Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Oz, McCormick Campaigns Closely Watching Vote Count, Preparing For Potential Automatic Recount; Trump Urges Oz To Declare Victory As PA Counts Votes; GOP Sens Uneasy Trump-Backed PA Gov Nominee's Election Lies; New Tests Of Trump Endorsement Next Week In Georgia; Turkey: We Will Say No To Finland, Sweden Joining NATO; Biden: NATO Should Let Sweden, Finland Into Security Alliance; Biden Leaves For Critical Asia Trip; Slowdown Fears Spark Wall Street Sell-Off. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 19, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Today a pair of big foreign policy tests for President Biden. Right now, he's enroute to Asia to ashore Japan and South Korea, Russia's war in Ukraine will not distract him from the China challenge. And he welcomed the leaders of Sweden and Finland to the White House earlier today to applaud their request to join the NATO alliance.


JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: They have the full, total complete backing of the United States of America. So let me be clear, new members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation. It never has been.


KING: Plus, they are still counting votes in Pennsylvania. We may not have a Republican Senate primary winner until next week. And when we do, it might still trigger a recount. Plus, the president responding to the baby formula shots shortage with dramatic action. Military planes will now deploy to bring in shipments from overseas, and the government forcing factories to speed up production. This has mothers near a breaking point.


COLLEEN HAFENCHER, MOTHER SEARCHING FOR FORMULA: When I get to work in the morning, I look for formula when we're finally sitting on the couch for an hour at night. We're looking for formula.

HEATHER NICHOLAS, MOTHER OF 5-MONTH-OLD: Your mind doesn't stop thinking about it, especially at night. I hate to say. I've lost a lot of sleep.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: First for us though, Pennsylvania is slow, but critical election map. The commonwealth Senate race could determine which party controls that chamber next year, and we still are not certain who will win the Republican nomination. This is the race right here. Dr. Mehmet Oz, you know him from television. He's Donald Trump's preferred candidate. He's 1240 votes ahead. Dave McCormick is the second-place challenger.

Right now, a candidate who says he believes as this count continues, he will catch up. Let's just take a look at the state of play. I watch this, I slide this over a little bit. This is all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. I'm just going to use this again a slide. This is just a little bit over to show counties that are around - you get this over a little finicky this morning.

Moving over here, let me do it this way. Instead, we'll show you the counties that is still have outstanding vote as we go through it and come through here. The counties with the most outstanding vote. We have Bradford County, we have Lancaster County, we have Allegheny County. These are places where Dave McCormick thinks he can make up the count, but you're at 1200 votes now, still mail-in ballots to be counted. Still some Election Day ballots cast to be counted.

And then, if it comes to it, possibly military and provisional ballots to be counted next Tuesday. CNN on the ground, tracking this count. Kristen Holmes live for us in Pittsburgh. We'll begin with CNN's Athena Jones, who is right there where they're counting some of these votes in Lancaster. Athena, what are you seeing this morning? And will they finish today?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. They absolutely will finish today. We've been talking for a while since Tuesday about the 22,000 misprinted ballots that they discovered on the morning of Election Day that they had to be remarked, so that they could be scanned well. They've been working very hard at it. You can see the room behind me. They're not that many groups, little pockets of groups of three who are marking the remaining ballots where they're now under a thousand of those original misprinted ballots.

After they're finished with that thousand, they will then go to open the 850 or so mail-in ballots that arrive by the deadline on Election Day. They're doing that just to try to stay organized, either way with about 1800 ballots to go. They expect to be finished very, very soon, perhaps even within the next hour or so. Of course, this is one county.

We know that McCormick's team has been looking at absentee ballots. He's done well with these mail-in ballots, and in this county, Kathy Barnette, who is now out of the running. She is at this point winning in Lancaster County, but McCormick has surpassed Oz by a few hundred votes, so a little over - a little under 400. So, we'll see what happens here and we should be able to get the results, at least in this county in the next couple of hours. John?

KING: Athena Jones, for us in Lancaster County. I just want to come back, able to fix a little technical glitch. Just to show you, there is 98 percent of the vote count statewide. But these are the counties on the map right now, where they are at 96 percent or less, meaning they still have votes to make up. We just showed Athena here in Lancaster County, they are out if you look over on the far left of the screen, about 95 percent of their vote counted as they go through the day.

You'll see these other counties as well. Still counting votes today. Allegheny County is here is the second largest county in the state, it's Pittsburgh. They were as of this morning or at least moments ago at about 95 percent of their estimate here. CNN's Kristen Holmes is right there. She's in Pittsburgh, which is the heart of Allegheny County, watching the count and keeping track of the candidates. Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. While we haven't seen the candidates since election night, their campaigns are working overtime. We've talked to advisors from both the Oz and McCormick campaign. We've spent the last two days, calling every single county.

