congress begging the president to literally call off the people that he sent on Pennsylvania Avenue who broke into the Capitol.

There are people that day that said call them off, call them off. And he never did. Chip Roy is a couple of days ahead of that from his perspective. Look, from what I can tell, I take all the points about how they were encouraging him in the beginning. But I think when you get to the end of this story and you think about why the committee is focused on this. And what they are hoping to get out of putting this out into the public domain, I think it's -- they've got an audience in the federal court system that has to decide what to do about potentially prosecuting the former president and many of those around him. And this says to those judges, this is potentially not necessarily as political as it looks. This isn't just Democrats out there saying this was wrong. This was against the law.

Here you have two of the most conservative Republican members of Congress, people who said, if there's fraud, show it to us. We'll get it out there for you who say, no, this was illegal. This was against the law. Stop.

And I think that's the significance.

KING: Right. Stop asking us to do things we cannot do. If you have the evidence, we will do it. Otherwise, by the end, stop asking us to do things that the law and the constitution do not allow which brings into the point that we learn almost every day now the committee has more than we know publicly. More text messages. More people.

Yesterday eight hours with Stephen Miller, one of the president's top aides. Someone we know who is traying to help and the "New York Times" has this take. Investigators ask Mr. Miller repeatedly about the use of the word "we" throughout Mr. Trump's speech on the ellipse on the morning of January 6th. And an apparent effort to ascertain whether the former president had been directing supporters to join him in taking action to stop congress from certifying his defeat.

Mr. Miller argued the language was no different than any other political speech. So again, they are -- it's hard to know the full picture of what the committee has. But they are trying to get access to everybody.

LOPEZ: They are. And two quick points here. The big difference between what the committee is doing and also what they ultimately clearly want which is the Justice Department to have its own investigation, to decide whether or not to charge Trump with criminal intent.

But the big difference between a grand jury at the Justice Department and what the committee is doing is that that grand jury gives people, whether it's Trump or his top officials or lawmakers like Lee or others who potentially had a hand in this, it gives them three options.

They either tell the truth, they either plead the fifth or they potentially go to jail. And so that's the big difference if Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland decides to carry this forward.


LOPEZ: Another thing that I think is relevant right here is that if Republicans gain control of Congress, we've already heard a threat from minority leader Kevin McCarthy, saying that if you are a tech company that complies with a subpoena, we're going to go after you with political retribution.

KING: Right. Threats of recrimination and you see these texts and you can connect the dots yourself at home.

Up next, a chilling new warning from Russia to the State Department as the Biden administration pushes and rushes heavy weaponry to Ukraine.



KING: This hour, a new Russian warning to the State Department. The Kremlin dispatching a diplomatic note to Washington warning of quote, "unpredictable consequences" if the United States does not immediately stop shipping weapons to Ukraine. That happening as the U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken tells European allies there is no end to this war in sight and that Vladimir Putin's invasion could well last through the end of the year.

Joining me now to discuss, Evelyn Farkas. She's former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia and Ukrainian. Evelyn grateful for your time today. From your experience in a sensitive position in the government, when Russia says there will be quote, "unpredictable consequences", what is he threatening?

EVELYN FARKAS, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well John, it could be anything. Obviously, it could be use of chemical or nuclear weapons. I think at the strategic level, at the highest level meaning intercontinental use, you know, Russia against the United States. That's not likely.

We do worry about tactical use, but frankly speaking, Russia is not in a position to start a conflict, a military conflict, certainly, with any other country. It can barely win the war in Ukraine right now.

KING: And to that point when you hear Secretary Blinken telling U.S. allies around the world, look, this is going to go on for months and months. We've talked about this before. Watching Putin.

This war started eight years ago, not 50-something days ago. Watching Putin we've all expected that. But what is the strategic importance of Secretary Blinken trying to tell everybody, strap in, prepare for the long haul?

FARKAS: Well, I think because, you know, as democracies, we're not very good at paying attention for a long time and hanging in there. And we want a quick victory.

And to the, you know, to the extent that we don't really know. There could be a quick victory, but obviously if you are a leader in government, you want to make sure you're prepared for the longer haul.

