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DOJ Appeals Federal Ruling on Transportation Mask Mandate; Putin Meets with Russian Defense Minister at Kremlin. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 21, 2022 - 12:30   ET


KING: Right, right. And that's the key point because remember, it did not take Kevin McCarthy long to go from being mad at Trump, holding Trump responsible, and according to these two great reporters saying I'm going to tell him it's best to resign, to suddenly go to Mar-a- Lago and get his picture taken with Donald Trump and try to make peace - to try to make peace.


But in the book it also says this, "Mr. McCarthy inquired about the mechanisms for invoking the 25th amendment - the process whereby the vice president and members of the cabinet can remove a president from office - before concluding that was not a viable option."

Now we know - we know from a history with Donald Trump, when Donald Trump reads that, and he was planning to tell me to resign, that's not going to sit well. There's going to have to be another Mar-a-Lago mission here.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I mean, everything that has been reported in this, you would expect to really upset the former president but it also just further highlights how much Republicans are willing to adapt and cater to him and what he believes, as far as the election, the false allegations that it was rigged.

But you repeatedly, you saw Kevin McCarthy go down there once, you've seen other Republicans goes down there to kiss the ring, and that's something that likely will have to happen a little bit more, even if he's coming out and denying it. It's not going to sit well with the former president.

KING: So help me, your prosecutorial hat (ph). The January 6th Committee is trying to put together this timeline.



KING: The likelihood of that happening is like the same as me flapping and flying, right, you know, It's just not going to happen. And so - but you get this account here. From an investigative standpoint, the book says he talked to other House Republican leaders.


KING: So if you're trying to put together - okay, where else can we find this? This book, in addition to all the texts we've seen and everything else, gives you a lot of clues, right?

WILLIAMS: Look, and if you go back to even the 9/11 commission report, they cite two media reports as well. So number one, you have this "New York Times" article, number two, you have the book. Number three, you have staff who were in the room, not just other members of Congress, but every single person there has a chief of staff or a communications director that would've been there.

John, I'm pretty confident that this committee has spoken to at least some staffers right now and it's - and it's able to corroborate some of the statements here. So even if they never get Kevin McCarthy or Mitch McConnell to talk, they're in pretty good shape, at a minimum, to just put it into a report that the public will read.

KING: Right. Now, McConnell - McConnell from the beginning -


KING: - has been more critical of Trump. McConnell to this day, "I will not speak to Trump" or has not spoken to Trump. But even in here, you see that he initially was this is going to be the end, to trying to pull back a little bit to say I guess I have to deal with this because he's not going away.

This here, "the president's behavior on Jan. 6 had been utterly beyond the pale, McConnell said. If this isn't impeachable, I don't know what is." So initially, McConnell even thinking maybe he and maybe another - good number of Republicans would join the vote to convict in the senate.

MIN KIM: Right.

KING: Didn't turn out that way.

MIN KIM: Didn't turn out that way at all. So in that story, they mention that McConnell later said you - something along the lines of you can't stay at - he's like I can't stay in power by the virtue of doing something that five members of my conference are doing, and that's so illustrative to how kind of McConnell views this, like his sort of driving philosophy is, you know, staying in power and winning.

And again, despite his personal views, despite whether he personally believed this was impeachable behavior or not, he was not - he was never going to kind of deflect from the rest of the conference, particularly, as you saw, only about half a dozen or so did end up voting to convict him at the trial.

KING: In the Biden White House, when these things play out, do they have the idea that like these Republicans did initially after January 6th, Trump is done, or do they assume that Trump is right there in 2024?

SAENZ: I think that they are really watching to see what - whether the president will - former president will step in. I think one thing that's interesting, you'll remember during the campaign, Biden said that he believed Republicans were going to have this epiphany -

KING: Right.

SAENZ: - about wanting to work with Democrats and also their approach to the former president. So maybe, I think, Biden at some point was thinking that they would be able to stand up to the former president if something like this were to happen, and clearly they're not.

KING: The number who've had that epiphany, you can count on one hand. You might have a finger or two left over when you get there.

Up next for us, the mask mandate and the courts. The justice department now says it will appeal a ruling that threw out that mask mandate when you're traveling.



KING: The justice department is now appealing a federal judge's decision striking down the transportation mask mandate. But, and this is significant, DOJ is not asking that the mandate be restored while this legal fight plays out. The appeal was filed at the request of the Centers for Disease Control. It will be heard by a federal appeals court.

My panel is back with me. Counselor, let me start with you. Why not, if you feel so adamant this was a bad decision, ask for a so-called stay, right, go to the Appeals Court and say we want that decision put on hold and therefore the mandate put back in place while we fight this out?

WILLIAMS: Because there's a little bit of law and a whole lot of politics, John. And it's - the simple fact is when the government is a litigant, it has to make decisions like that. You know, as to where something that might make legal sense, but as a matter of politics may not. And, you know, you see that, you know, when people were cheering on airplanes that has to be a factor that they considered here.