They are trying to figure out what exactly is left in terms of votes and when it is going to be counted. And we did hear from Dave McCormick earlier today when he called into a radio show, he acknowledged that he was still behind in votes but was optimistic. Take a listen.



DAVID MCCORMICK, (R) PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE (voiceover): We're down about 1,200 votes and came in yesterday down 2,700 votes, and so it's moving in the right direction and we're pretty confident we're going to end with me in the win column.


HOLMES: OK. So, let's talk about where that confidence comes from. And both you and Athena kind of touched on this. One, is those absentee ballots. They believe that a majority of the votes that are outstanding are absentee ballots. And if you follow the trend again, this is just a trend. McCormick has outpaced Oz when it comes to absentee ballots. So that's one thing they're looking at.

The other is that mail-in voting here in Allegheny County that you talked about. We know, we reported this yesterday that there were issues in Allegheny County with about 31 precincts, involving memory cards. That was the day of votes.

If you look at the day of votes that were actually counted, many of them McCormick outpacing us. They are hoping that when these precincts are, in fact counted, that McCormick will continue that trend. But again, John, these are just trends. And as we have seen, anything can happen. This is an incredibly close race.

KING: Incredibly close race. The count continuously, the important count continuous. Kristen Holmes, thank you. Athena, as well. With me in studio, here to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Abby Phillip, Rachael Bade at POLITICO, and CNN's Eva McKend. I mentioned, I say a critical count. And this happens. This happens. It's unfortunate when it happens. But you have memory card failures, you have misprinted ballots that have to be counted or double check by hand.

We go through this all the time. One of the unusual things or newer things, though, is just like he did, in his own races. Donald Trump is now saying, Oz should declare victory. No, he should not. He should let the count continue and let democracy work.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN ANCHOR POLITICS SUNDAY: Yes, absolutely. And so far, at least, it seems that both campaigns are basically ignoring Trump doing what he typically does, which is throwing chum in the water. But it just highlights how fragile this whole thing is. I mean, remember, this is a Republican base that has been a hyped up on alive for, you know, over a year now, and many of the Oz supporters and even some.

I imagine some of the McCormick's supporters out there, believe those lies and are inclined to doubt the fact that that what we're talking about here, by and large is a universe of votes that encompasses a lot of mail-in votes for which Republicans generally distrust that kind of voting, for absolutely no good reason, but they do. And so, it's really a tinderbox of their own making. But I think cooler heads looked like they might prevail here.

KING: You mentioned cooler heads looked like they might prevail here. What is fascinating, though, is Mr. Mastriano, who is the Republican nominee for governor. He is one of Donald Trump's allies in denying the election. He came here from the stop to steal rally. He repeatedly tried to reverse the results in Pennsylvania, and even though the votes were recounted. Everyone exhausted their core challenges. Joe Biden won the state.

A lot of Republicans were quick to repudiate or seek distance for Mr. Mastriano. This is Senator John Thune. He says voters discerning people are able to differentiate the candidate for governor from the candidate for Senate.

Lindsey Graham, I don't think 2020 is what people are going to want to think about. Senator Thom Tillis, Republican in North Carolina. And some of these particular trickily battleground states, that may not be a winning message, meaning lying about the election. That's what they said about Mr. Mastriano. Donald Trump then said yesterday, I should declare victory. Can you help me find on the desk here, the stack of Republican statements condemning Donald Trump, they are not?

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: Well, they're all still afraid of him, obviously. I mean, look, I think Republicans are looking at not just 2022 in Pennsylvania, but also 2024. And so, you know, this is a guy who they're concerned, you know, if he goes out there and keeps talking about 2022, he might not just hurt his own race. But this could be a problem, you know, for whoever is a Republican candidate in 2024.

I think one of the really interesting things that I was reading about, you know, as this primary was happening with Mastriano, was how Democrats were also boosting him. I mean, they actually wanted him as their candidate, because they thought he was so bad. And he is the most likely to be defeated in the gubernatorial race.

And so, you know, they sent out mailers. They boosted him on television, and they got the candidate they won. The question is, you know, is he going to be as bad as Republicans think he is going to be? Or is that a sphere right now so good for Republicans, that this guy could actually be the next governor, and naming the person whoever sees elections in 2024.

KING: Go ahead.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: It's a risky calculation, because Republican voters have showed that they have strayed from who they traditionally support, right. Democrats have not. Democrats by and large are putting up, I think, similar candidates, but Republicans are no longer the Republican Party that they were 5, 10, 15 years ago. So, I see a candidate like Mastriano actually, having a shot in a general election in this, in this climate.

