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Putin Accepts Invite to G20 Summit in Indonesia; CNN: Biden Frustrated, Shifting Midterm Strategy To Attacking GOP. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 29, 2022 - 12:30   ET



MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: But they're also recognizing that this is part of like a PR and messaging thing as well, right?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. Their challenge is hard because, again, we've learned a lot, we've learned a ton. I mean, every day, we learned something new about this, you would think at some point, OK. Is there anything new to learn? Well, yes, we've learned a ton here. The question is, can you put it together in a compelling way? One of the issues I just want to show three Republican lawmakers, the committee has been trying.

The question is, you know, who are your highest profile witnesses? Who tells the story? Who says, yes, maybe says, yes, I was wrong, or something? Well, you have the future speaker, perhaps Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, Scott Perry is a congressman from Pennsylvania deeply involved in trying to help Trump steal the election in Pennsylvania. Jim Jordan, Trump ally, we know talk to him on January 6th. Betty Thompson is the chairman. He says he still hopes, still hope that those and other members of Congress listen will come in and voluntarily cooperate.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I think there's some members who need to explain some of the information that we found out during our investigation. As we go about our work, we have come up on significant information about a lot of people, these things with respect to some of these members need clearing up?


KING: Is there any evidence that Leader McCarthy or Scott Perry or Jim Jordan, are prepared to say, oh, yes, you're right. For the sake of history, I'm going to suddenly talk.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Right, not only is it a slim chance that they will voluntarily testify, but what we learned, look, what happened with Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene a couple of weeks ago, she was subpoena, she was forced to testify. And she still gave, in this case state, a state administrative judge, she gave him nothing. And so what is there to show us or give us any indication that Republicans, even if they were required to testify, would really give the Committee give the Democrats anything that could be incriminating, or put them in a negative light.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Not to mention the implications of just watching how Republicans responded to Leader McCarthy this week by giving him a standing ovation when he talked about those tapes that were released, in terms of the overall impact of this might have at least on his party and President Trump's base. It doesn't matter if it's primetime. There are a lot of people on that side just don't care.

KING: All right, the changing minds bar is a credibly hard one for the Committee, but they have surprised us so far. We will continue to watch it. Our reports will be back with us in just a minute. Vladimir Putin accepts an invitation to an annual global economic summit. The Biden administration says he does not belong because of his invasion of Ukraine. So what now? That's next.



KING: Today, an RSVP sets the global clash in motion. Indonesia says the Russian President Vladimir Putin has now accepted an invitation to the G20 Summit in Bali. That meeting is in mid-November. So it is just impossible to know where things in Ukraine will stand by then. But the Biden White House is preparing for the long haul and says, now is not the time to be rolling out the welcome mat for Vladimir Putin.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: No, he absolutely shouldn't be. I mean, he has isolated Russia by his own actions and he should continue to be isolated by the international community. It's inappropriate, I think for the entire international community to keep treating Russia as if things are normal because it's not.


KING: Joining our conversation is Ivo Daalder. He's the president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, also the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Ambassador, great to see you at this moment. So what should the Biden White House do, does the president boycott the G20? Does the President go but just avoid Vladimir Putin? Does he go in harangue Vladimir Putin at every opportunity? What are the options?

IVO DAALDER, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Well, it's a hard case, of course, President Biden has called for the ouster of Vladimir Putin from the G20 and indeed, of Russia from the G20 as part of the policy to isolate the country, that is not going to happen. He has then said that the Ukrainians ought to be invited. And that's still something that's on the table. But clearly, he will go and should go in my mind and have that meeting and really use the meeting to make clear that there are rules in the international order that need to be abided by, that Vladimir Putin is isolated in having to fight those rules.

He invaded a country that did not pose a threat to Russia without being provoked in any way. And making that clear and getting as many countries in the G20 to back that up. Even if Putin is there is probably the best way to make clear that the United States stands with those who still abide by the rules, even against those who do no longer do so.

KING: And obviously the situation in Ukraine come the time of the G20, which is mid-November will dictate a lot of the specifics of the day to day and any personal interaction. So we don't know what it's going to look like. But listen here, the U.K. defense secretary says, don't rule this out.


BEN WALLACE, BRITISH DEFENSE MINISTER: I think it's certainly the case that Putin having failed and nearly all of his objectives may seek to consolidate what he's got, sort of fortify and dig in, as he did in 2014. And just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country of Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions.


KING: Do you see that as a likely scenario, the Russian gains have been plotting but they are making advances, Ambassador, in the east and in the south. It was eight years ago this war started during Putin took Crimea. He has the separatist region and in Donetsk and Luhansk. Is it possible he takes territory, declares victory and then how will the West have the resolve to hang in for years to force him out.


DAALDER: I think that is one of the plausible possibilities. Of course, his gains are minimal compared to where he was before this war because he didn't achieve in his effort to take over Kyiv or to oust the government. The real question, I think is already Ukrainian is going to be satisfied with this. And so far, they've made very clear that they wouldn't be.