Now they certainly could have and perhaps even should have asked for a stay here, but number one they may not have won it, and number two, this is a question of the confusion that already exists in the public over what to do over masks might've just gotten worse. KING: All right. So let's listen to Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, just trying to explain just that. Yes, we are going to appeal, but -


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They want to fight to ensure the CDC'S - the authority an ability to put in mandates in the future remains intact.


We know there's going to be ups and downs in this pandemic. We're all ready for it to be over, but we want to ensure that our public health experts are able to take steps, if needed, in the future.


KING: Pretty telling right there. We don't really care, forgive me, my translation, we don't really care about the mask mandate now. It was going to expire in a week or ten days anyway, let it go, we just need the CDC to have the authority if we need to do this, whether it's about COVID or something else down the road. This is about later, not now.

SAENZ: Yes, it's very clear that the White House is concerned about the CDC - the views the CDC's authority overall when it comes to public health directives, possible future pandemics. But one thing that is really politically risky - or legally risky in this is that this case could be going to the 11th circuit, which is a conservative- leaning circuit.

They could further strike it down. It could go up to the Supreme Court. And if it continues to rule against the administration, against what the CDC is suggesting, it could further weaken the CDC's authority going forward, so there's all of that that's in play as well.

KING: And Elliot mentioned the politics. This is a tweet from the Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis. "It's fitting that the free state of Florida was home to the ruling that unmasked millions of Americans on airplanes and other forms of transport." It goes on to say that this, wherever the court cases goes, this issue is now part of our politics.

MIN KIM: Oh, very much so and it has been for such a long time. And there's a test vote in the senate earlier this year where you kind of voted on the merits of a federal mask mandate on transportation. And remember, it's a 50/50 senate. It actually got 57 votes, which means seven democrats voted in for this.

So they - so politicians do see where the tide is turning. They see how weary the public is with all these restrictions. But at the same time, there are polls showing that the majority of the public do actually support mandates on transportation and it really is a small minority that is speaking out about their kind of freedom to, you know, take the masks off their face.

KING: I do think, you make a great point, that this is the loud vocal -

MIN KIM: Right.

KING: - forces here, call them the minority, call them what you will, are getting the attention because - this is just from Axios IPSOS poll this week, this week 75% support airport mask requirements, 91% of Democrats, 57% of Republicans. To Arlette's point, Elliot, you know, you have a pandemic like this, any administration -


KING: - Democrat or Republican does things quickly, right, mandates this, restrictions there. In all the challenges so far, in terms of the power of the authority of the government, is it weaker now at this point of COVID because these things might've been done in a hurry and maybe the language wasn't perfect and they don't stand up in court?

WILLIAMS: Right. Look - and one of the points that the judge makes throughout the opinion is that they rushed it through too quickly and did not follow the proper procedures, where sort of public health lawyers have looked at this and said that, you know, the federal government has pretty broad authority when it comes to emergencies. The term is good cause in the law. They have good cause to implement it.

So just to Arlette's point, though, if it goes to the 11th Circuit, where I clerked, and then the Supreme Court, it could significantly restrict the CDC'S authority. And, you know, to Governor DeSantis' point that this was the free state of Florida, that wasn't an accident.

They brought this suit in Florida because they knew they had a chance of winning and it would go to a more conservative court. So there's - you know, there's some strategerie on the part of the lawyers here in getting a favorable decision that they could win.

KING: Court shopping.

WILLIAMS: Court shopping. Forum shopping is a term in the law.

KING: Yeah, forum shopping - yes, become part of our legal process but the politics of the legal process. We'll watch the case play out.

Up next for us, President Putin sends a message with a missile test. And President Biden promises his Russian counterpart will never get Ukraine.



KING: Vladimir Putin held an event today with his defense chief to tout what he calls "progress" in the Ukraine war. And a few hours later, President Biden offered, what you might call, his version of a fact-check.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Putin has failed to achieve his grand ambitions on the battle battlefield. After weeks of shelling Kyiv, Kyiv still stands. He's betting on western unity will crack. He's still betting on that. And once again, we're going to prove him wrong. We will never fail in our determination to defend freedom and oppose tyranny.


KING: The New Yorker's Susan Glasser joins me now. Susan, it's interesting, the president was mostly there to announce this new package, $800 million of heavy weaponry, but he went out of his way repeatedly, not just in the piece we just played there, to poke Putin and say you are losing and you will never win.

SUSAN GLASSER, THE NEW YORKER EDITOR: Yeah, you know John, I think there's real sentiment. It's one thing that unites Americans in a way at a time when there's really nothing else that does is a sense that Biden could be even tougher on Putin. You know, the revoltion at Putin is pretty across the board.

Also right now, there's no sense of any meaningful negotiations or even the future prospect of any. And given that, that sort of opens it up for Biden to be even harsher in his characterizations. But I don't see it as, unfortunately, affecting Putin in any way in his calculation.

