Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Dems Plan Vote To Codify Abortion Rights Despite Likely Defeat; Manchin Endorses WV Republican Facing Trump-Backed Rival; Book: Trump Wanted To Hit Mexico Drug Labs With Patriot Missiles. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 12:30   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Since it's also Republican races, look at what's happening at the governor's race in Georgia where Perdue who is backed by former President Trump is calling on Brian Kemp, the governor to basically call the state legislature together to put together a law in case this ruling does go into effect as it is written in this leaked document. So it's also up in new Republican races as well.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. And I think that's a key point because we know what we know. Now, we don't know how this is going to play out. Number one, we're not certain it's a final Supreme Court decision, we will find out next month most likely. John Roberts yesterday suggesting that it is that he expects it will come out as it is, the Chief Justice.

But the interesting part is there are 13 states that have trigger laws, that if Roe is wiped out automatically in those states, a ban on abortion goes in. The Guttmacher Institute believes 26 states would ultimately ban abortion. That is the plan now. The question is, does something happen in this campaign that may give a Republican governor or Republican legislature that would like to do this, does it give them pause to maybe dial it back and not have a full ban, to dial it back and have some restrictions? That's what this campaign if this ruling is for real? That's what this campaign is going to decide?

COLLINS: Yes. And it's going to raise major questions, because not all Republican voters are in favor of this or want to see an outright ban in their entire state, some of them sure they're fine with that. But that is going to be a thread for Republicans or a needle for Republicans to throw out as well, because it's going to be a difficult position. For the White House, the position that they're in is trying to figure out how they're going to respond, because they say that they are coming up with options. They want to unveil them until the ruling is actually final. But there is a huge limit on what they can actually do.

And White House officials know this when it comes to maybe releasing some more FDA restrictions on the medication abortions, or potentially trying to use Medicaid or some other form of funding mechanism to pay for women to go out of their state where they live. If abortion is banned, they're to go to another state. That doesn't seem completely legal, and likely. That's something they're still exploring inside the White House. And so it does create a big question for people on both sides of the aisle.

KING: Both the policy and the politics is just fascinating and uncertain as we move ahead. We'll stay on top of it.

Ahead for us, though, two test for Donald Trump next Tuesday and then Georgia votes later in May. Trump says Republicans will stay home in November if his candidate for governor in Georgia loses but our new CNN reporting suggests otherwise.



KING: Donald Trump is in Pennsylvania for a big rally tonight hoping to continue his May primary momentum. His Senate candidate did win this past Tuesday in Ohio. But there are additional tests for Trump the next three Tuesday's in May. Perhaps most personal to the former president is Georgia's primary that's on May 24th. There, Trump is trying to defeat incumbent Brian Kemp because as you all probably remember, the governor would not help Trump reverse Joe Biden's Georgia win back in 2020.

Trump's candidate is the former Senator David Perdue and the former president is now warning many Republicans won't show up in November if Kemp wins CNN as Michael Warren joins our conversation, has some new reporting on that very question. Let's listen here. So you are in Georgia. You're talking to David Perdue. Trump says if Perdue loses his voters won't turn out for Kemp. Perdue says something else.


DAVID PERDUE (R), GEORGIA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I'm going to make damn sure no matter who's running it, Stacey Abrams is not the next Governor of Georgia. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll support Brian Kemp if he wins?

PERDUE: Absolutely. Thanks.


KINGL: So Perdue is being what most would say the good Republican there, meaning if I lose, I will support the Republican nominee. Trump says otherwise. What about voters?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, that's a no brainer really for Perdue because he knows something that's fundamental about Republicans in Georgia and their view of things, whatever they think of Brian Kemp, whatever they think of the 2020 election, they do not want Stacey Abrams to be elected in the fall and become governor.

And so I talked to a number of Republican voters in Georgia last week, most of them Perdue supporters, all of them really enthusiastic about Donald Trump. And a lot of them repeating a lot of the false claims about the 2020 election that you hear from Trump and his acolytes. But when I asked them, will you vote for Kemp if he wins the primary in the general election? They all said yes, some of them enthusiastically and so you don't hear that same sort of personal vindictiveness that you hear from Donald Trump, but it's not just about Stacey Abrams.