And as long as the Ukrainians are saying, no, we want you out of Ukraine. We have now indicated we will back them up. I mean, the President' has called for $33 billion more in aid, 20 billion for military and security assistance. And we're not alone. A lot of other countries are now sending in heavy weapons, not just to help Ukraine defend itself against the onslaught in the east, but actually to turn the tide of war and to push the Russians out.

So Russia may try to take the territory and keep it. They won't find a population that is going to help them run there. And the Ukrainians are going to continue to fight to push them out. So I don't think this war is going to be over anytime soon. Unless the Russians breakthrough, or the Ukrainians break through which at the moment doesn't seem to be very likely. KING: And so if we are in for the long haul here, put your NATO hat on, your former NATO hat on for a second. I just want to read this NATO fighter jet stationed to both the Baltic and Black Sea region scrambled multiple times over the last four days to track and intercept Russian aircraft near Alliance airspace, according to a statement posted by NATO's Allied Air Command.

Take -- one of the conversations in NATO about just the risks, the longer this goes on, the more Russian planes are in the air, near NATO airspace, dangerous.

DAALDER: It is very dangerous. I mean, a war in Europe is very dangerous. And that's what we're facing here. And there's the constant worry about escalation. And escalation can happen in one of two ways. One, we cross a line that would lead to a direct into confrontation, military confrontation between Russian and NATO forces.

Or more likely, the Russians crossed the line, either by targeting our resupply of the Ukrainians on NATO territory, or, indeed, in the airspace of NATO territory, whether that's in the Baltic Sea, or frankly, a whole variety of other places that that is possible. And we lack the kind of communication that we used to have were that our militaries would, on a regular basis, talk to each other. The Russians aren't particularly receptive to having that conversation.

So this is right for the possibility of war by miscalculation. I think NATO is finding looking at ways how do we avoid getting dragged into a conflict that we don't want at this time to be dragged into. But at the same time made clear to the Russians that if they crossed the line, the consequences going to be severe. That's the discussion that's happening in Brussels today and will continue for as long as this war continues.

KING: As long as this war continues. Ambassador Daalder, as long as it does, we appreciate your insight, sir, we'll talk again. Thank you.

DAALDER: My pleasure.


KING: Coming up for us, new CNN reporting details, President Biden's midterm year frustrations and his ideas for turning things around.


KING: Some new CNN reporting now and President Biden's midterm election year mindset. The President is described in this reporting is frustrated by his low approval numbers, frustrated with fellow Democrats for failing to pass key agenda items and talking a lot about new midterm strategy that involves more travel and more contrast with Republicans. Here's a piece of the reporting in private conversations, the President has lamented how much people have stopped focusing on how bad a state he believes the country was in under former President Donald Trump.

And so, his old line, don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative, has become a midterm mantra around the West Wing. CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere spoke with a dozen people familiar with the President in his inner circle for this reporting, he joins our conversation. It's always hard for a first term president heading into their first midterm election. I want to read a little bit more of your reporting. And then I want you to take us inside of it.

Biden keeps telling his team that if he can just get out of the White House more he'll be able to convince more people, Americans and lawmakers to support his agenda COVID-19 and then Russia's invasion of Ukraine have been both used as explanations for why he hasn't followed through. Among some aides, the persistent vows to get around have become something of a punch line. What does he see, A, is the biggest problem and is traveled the prime solution?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, he's not breaking through in the way that he wants to. And look, can you go back to that press conference that he did on the anniversary of his inauguration? That was January 20th, right? And he said, then I'm going to get out more I know, I need to get out more. There have been things that have gotten in the way in Ukraine, some of the COVID restrictions. But he has not gotten out all that much more.

In the last two weeks, we've seen him out a little bit more. Even those events, though, are basically speeches. And what he is trying to do is figure out how to convince a country that is really in a sour mood, worst political environment Democratic strategist that they've ever seen to support him. And one of the things that a Biden adviser said to me was, like, you can have voters believe both that the country is not where they hoped it would be, but also that they don't want Marjorie Taylor Greene in charge in 2022 or Donald Trump back in 2024.

KING: One of the things you write about that annoys him or frustrates him, these are your words not mine, is when he looks at the television and sees Democrats who get asked about whether they're going to run in 2024. Here's one of them on Sunday and I'm going to ask you if I don't know why he would be annoyed with this this. This is Elizabeth Warren.



SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): There is so much we can do. And if we do it over the next 200 days, we're going to be in fine shape, I think we're going to be in real trouble if we don't get up and deliver that I believe that Democrats are going to lose.


KING: Now two things. She's saying Democrats collectively have failed. She's not saying it's just Joe Biden. She's saying collectively, and it's hard to argue with it, the Democrats who failed to pass a lot of what they promised to pass. And when she was asked about 2024, she said, you know, I support Joe Biden. Why is he get mad about that?

