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Tape: McCarthy Slams Trump, Calls 25th Amendment Process "Too Long"; CNN: Rep. Gosar Has Spent More On Travel Than Any Other Member Of The House Over The Past 5 Years; Putin May Intensify Russian Campaign In Ukraine. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 05, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: I'm not sure if Trump is going to like that part either.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No, I mean, you know, in private, we have heard time and time again, McCarthy on these tapes say this was atrocious, this was wrong. And very briefly, as you noted, John, right after January 6th, he did go on the floor and say that Trump bore responsibility for this. But within days, you know, I think it was less than a month, Leader McCarthy then went to Mar-a- Lago. He then helped Trump fix him. So he has -- they have never, as Carrie said, publicly tried to pressure him at that point to resign. Even in that audio, he is saying that he did not support impeachment at that moment, despite the fact that he wanted a peaceful transition of power with Biden.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And it's not even just the backtracking from McCarthy and other Republican leaders. But it's also the lack of effort that they put into silencing these claims of election fraud. Both before January 6th, during the weeks after the election, when people like Kevin McCarthy wouldn't acknowledge that President Biden was the duly elected president of the -- president- elect of the United States at the time, but also what they did afterwards. You know, within a couple of weeks of that audio, Kevin McCarthy went down to Mar-a-Lago and kiss the ring, right?

And President then -- former President Trump quickly published that photo. And McCarthy since then has refused to censor members who have made outrageous claims against Democrats who have talked about election fraud. And all of that has continued to bubble up, not in spite of Kevin McCarthy's efforts, but because of his lack of efforts, because of his lack of leadership in that realm, despite what he's saying probably.

KING: These conversations, recorded conversations help us fill in some of the historic -- history of those important days. So does many of these court cases, Carrie, making their way through the system. Tell me what you think is the significance of this. This is from a court filing, leader of the North Carolina chapter of the Oathkeepers who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. serious charge in its own right, says he overheard, Rhodes, Steward Rhodes is the leader of the Oathkeepers, repeatedly implore to the individual, this is monitoring a phone call, tell President Trump to call upon groups like the Oathkeepers to forcibly oppose the transfer of power. The individual denied Rhodes's request to speak directly with the President.

But this person is testifying under oath, putting this, that he heard the Oathkeepers leader trying to get to the President, he wanted the President to encourage violence essentially. The challenge here, is that serious? Who was involved? Was this a spur of the moment thing? Or was there planning? What do you see is the significance?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I think the significance is, first of all, I'm very curious who the intermediary was in that circumstance. But this is somebody who was the head of the Oathkeepers, which is a anti-U.S. government militia group that recruits from former military, former law enforcement and is against the United States government. And that individual, that leader of that group, a domestic terrorist group, thought that he had a direct line to the President.

That in itself, whether he got through or not, is significant, that somebody in that position in any other administration of either party would be viewed through the lens of being a domestic terrorist organization instead, I thought that he was just one phone call away from the President. And I mean, I think that is the really grave effect of that particular angle.

DIAMOND: And it's not hard to fathom that it was somebody who could have actually put them on the phone with Trump, because we have seen how so many of these far right extremist groups have gotten in such close proximity to the either president, former President Trump or to those close to him in power.

KING: And we now know, again, we have reporting, shedding light on this history, we have these court cases. And then there's January 6th Committee, which had an interview this week with Donald Trump Jr. We can show you now several members of the President's family, as we call them, some of them extended family, but have now testified. One of the things you'd ask Donald Trump Jr. about is this. This is from just after the election to the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, it's very simple. We have multiple paths. We control them all, meaning we have ways to overturn the election.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. I mean, whether it's those texts, whether it's other testimony that we've seen in other text messages that CNN has reported on extensively, they show time and time again, that those closest to the president, whether it's his family members, who some of them also worked for the White House, whether it's Mark Meadows, whether it's Ginni Thomas, the wife of a Supreme Court justice, all trying to convince the White House that they had the power to overturn this election and to overturn Biden's legitimate win and to exert that power at all costs.

KING: We'll wait to see the public hearings coming up next month from the committee. We'll see where we go from there.


Up next for us, some brand new CNN reporting, Congressman Paul Gosar calls himself a champion of cutting wasteful spending, but he has spent more of your money, tax dollars, on travel than any other member of Congress these past five years.