If Brian Kemp has done a good job of delivering on this message that I am the conservative governor who's delivered on conservative policy issues he's signed in a abortion ban, a fetal heartbeat abortion ban that will obviously be very important. Depending on what happens with Roe v. Wade, he signed a concealed carry bill. He got the NRA endorsement last week, Brian Kemp did. And he signed in what they're calling the biggest income tax cut in Georgia history.

And John it just to underscore the power that comes from being an incumbent governor in a primary like this. I was with Kemp when he signed that income tax bill. Where did he do it? In David Perdue's hometown of Bonaire in Middle Georgia. And where was the signing event? In a restaurant that David Perdue has said is his favorite spot. I mean, that's a power move. And it really shows the different dynamic, though, in Georgia.

KING: Right. But before the internet that's in-person trolling, you show up there. You were recently in Georgia as well. And you were telling us that you saw a difference, Trump is also for Herschel Walker in the Senate race down there, the former football star. And you had some Perdue events, and some Walker events, and you see an enthusiasm question.

JOSH JAMERSON, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It definitely was enthusiastic. I think, you know, the Perdue campaign would say, you know, they were doing purposely small meet and greets. But there's no doubt that the enthusiasm that was there for Herschel Walker being shown by, being a really small immunity Statesboro Georgia coming out, show him that there really is a groundswell of support.


I will say I think what's interesting too when you talk to Georgians -- Georgia Republicans about Trump at Perdue events, the Trump backhanded aid and at Kemp events, you'll hear some people sort of say that they view Trump as almost more like a senior adviser in the party, someone who they don't necessarily need to follow every step of the way, but he's more of like a directional guide. And so I think the slate of primaries you put up will just show like, how far is the direction will going to go?

KING: Right and so next Tuesday, we get West Virginia and Nebraska. It's a governor's race in Nebraska where Trump has endorsed a candidate who has been credibly accused by several women of groping them. We'll see how that one plays out. In West Virginia, you have two Republican incumbent Congressman says he ran against each other because the lines have been redrawn. Trump is for one, Senator Joe Manchin is for the other. Listen.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Alex Mooney has proven he's all about Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know David McKinley is all about us.

REP. DAVID MCKINLEY (R-WV): I'm David McKinley, and I approve this message.


KING: There is a risk. Trump's the former president very popular with the base. Joe Manchin is a Democratic senator. All politics is local. It's a cliche, but it's also true. Is Trump may be overreaching in some of these places he might not understand as well?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: I think that's what Joe Manchin is betting on. That's why he wouldn't cut an ad for a Republican which most Democrats nowadays wouldn't do. Manchin is obviously cut from a different cloth and a lot of Democrats. But I think what I read into his ad more than anything was this is a preview of Manchin's 2024 messaging and what he thinks the Presidential 2024 messaging should be, and this is a way that we can counteract Trump if he is the nominee in two years.

KING: So let's put the call calendar back up, excuse me, West Virginia next week, Nebraska next week, North Carolina has a Senate race, Trump's in Pennsylvania tonight for Dr. Oz as his candidate there running against the former hedge fund manager or David McCormick, who has a lot of Trump allies on his team as well. Again, Trump had a very good night in Ohio when J.D. Vance won the primary there and some down ballot, Trump candidates won as well. The question is, can he continue the streak? Or is he going to get some bruises?

COLLINS: That will be the big question because I do think to a degree you see in certain states, like in Alabama previously, Trump can pick a candidate and his supporters in the state don't always follow him. It's not a rejection of Trump. It's just that it's their state and they think they know better, who should run it. They have a history with a lot of these people. This one will be very interesting to see what Trump says at this rally tonight.

Obviously, he has endorsed Mehmet Oz in this race against the wishes of some of his former advisors who are working for David McCormack, of course, McCormick's spouse used to work for Trump in the White House. And so that's a big question here tonight. Also, what is Trump's say about abortion, because he has been so quiet on this, which obviously is uncharacteristic for him.