KING: Well, Trump won it narrowly in 2016, lost it narrowly in 2020 to submit premier turnout should be a little different. But you're right, it's possible and we will see, which makes the idea that the big lie still lives in Republican politics. Nobody lives but thrives in Republican politics, even for the candidates Trump does not endorse, makes it fascinating.

A, as we wait to see who the winner is in the Pennsylvania Senate race. But next Tuesday, we get to the primary that has to be the most personal for Donald Trump. He is trying to defeat the incumbent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp with David Perdue, the former Republican Senator. He is trying to beat the incumbent Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with Congressman Mr. Hice there.


The issue here for Donald Trump in both of these races is that Brad Raffensperger and Governor Kemp refused to help him cheat. And so, the big lie lives again in those races may, will they. Let me ask it that way. Will they settle if Raffensperger can hold on, if Kemp can win renomination? Will they convince Republicans stop it?

PHILLIP: I mean, I wouldn't rule anything out in terms of people's willingness to believe total conspiracies made up out of whole cloth. But if Kemp in fact beats Perdue, by double digits, as some of the polling suggests that he could, that's going to be a really steep hill to climb.

I think that's one of the reasons why you're seeing so many establishment Republicans, including Trump's own Vice President Pence going down to Georgia. There is an effort underway here to make a potential defeat, especially at the gubernatorial level is so significant, that it cannot be undermined, even by Trump's lies.

I think it's worth probably that effort, because the lie is very pervasive. And it's particularly pervasive in the state of Georgia, which was key to Trump losing the entire 2020 election. And that's one of the reasons he's so bitter about that race and the secretary of state race as well.

KING: And so, you have the two leaders, Brad Raffensperger and the governor, the secretary of state, the governor did the right thing. They did the right thing. Despite how they voted. They supported Trump. They did the right thing. In the end, we'll see what the Republican voters think on Tuesday as we continue, this one ahead for us. Any minute now, President Biden will leave for his first big international trip as president, first trip to Asia.




KING: Right now, President Biden on Air Force One in route to Asia. The trip marks, what in Washington they call a pivot, a pivot to the region and that pivot delayed and complicated by an all-out war in Ukraine. That war still very much hot and still very much a big Biden focus. The president giving a White House audience today for Sweden and for Finland. Those Nordic nations now want to join the NATO alliance. President Biden this morning from the Rose Garden, telling the world he wants that too.


BIDEN: They meet every NATO requirement. And then some. They have the full, total complete backing of the United States of America. The bottom line is simple. quite straightforward, Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Arlette Saenz. She's lived at the White House for us. Arlette, tell us more.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Biden to offer that full throated endorsement of Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Here at the White House, the president and the two leaders meeting for a little bit over an hour before making those public remarks, where the president insisted that Sweden and Finland joining NATO would simply make the alliance stronger.

But there has been a wrench thrown into these proceedings. As Turkey has said that they at this moment oppose Sweden and Finland joining NATO. In order for the accession process to proceed, all 30 members at NATO would have to agree to these two countries joining. And so far, President Erdogan of Turkey has insisted that they are a firm no on this issue.

Now, in those remarks, you heard directly from both the Swedish leader and the Finnish leader, saying that they are open to discussing a Turkey's concerns. President Niinisto really was very firm in saying that they want to discuss all of Turkey's concerns, concerns regarding their joining NATO.

But President Biden before he departed on this foreign trip, wanted to make clear that the U.S. is fully behind and supportive of Sweden and Finland joining NATO, they have both been longtime neutral countries that have really gone to this conclusion, made this application due to that Russian aggression in Ukraine and the president offering that U.S. support here at the White House for those two leaders.

KING: Arlette Saenz, grateful for the live report straight from the White House. Let's continue our conversation now with Susan Glasser. She's a staff writer for The New Yorker. And of course, the CNN global affairs analyst. Susan is interesting, the president asking the President of Sweden, the President of Finland, the Prime Minister of Sweden, to come to the White House, just before he takes this important trip to Asia, because he wanted the world to see.

He wanted Putin to see, and he also wanted President Erdogan to see that the United States is fully behind this expansion of NATO. Let's address the Turkey's issue. Erdogan says, no, that he will vote no. Obviously, he would have to vote yes, for this to go forward. What is he looking for?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know, and that's a good question. I do think it is an indication really a bargaining to come as opposed to a flat declarative statement of no. And, you know, if you talk to, you know, experts, that's certainly their view of what Erdogan is after. There are things like, you know, speeding through F- 16 arm sales on Capitol Hill, perhaps winning some points with Vladimir Putin is on the agenda as well.

But you know, he certainly is of the mind never to let an opportunity like this go to waste and not get something for it. And I think you may see other countries, by the way, also understanding that this is a moment when, you know, bargaining may be conducted advantageously with Washington, newly focused on Putin and the Russia threat.