KING: $1 million, $1 million, that's the amount of taxpayer dollars Congressman Paul Gosar, a self-described fiscal conservative has spent on travel in the last five years. That number is more than any other member of the House in that same timeframe. Let's go up to Capitol Hill. CNN's Manu Raju breaking this news for us. Manu, tell us more.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Paul Gosar is a member of the minority. He's someone who is a rank and file member, yet he has spent more money on taxpayer dollars over the last five years than any member of the 435 member House. Now this is part of analysis by the nonpartisan watchdog, The Moonlight Foundation. And at CNN, we went through these numbers. We confirm these as well.


He has spent $1 million over the last five years. And look at that compared to some members who have similar size districts, even from his own state of Arizona Congressman David Schweikert, for instance, just even over the last two years has spent about $134,000 in taxpayer money at that time. Gosar almost five times that amount, traveling back to Arizona and compare that also to the two delegates Representative Guam over the last five years, who to travel about 8,000 miles back to their home district when they leave Washington.

Gosar still has outspent even them. That over the last two years, and also over the last five years, raising questions about what his expenses are and raising alarm among taxpayer advocates who are calling for better disclosure.

KING: Well, we can show you his website, like many Republicans conservative, so he says that one of his missions is cutting wasteful government spending, Manu. That's what he says publicly in the website. Why is this significant? When you see a number that just jumps off the charts, especially compared to his Arizona colleague there?

RAJU: Well, there are very strict rules in the House about what you can actually spend taxpayer money on, particularly when it comes to travel. It cannot be connected to political reasons. It cannot be connected to campaign reasons. And we have found through a reporting that at the time while he was expensing money to the taxpayers, he also was appearing at some political events, including CPAC, which is an annual gathering of conservative activists. He was in Orlando last year he spoke at a -- is another event in which there was some white nationalist rhetoric at that separate event. He went to that.

At the same time there was these expenses that were disclosed to the taxpayer. There are also some mysterious expenses that have no explanation whatsoever like $11,000 in lodging expenses, and over a three day weekend, and sometime last year. Now, this is what The Moonlight Foundation said about all of this. It said far too often congressional travel budgets are treated like personal slush funds by lawmakers. This is from Karen Goll, who's the executive director of that group.

She said while some travel expenses are necessary to serve constituents, ballooning travel budgets show the need for better disclosures. For instance, details of where, when, and what purpose lawmakers use taxpayer money to travel outside of their districts are to be disclosed.

KING: And certainly I know, one of the things that foundation points out is we could use more transparent laws. The rules could be more transparent so that we could see more of the specifics. But you put the question to Gosar explained this. What was their response?

RAJU: Yes, he detailed all of the questionable expenses. They didn't get into the all of the expenses but they did say that -- contended that none of these funds were misused. They said this is all connected to official travel. They went on to say unlike out-of-touch politicians Congressman Gosar travels back to his district in Arizona every week, then hits the road, to work tirelessly on behalf of his constituents of the Fourth Congressional District, a district roughly 160 times larger than the size of Guam.

And John, they say he was chairman of the House's Western caucus for four of those years. They say that it requires extensive travel. But John that group has not really disclosed many of its events, only a handful of outside of Washington raising questions about what this money was for.

KING: Again, I'd be nice if the Congress required full disclosure, more disclosure by all its members. Manu Raju, grateful for the reporting here about Congressman Gosar.

A quick look before we go at the Dow, it is a rough day on Wall Street. The market down you see there more than 1,100 points. That's more than 3 percent. The slide driven by day after analysis of what the Fed did yesterday on inflation and worries consumers nervous about inflation are starting to pull back on their spending.


Coming up for us, Monday, marks a critical day for Vladimir Putin. Just what is the Russia leader planning ahead of Victory Day?


KING: There is anticipation intrigue, even fear over an important day on the calendar that comes next week. May 9th is Russia's Victory Day. Western analysts worry Vladimir Putin may use the backdrop of military parades in Moscow to announce a stepped up operation in Ukraine. The Kremlin dismisses any such notion as nonsense. With us to share her insights, Susan Glasser, staff writer for "The New Yorker," Susan, good to see you today. We don't really know. And there's been such speculation about this because Putin views himself as a historical giant, because that day is so important in Russian history, that would he declare a victory, would he declare war. The speculation has literally ranged from A to Z?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, that's exactly right, John, you know, you can't overstate the importance of May 9th in the Russian political calendar as it's evolved. Victory in World War II has become the closest thing that post-Soviet Russia has to a national identity Putin has elevated in some ways made a cult out of the Russian victory in World War II. He even uses this language to justify his invasion of Ukraine talking about denazifying the nation next door as a goal of what he's still calling a special military operation.

So that's one of the reasons for this speculation right now, as a special military operation. It has not obviously succeeded in Putin's aims of toppling the Ukrainian government and, you know, taking control of the territory. So the question becomes, do you need to escalate to a more full scale mobilization of the Russian military and Russian society, a full scale war, in order to justify that and to continue going?