Three of the justices on the Supreme Court who are playing a role in this ruling and what it's eventually going to be, are his picks. He hasn't really said much about it. And of course, this comes as McCormack is framing Oz as this pro-choice candidate, not fully pro- life. And so that will be really fascinating to see how he navigates --

KING: Especially again, given the state we talked about this earlier, we're going to learn state by state in some places within states, there's debates on this issue, you could argue in Pennsylvania, turn out the pro-life evangelical conservative rural Trump base, that's how you win or you could argue, and Joe Biden would say this is the better strategy because he won Pennsylvania last time. What about those suburbs if you get the moderate pro-abortion rights, quasi Republicans, soft Republicans to vote for the Democrats. So this is a test.

JAMERSON: Yes, Republicans are worried because they thought the suburbs that left us in 2018, they're back. Now it's OK if you're in the suburbs to vote Republican. Now that's complicates things. One note about tonight's rally, you know who else is going to be there, it's J.D. Vance from neighboring Ohio, who just won his primer and Alex Mooney who we just spoke about. So there is this sort of this Trump's slate that they're all kind of coming together and Trump is supporting, it just be interesting to watch.

KING: Which elevates the stakes.

JAMERSON: That's right.

KING: You understand that you stand together at his side, you elevate the stakes as we go through that's why every Tuesday night we hope you with us as we go through this month.


Ahead for us, speaking the former president, his former defense secretary has a brand new book out detailing his time the administration and his account is simply stunning.


KING: Shooting protesters in the street, committing war crimes, deploying the military around Election Day. Those just a few of the ideas said to have been discussed at the uppermost levels of the Trump administration that according to a new Trump era tell all. The former Trump Defense Secretary Mark Esper's book a sacred oath is due out Tuesday. Among the anecdotes in it first reported today in "The New York Times," Esper recounts how the then President floated a first strike against a neighbor and an ally.

Mr. Trump asked Mr. Esper at least twice, if the military could quote shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs. Mr. Trump said that quote, we could just shoot some Patriot missiles and take out the labs, adding no one would know it was us. Kaitlan Collins, Josh Jamerson, Heather Caygle, back with me. Let me just a quick fact thing. Patriot missiles are a surface to air missile. They're used to shoot things out of the sky. It's not an offensive weapon. But I digress.

COLLINS: And also, I think they would know it was the United States if that happened.

KING: You think?

COLLINS: I think it's pretty safe to say. I'm not sure if Esper states that clearly in his book, I think the context of this book is probably unsurprising. It's some of the things where you're stunned by it, but you're not totally surprised by it. One passage that will struck me though the fact that Esper who of course for viewers who don't remember, Trump fired him after the election in a very unprecedented move to fire someone including the Pentagon chief just days after you lost the election, he writes that there was a meeting at the White House or I believe is at the White House where it was the -- with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and it was on China and Trump was acting erratic Esper writes about coronavirus, and China's role in that.


And apparently one of the officers told Esper after he was so concerned about Trump's behavior that he went home and research the 25th Amendment. Now Esper says that he doesn't think anything in this book warranted removing Trump from office using the 25th Amendment. But the fact that an officer confided in the Pentagon chief this and that he wrote it in his book, and it's just now coming out, is really striking to me and kind of unbelievable.

KING: Right. And remember, the process, Esper was the book was in review, he has to submit it because potentially classified material, the Pentagon initially resisted. There was a lawsuit involved -- even filed last May, so some of the delay was tied up in the Pentagon process.

COLLINS: They could have said it in an interview --

KING: Exactly. I think people -- yes, I think people will say, I think people say why are you sitting on this just for, you know, monetizing it. I think that will be a question. On the book tour, if you will, here's another one here are there were George Floyd protests all across the United States? We all saw this after the Minnesota police killed George Floyd, Minneapolis Police. "New York Times" reporting from the book here, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Esper about the demonstrators quote, can't you just shoot them?