KING: Well, that's the interesting part because, as I mentioned, Putin today has an event with his defense chief. Early in the war, there was some talk the defense chief had been pushed aside or at least isolated because of what happened, the miserable Russian performance around Kyiv.

But Putin has this event. He's talking about what they call the liberation of Mariupol. That's for his domestic consumption. You just mentioned it's not - we don't know if Biden breaks through either to Putin personally or certainly doesn't break through on Russian television.


That's one of the interesting aspects of this war, Putin clearly is trying to convince the people back home who may be feeling more and more the impact of sanctions things are okay.

GLASER: You know, it's also, though - it's a portrait of a dictator who's completely indifferent to human life, to truth and to even convincing his own people. I mean, you know, it's got the trademark Putin slouch as he practically, you know, can hardly sit up straight in order to dictate, you know, fake orders to the Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right.

And you see this almost palpable disdain for the people that it just oozes out of Putin in that conversation. And again, the lies, I mean, you know, the scale of death and destruction in Mariupol is just enormous. We don't know the full scope of it yet. It's a city of hundreds of thousands of people that's been barbarically demolished by the orders of Vladimir Putin.

KING: And you mentioned we don't know a lot about Mariupol, Susan. This is coming in just now, Ukrainian officials identifying the location of what they say appears to be a mass grave, and we're showing you some Maxar satellite images that appear to back up that claim.

Now we cannot independently verify what happened at this site, but Ukrainians are saying that the Russians essentially bust out civilians, threw them on trucks and buses, the 200 civilians or so, and buried them in mass graves. That is one of the challenges. There's a day-to-day battle in Ukraine, but there is also the global challenge and the Ukrainian challenge of documenting some atrocities here, Susan.

GLASSER: I think we're going to be documenting it for - unfortunately, for months and years to come because it's going to be a long time before people are even able to - we don't know the fate of Mariupol yet, number one. Number two, remember, this whole war and the attack on Mariupol is an atrocity itself. It is an attack deliberately on a civilian population. It is a war of annihilation against that city.

Russia has repeatedly agreed to and then failed to live up to its word of establishing humanitarian corridors out of the city as recently as yesterday. There was a fleet of buses lined up there and no people who could get on them safely and leave the city. So that's also, obviously, a war crime. And, you know, again, it just - it boggles the mind when you hear Putin talking cynically to Shoigu and saying, well, let's protect human life.

KING: It boggles the mind and beyond. To the president's point today, President Biden's point today, he says Putin will never win. He says that the United States will not bend and that more and more military assistance will be coming to the people of Ukraine. Is the president right about the global coalition, especially the NATO allies, the European allies? Are they as firm in their resolve if this goes on for months and months, as he is?

GLASSER: Well, I think Vladimir Putin has bet on there being division inside the west. If you look at Germany right now, it's not on the same page with many of its neighbors and allies and partners. If you look at the election inside France right now where there's one candidate who has a long history of pro-Putin statements and that Putin is her banker, as Emmanuel Macron put it in their debate the other night.

So, no, obviously, there are fissures inside the West. President Biden's speech is aimed at shoring up and giving the impression of unity, but, of course, the longer it goes on, the more opportunities there are for that coalition to disagree among themselves.

KING: And we'll continue to track that with your help, Susan Glasser. Grateful for your time today. As always, thank you.

GLASSER: Thank you.

KING: And ahead for us, Nancy Pelosi calls it outrageous and inexcusable. How a failure to communicate triggered a sudden evacuation order on Capitol Hill.



KING: Topping our political radar today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi furious with the FAA. That after a plane carrying parachutists triggered a false alarm, evacuation at the United States Capitol. Pelosi blasted the "outrageous and inexcusable behavior from the FAA" because it failed to notify Capitol police of what was a preplanned flyover.

Instead, alerts were sent to Capitol lawmakers and staffers saying evacuate the building now because it was believed an aircraft posed a threat. That flight was actually part of a celebration, again, preplanned by the military at the Washington Nationals baseball game.

Bernie sanders not ruling out a third presidential run. A memo from his 2020 campaign manager addressed to allies asked them to keep the senator from Vermont in mind if President Biden decides not to seek re-election in 2024. Sanders is 80 years old. If he ran in 2024 and won, he would be 83 on inauguration day.

The U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson now facing a new investigation into his parties during the COVID lockdown. This one will be conducted by the parliament and focus specifically on whether or not the prime minister lied to lawmakers. Johnson today said he has "nothing to hide."

Rudy Giuliani unmasked. The former New York City mayor revealed him as Jack in the Box. That after his performance of "Bad to the Bone" on the Masked Singer last night. His appearance prompting one of the judges, Ken Jeong, to walk off stage. That show was taped back in February. Of course, at that time, Giuliani big in promoting election conspiracy. Giuliani says his new granddaughter motivated him to do the show.

This quick programming note for us, the unbelievable true story of the man who took on Vladimir Putin and lived to expose the truth. The Sundance award-winning CNN film "Navalny" airs Sunday night, 9 P.M. Eastern right here on CNN. Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.