KING: Here's how Tom Nichols put it in the Atlantic this week, Putin might call for a final push to overwhelm the Ukrainians by throwing men and machines into a meat grinder. This war was a deluded scheme hatched in Putin's COVID-isolated bubble. And even now, Putin seems truly unable to understand the disaster he's unleashed on Ukraine and the damage he's done to Russia, advised by a tight circle of hawks, some of whom fear getting tagged with blame if things continue to deteriorate, he might see doubling down as a realistic option.

The smart people, yourself included who have looked at this, none of the things you see in these articles and in these conversations is that Putin will decide to say, nevermind, I'm done. That's one thing that never comes up. It's escalation or some rewording of how he describes it, but never, I want out.

GLASSER: Yes, I think that, you know, the fantasy of the off ramp for Vladimir Putin has one that has persisted in many Western capitals over the 20 years of his role. I think this terrible bloody invasion of Ukraine perhaps has finally signaled the end of that illusion, if nothing else. But look, Vladimir Putin does have an enormous problem, which is that he has not achieved his war objectives. And so that's why you consistently see questions about whether he will escalate right now and how he might reformulate his war aims in order, ultimately to declare victory.

But it's notable that after his battle for Kyiv, the Capitol failed, and he regrouped. Even the battle for the Donbass, the eastern region of Ukraine, appears to have stalled and to have bogged down, it's certainly unlikely that Putin would be able to achieve some sweeping battlefield change in circumstances over the next week in a way that would change what you can do and say on May 9th itself.

KING: If Putin were to look outside his propaganda bubble today and stop talking just to the man in the mirror, he would see a "New York Times" story that says one of the benefits Ukraine has had from the U.S. intelligence sharing during this war has been as the time says, they've used that intelligence to target key Russian generals. The National Security Council pushing back on that a little bit saying, yes, the United States is sharing battlefield real time battlefield intelligence with the Ukrainians but not with that specific intent.

One way or the other, how would stories about how the United States is rushing real time minute to minute intelligence, battlefield intelligence to the Ukrainians sit with the Russian president?

GLASSER: Look, the bottom line is that Vladimir Putin himself a former lieutenant colonel in the Soviet era, KGB has a very conspiratorial mindset already. He already views the West, the United States and NATO as essentially being full partners and participants in the war on Russia, that Ukraine is waging to fight back against the Russian invasion.

So for conspiracy minded leader of Russia, I don't think, you know, the distinctions that the NSC is making of wording matter very much to him. He already blames the United States for giving intelligence and military assistance in the billions and billions of dollars to Ukraine as a participant in the fight. So that doesn't change how Putin views things. He also doesn't care very much I have to say about the enormous casualties that he's wreaking both on Ukrainian society and innocence in Ukraine, but also on Russian soldiers.

He does see himself as a world historical figure, somebody who destiny is to restore the Russian empire of the past and Russian glory as he sees it. And so I think that, you know, he really he's a product of Stalin-era Leningrad, and that is very important in realizing that he has just a completely different view of the costs of war that he's willing to take on at this moment in time.

KING: Critical perspective, Susan Glasser as always, thank you.

GLASSER: Thank you.

KING: A lesson today for a Russian oligarch may be skipped the extra week in Fiji. Officials there today seizing a $300 million yacht, the Amadea. It belongs to Suleyman Kerimov. The seizure came at the request of the Biden Justice Department. Kerimov is on the U.S. sanctions list and that seizure officials say is part of the American broader -- the broader American crackdown on Putin's cronies, U.S. officials allege he docked that yacht in Fiji back on April 12th.


Up next, a COVID pandemic legacy, a new statistic the staggering number of deaths related to the virus.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today staggering new numbers from the World Health Organization. It now says about 14.9 million people around the world died as a direct or indirect result of COVID-19 that between January 2020 and December 2021. That is nearly three times the number of officially reported COVID deaths, 57 percent of deaths were men, 82 percent were people over the age of 60.

The Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the latest official in President Biden's cabinet to test positive for COVID. Secretary Blinken was at the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday night. He's among a number of attendees at that dinner who have since tested positive. State Department says Secretary Blinken fully vaccinated and boosted and experiencing only mild symptoms.

Crippling droughts across the south and southwest are sadly getting worse. In New Mexico, more torched land so far this year than in 2020 and 2021 combined. Texas officials say nearly a quarter of that state is now in the most severe category of drought sparking fears the heat wave may strain the state's power grid, plus, California's largest reservoirs quote, critically low.


Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for your time today. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.