JAMERSON: Yes. No, it's really giving a good insight into some of the things that we see publicly when he was in office, how he would use Twitter to go after his perceived enemies, how he would use his rallies to target now his endorsement targets precede enemies. And so these books really give us a worldview of like, what was he doing behind the scenes to try to target people?

KING: And the Esper gets into, you covered the Trump White House, let me call it the unorthodox nature of the President and his senior advisors. He talks not just about the president and what he believes is erratic and irresponsible behavior. He also talks about Stephen Miller, who's one of the President's top policy advisors. He recounts that Mr. Miller proposed sending 250,000 troops to the southern border, claiming that a large caravan of migrants was en route. Mr. Miller proposed securing Mr. Al Baghdadi's head, remember the ISIS leader who was killed, Mr. Al Baghdadi is head dipping it in pig's blood and parading it around to warn other terrorists, Mr. Esper writes. That would be a war crime, Mr. Esper shot back.

It's again, I guess it's some of it's, it's both surprising and not surprising. I can't find the words for this. But it's just the --

CAYGLE: Yes, I mean, these are waiting claims, right, that he's making this book this is, but this is a pattern of Trump officials who leave the administration and then look around and they're like, oh, my image is not that great. I need to either write a book or give interviews where I reveal these stunning things that were going on behind the scenes that I did not feel compelled to share at the time, like Bill Barr, we just saw his media tour a few months ago. And so the question is, where did these people land in the Republican Party after this? I mean, you know, and --

KING: Or incorporate America afterwards too, somewhere out there. They want to get jobs out there. It's a key point that we should look at the facts and these books about the former president, we should also remember this part of this is rehabilitation, reputation. He gets to that here, and you had to cover these issues all the time. But should he have resigned when the President was saying these things, should have just said I can't do this, and resign?

He writes that he could have resigned and weighed the idea several times. But then he believed the President was surrounded by so many yes-men and people whispering dangerous ideas to him that a loyalist would have been put in Mr. Esper's place. The real act of service he decided was staying in his post to ensure that such things did not come to pass. He wants to strike up the band moment there. Does he deserve one?

COLLINS: Well, that's what you hear from almost every official who has this moment where they find God when they find religion, when they leave the White House and have this Reckoning and say, OK, well, now I'm actually going to tell you guys everything that happened. And a lot of these officials were officials who, when they were in these positions, and we would do reporting, and it would be stories like this where it wasn't attributed to someone's account, it was attributed to sources who didn't want to go on the record, they would come out and deny them publicly and say that reporters were out to get Trump and wanted to make him look bad.

And then after they leave their jobs after he, you know, he did not resign. He was fired then later by Trump, who often referred them even publicly as yesper saying that he was a yes-man, then they come out and make these claims. And I think the one about shooting George Floyd protesters saying that that was Trump raising that as a possibility and waiting until this book came out, to then reveal that is one of those moments where you ask why couldn't you've just said this at the time? Why didn't you resign over that? Why didn't you say once he fired you?

KING: Critical questions, critical questions as we get the book next week, and obviously we'll see a book tour as well. I liked that question.


Ahead for us, the First Lady Jill Biden heads overseas. Her plans now spend Mother's Day meeting with Ukrainian refugees. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Topping our political radar today, a warning from the White House's top Coronavirus official, Dr. Ashish Jha says the consequences of congressional inaction on another round of COVID-19 funding would be his word, catastrophic.


DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I mean, my goodness, we're not going to have vaccines for the American people. We're going to run out of treatments for the American people. We're not going to have diagnostic testing. It's a pretty bad situation.


KING: The First Lady Jill Biden in Romania today and she will also travel to Slovakia to show support for displaced Ukrainian families. She read to children at a military base this afternoon and also greeted U.S. and NATO service members. The First Lady Mrs. Biden, Dr. Biden also plans to spend some time with educators who are teaching Ukrainian refugee children. That's a great trip.


Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for joining us today. We'll see you here on Monday. Hope you have a peaceful weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.