KING: I want you to listen here There are a lot of questions about what next. Obviously people trying to rush heavier military equipment to the Ukrainians as the fight moves to the east and people expect it to be quite bloody.

There's also a debate particularly in the European Union about adding to sanctions a lot of them have said we won't take Russian coal, but as you know better than most, oil and gas are the key.

I want you to listen here to a key adviser - former adviser to Vladimir Putin who says you embargo -- have a tougher embargo on energy. You might make a difference.


ANDREI ILLARIONOV, FORMER CHIEF ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PUTIN: The government does not have resources to finance spending. The regime will be in a position that it would need to stop operations to look for some armistice and to see some negotiations with Ukraine.


KING: Do you believe that the debate among the European countries has been they will be punishing their own people if they just essentially chop off purchases of Russian oil and particularly gas. But do you believe that, that it could have a pretty quick effect if they did?

FARKAS: Well, John, their own people want this war to end. You know, there have been Germans demonstrating against the war and saying we shouldn't be buying oil and gas from Russia. We'll put on another sweater.

And I do think it's interesting what the expert economist -- I saw it actually live on the air when he was interviewed, what he said because it does indicate that Russia is incredibly vulnerable right now. Does not have new sources of income to pay for the ongoing military operation and so maybe we could see a real difference quickly if we cut off the oil and gas.

There's no reason you couldn't impose an embargo and if it proved to be too painful, release it somehow or undo it. Of course, it's not good politically, but again, it's worth trying it because we want to bring the war to a fast end. And I think that's also what's behind these new shipments of military assistance.

KING: A question that has come up in recent days. We saw the president of Poland and the leaders of the Baltic State go to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy.

Boris Johnson, prime minister of the U.K. then went to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy. The question has been, should President Biden or somebody high in the United States government go. This is what Jen Psaki says about the president.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he's ready, he's just not like --

PSAKI: He is ready. He's ready for anything. The man likes the fast cars and aviators, he's ready to go to Ukraine. It's true, he does. We are not sending the president to Ukraine.

What I will tell you is that what Boris Johnson did is he took I believe and 8-hour train through to a war is he took, I believe, an eight-hour train through a war zone to get to the middle of Ukraine. So, no, that is not in the plans for the president of the United States. We should all be relieved about that.


KING: What's your take on that? Number one, I think it's sort of silly conversation to think you'd send the president of the United States there right now but this is a public discussion and dealt with like that.

FARKAS: Yes, I'm with Jen Psaki. There's no reason to send the president there right now. He's got important business (AUDIO GAP) right now that isn't symbolic. It's real. And I understand the symbolic, you know, significance of the American president going there. But it's not necessary. [01:44:53:]

FARKAS: I'm sure President Zelenskyy would much rather that he sit at his desk and sign papers allowing for more military assistance that he get on the phone with India and tell them to stop buying Russian oil, you know.

I mean, there are many things. And then of course, of course, obviously, he's our president so domestically, we need him to be at the helm as well.

So again, I think it would be great and at the end of all of this, I hope Ukraine is victorious and then President Biden can go to Ukraine then.

KING: Evelyn Farkas, grateful for your insights. Thank you.

FARKAS: Thanks, John.

KING: Up next for us, the border and bipartisan anger at the Biden White House. 21 states now suing to block a White House plan to end a big Trump policy and allow those seeking asylum to cross into the United States.



KING: There is loud bipartisan pushback as President Biden prepares to end a Trump pandemic policy that kept migrants seeking asylum out of the United States. The opposition includes a new lawsuit filed by 21 states. Three of those 21 do have Democratic governors. But all have Republican attorneys general who are pushing to keep the Trump policy, known as Title 42 in place.

More than 1.7 million migrants have been turned away under that Trump pandemic policy. Our reporters back with me to discuss.

We can just show the map up there of these states. Again, Kentucky, Kansas and Louisiana have Democratic governors. But it's their Republican attorneys generals who are part of this.

This is a tactic we saw a lot during the Obama administration. Republican attorneys' general Some are successful, maybe some are not, but it keeps the issue alive and Republicans believe that helps them in this election year.

SIDDIQUI: Absolutely. And I think that what you are seeing is the political fallout from the Biden administration's decision to lift Title 42 kind of coming head-to-head with the merits of the policy itself.