KING: And what does it mean. I want to bring what the president said into the conversation in the sense that Sweden and Finland have for years said thank you. We have trade relations. We're in the European Union. We're friendly with NATO, but we don't want to join. We value our independence. February 24, Putin invades Ukraine. Now they say, we want to join the club, the defensive alliance, if you will. Here's how the president put it.



BIDEN: Today, there is no question, NATO is relevant. It is effective and there's more needed now than ever. The indispensable alliance of decades past is still the indispensable alliance for the world we face today. So, let me be clear, new members joining NATO is not a threat to any nation. It never has been.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Is it fair to say that this is proof that Ukraine is simply backfiring on Putin? He wanted to fracture the alliance. He wants it weaker. It's hard to argue with the president that it is more relevant now than in a long time, and it's about to get bigger.

GLASSER: That's right, John. This is a Putin screw up of world historical proportions. You know, you don't just join NATO and undo it, even if Putin were to withdraw tomorrow from Ukraine, which is not sadly going to happen. The obsession of Finland in NATO is something that has decades long, many years long consequences and will not be easily undone.

It's a major structural shift. It adds an 800 mile, plus border between Russia and NATO from Finland. It significantly adds to NATO's capabilities to actually wage a significant military conflict on the ground, in the Baltic region, in the sea, the Russian naval Baltic fleet, now will come right up against Sweden.

And so, it's a very significant addition to NATO's military capabilities, not to mention a geostrategic shift of exactly the kind that Vladimir Putin, you know, was not looking to trigger with this ill-considered invasion.

KING: To help our viewers better understand, I'm going to call it a juggler. I don't mean that with any disrespect. The challenge for the president right now. I rolled my eyes you might have heard it. You could hear it a little bit at the word pivot because I haven't covered the White House for 16 years.

And they were talking about back then this pivot to Asia, the pivot to the China challenges and something in the world always comes up to take or dominate the attention of the American president. But the president is going to see our allies in South Korea and in Japan. He's going to assure them he has his eyes front and center on the China challenge, even as he keeps an eye on Putin and Ukraine.

Aren't they in some ways the same? In that for the past 20 years, the United States and its allies in the west have said, you know, Putin is a bad actor, China's a bad actor. Let's try to invite them in the club. Let's try to overlook some of these issues. And now front and center, bam, two giant challenges.

GLASSER: Yes. You're absolutely right about that. What I would say is that it's time to bury the concept of the pivot once and for all, because the bottom line is you can't pivot away from Russia. You can't pivot away from the Middle East. You can't forget about one and focus truly on the other.

And I think that that's been an ill-considered framework that to different extents, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden came to office, suggesting that that's what they would do. But in foreign policy terms, it's proven impossible. And I think these are one in the same challenge. I think, going forward, it is a major strategic readjustment.

And I think we've only our early days in understanding what it would take for the United States, not just to be focused on one superpower competitor, like in the Cold War, but on two, which is to say, both Russia and China, that's an enormous and long-term structural shift in our foreign policy, and they've got to begin that process right now.

KING: Mom always told me, listen to smart people. So, in this hour, at least the word pivot is buried. As Susan Glasser says, we should do with it and bury it. Susan Glasser, grateful for your insights. Thank you very much. Up next for us. We're watching financial markets, turbulent days. And why, well, gas prices are up? That's sober news for consumers and a giant political headache for the president.



KING: Wall Street following a really, really bad day with something that resembles say, you might say more normal day. You see the numbers, here the Dow is down, NASDAQ is up a little bit, the S&P down just a tad. Yesterday, Wednesday brought a ton of red, the Dow finished down nearly 1200 points. That was the worst day in the market since March 2020.

The S&P finishing with its worst day since the summer of 2020. And a pair of big retail giants recorded their worst one day drops since the Reagan administration, all of it triggering what analysts tell CNN is a "freakout moment" in the markets. CNN's Matt Egan is here to explain just why. Matt?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Well, John. You know, in many ways we already have a crisis right now in the United States, an inflation crisis. The soaring cost of living is angering voters, its unnerving investors, and it's even bothering normally unflappable CEOs. There was this new survey out that showed that 60 percent of CEOs expect economic conditions will worsen, 68 percent expect an eventual recession and investors are getting increasingly nervous.

The S&P 500 is getting uncomfortably close to a bear market, which would signal a 20 percent decline from record highs. Yesterday's big sell-off, that was triggered by these inflation warnings from both Walmart and Target. They're warning that soaring costs are eating into their profitability that did not sit well with investors, Target lost 25 percent of its value yesterday alone. Its worst one-day percentage declines since Black Monday in 1987.

Now, the big fear on Wall Street and in the C-Suite is that the Federal Reserve's late response to inflation is going to backfire. The Fed is going to have to catch up by raising interest rates so aggressively that it accidentally tipped the economy into a recession.