DOVERE: Well, because the -- that appearance was after she'd written an op-ed in "The New York Times" that talked about the stalled Biden agenda, the failure to do big things. Joe Biden would say, we did a lot of big things. Yes, we didn't get everything we wanted. But let's talk about what we have done. That would be much more helpful to the Democratic cause, instead of saying, we failed. Now we've got to start doing stuff. Remember where the country was, he would say, remember how bad a shape everything was in when he came in? And go back to that and think about where we are now. If you use that measurement, he feels like he should be getting better marks instead of Democrats who are landing on him.

By the way, Democrats who, like Elizabeth Warren might be interested in running for president in 2024 If Joe Biden does not when he was asked about it, when she was asked about it, she said, Joe Biden's running, I'm glad to support him. But of course, she's on T.V. talking about running for president.

KING: Even though she gives the right answer, I guess you're still on T.V. talking about running for president. So one of the challenges for any president like this about him, it's a reference -- the midterm election is a referendum on the president. But let's listen a little bit of the President yesterday, starting to, you write about how he thinks he should draw more sharper contrast with Republicans, this appears to be a down payment.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For our Republican friends are really interested in doing something about dealing with economic growth, and they should help us continue to lower the deficit, which we've done last year with $350 billion, they should be willing to work with us to have a tax code that is actually one that works. And everybody pays their fair share.


KING: He came with his notes ready to do that. But that was not exactly a, you know, stump campaign, get them off their, out of their chair speech.

MASON: No. And he was sitting in the Oval Office. I was on the President's trip to the East Coast last week. And he -- in addition to a couple of formal speeches, he also did a couple fundraisers. And some of the things in this was mentioned in Isaac's reporting, that he talks about in those fundraisers, I think, are also a preview of the argument that he's going to make in the coming weeks and months.

I don't think he feels that they have made it clear enough what accomplishments they have achieved. I think that's one of his frustrations. And he wants to not just see the focus on the two senators, the two Democratic senators who are not helping him. He would like to see more focus on the 50 Republicans who aren't helping him and put sort of more of an onus on them, and not just on Senator Manchin.

ZANONA: And that is what the base actually wants to hear. I mean, they have been very disappointed about a lot of things, no action on climate change, social spending, voting rights, but this is something that is very much in Biden's control. And that's important, because there's an enthusiasm gap. So if Biden takes the gloves off and starts drawing these contrasts with Republicans, it kind of at least fire up the Democratic side.

Now, whether this is, you know, a good strategy for the midterm election, when voters care about things like pocketbook issues, like we'll see, but at least, you know, in terms of enthusiasm and could help there.

KING: That's the hard part. You mentioned, the pocketbook issues, you know, inflation is just fact. It's a fact the President's on the record Republicans will use in his ad of saying it would be transit. And, of course, it is. And here's the President's approval rating. Well, we're having this conversation at the end of April, is it 41 percent approved, 54 percent disapprove, that 41 percent is actually up a little bit, just a tiny bit from a couple of days ago. So we'll see if that trend continues.

But that's the biggest challenge is he wants to make it about the Republicans any policy -- he always want to make it about the other guy in any campaign. It's harder with the incumbent president history just says the first midterm is about you.

MITCHELL: Yes. And I think, you know, he's got to figure out what's going to work with voters because he doesn't want to make it so much about Republicans that is interpreted as deflecting from things that are under his control and are his responsibility. At the same token, he also has to work in this new hyper partisan environment. That is not the Congress. It's not what he's used to where, you know, Republicans are kind of unrelenting in a way that I think can -- took him a little bit by surprise at the beginning.

And so, to me, this is part of his adjustment to the new political realities. But again, he still is president. He's the incumbent and Republicans are going to say, the buck stops with you.

KING: Does he get that quickly in closing the points you just made that Joe Biden thought he was going to be able to work with Republicans. He was on the infrastructure bill, but that was a one off.

DOVERE: He does. The other thing that's going on here is that he still wants to get confirmations through the Senate wants to maybe get a couple of last legislative wins here. And so that's holding him in a little bit too. He wants to land on the Republicans. But if he lands on the Republicans and they're not going to work with him now Joe Manchin might turn away from him and then what if the Republicans are in the majority next year, he'd want to work with them then. They don't want to do a lot of name calling.


KING: To borrow a line for the past administration who knew, it's complicated. This quick programming note for us a big night out in D.C. as the president returns to the White House Correspondents Dinner, that's Saturday night. Here with late night house, Trevor Noah and Joe Biden THINK about the current state of the world. See you live right here on CNN tomorrow night, beginning 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

And Stanley Tucci is back. New episodes, new food and new discoveries, Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy, the new season, I'm very jealous, premieres Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining us today on Inside Politics. We'll see you back here on Monday. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break. Try to have a good weekend.