Because there was actually a lot of criticism of the Biden administration that they left this policy in place for as long as they did. Even as covid-19 cases were in decline. And as we know, travel bans against countries where variants of COVID- 19 have been detected have not actually stopped the virus from rampantly spreading here in the U.S.

So there are a lot of questions about the rationale behind keeping this policy in place. But Republicans are also seizing on the fact that there are some moderate Democrats who are concerned about what the optics of a surge at the border will look like in a midterm election year and they specifically cite that in this lawsuit. Of course, always immigration politics very complex always complex in a midterm election.

KING: You mentioned the Democrats. If it were just the Republican attorneys general, the administration would say politics but here are just some of the Democrats.

And you see the three in highlighted yellow in the middle . Senator Castro -- Cortez Masto of Nevada after reelection. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire up for reelection. Mark Kelly up for re-election plus Kirsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, two centrist Democrats.

Telling the administration, stop.

LOPEZ: Yes I mean they have difficult -- not in the case of Manchin and Sinema, but the others that you mentioned have difficult re- elections on their hands.

And so of course, what they are considered about is whether or not there is going to be an increase of migrants at the border especially come summer. And John Angeloni (Biden's top -- President Biden's stop pollster is also concerned about it, saying that he thinks there that there very well could be an increase of migrants at the border.

Now the different -- what he is saying that Democrats need to push back on is the fact that Republicans have now created this narrative that by doing away with Title 42, the border is open. It's open season for migrants to come through.

That's not true. They still have to go through processing. The bus of migrants that governor -- Texas Governor Greg Abbott sent to D.C. this week, those are all migrants that are going through processing and are seeking asylum which is something that almost every single migrant encountered at the border while Title 42 was in place.

We're not allowed to do which is why the legality of Little 42, to begin with -- what's in question?

KING: One of the things that happens to Democrats politically though is they argue the details. And Laura is exactly right. In the way she pushes Republicans say we have the issue.

People are uptight about the economy because of inflation. Then we add in you know, again, the facts might not support it, but open borders and, boom.

HUNT: Democrats who look at these data, John (INAUDIBLE) among them, they see that people do want Democrats to provide a message that the border is secure. Even if they are willing to support legal immigration and maybe a different path or set of rules for the people that are already here in this country.

But one thing I think we need to focus on here, too, is that a lot of the issue that these Democrats are raising when they put out these statements, yes, it's about their re-elections, but what they are saying is that they're not convinced the administration has a plan.

And a big risk for the Biden administration is that they lift this, things happen. There are these videos, these pictures. There are people surging across the border. And they don't do a good job of dealing with it because that plays into their competence narrative as well.

And they've dealt with that in a variety of ways. Afghanistan, I think, is probably the biggest example. So it's really a political liability for them on two fronts, right? Their competence and also the issue of immigration that is so inflammatory as it stands all by itself.

And right now the reporting is about infighting between HHS, DHS, about who is in charge and who should take these immigrants? It's a real mess waiting to happen.

KING: A real mess -- I think that is the best -- well put. Ladies, thanks for coming on on a Friday.

And don't forget, you can catch Kasie Hunt any time at all -- any time you want on CNN plus. Learn more at

Up next, Senator Dianne Feinstein says she's still up to the job, challenging a home state report detail memory lapses and concerns among some colleagues.



KING: Topping our political radar today, Senator Dianne Feinstein is defending her ability to serve. The 88 half-year-old California Democrat pushing back on a report in the San Francisco Chronicle citing that four senators and three former Feinstein aides who told the newspaper they are concerned about her mental acuity.


KING: Feinstein released a statement saying in part, while I have focused for much of the past year on my husband's health and ultimate passing, I have remained committed to achieving results and I'd put my record up against anyone.

The White House Easter Egg Roll is back. The annual event It was scrapped because of the pandemic in 2020 and in 2021. But this Monday the Biden White House says 30,000 guests are expected to attend that 144-year-old tradition. This year's theme, egg-ucation.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. Don't forget, you can listen to our podcast. Download INSIDE POLITICS wherever you get your podcast.

Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.