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Inside Politics

Georgia, A "Great Laboratory" For All Things That Are Up For Midterms 2022; Republican Early Primary Voting Turnout Was Incredible For Georgia Despite Trump's Disapproval; Republican Mo Brooks Of Alabama Lost Trump's Endorsement; General Milley And Secretary Austin Hold Briefing At Pentagon On Ukraine Russia War; First Baby Formula Shipment Arrives In U.S.; Pentagon Officials Asked About Biden's Taiwan Comments. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 23, 2022 - 12:30   ET



EVA MCKEND; CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We cannot lie to our children about our racist past. We have to serve our transgender children.

So, if there is, in fact, this rematch between Governor Kemp and Abrams, that will be the race to watch in Georgia.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: One of several races to watch, but certainly the more key one. That state's going to be a great laboratory for all things that are up in 2022. Issues, candidates, Trump effect and more. Eva McKend, grateful for the live reporting.

Let's bring the conversation back in the room and let's just show the numbers up there. We were talking about this before the show. You have this record early voting, so a lot of Democrats thought, hey, this law would be more restrictive.

The Democratic primaries in the statewide races are not all that competitive, so you can roll that. But the Republicans voting, Donald Trump has attacked this -- he's attacked the governor in this state. He's attacked early voting in general. And then that.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, CO-AUTHOR EARLY 202, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, absolutely. Donald Trump has said over and over again the only appropriate way to vote is on Election Day, in-person. He has said that over.

So, the primary -- the Republican-base has listened to a lot of what he said since 2020 about the 2020 elections. And the fact that Republican turnout and early voting in Georgia is so high is actually pretty incredible.

KING: And we -- look, we want -- more people should vote, period, whatever your party. If you can vote, vote. But to the Democrat's point. Stacey Abrams is not going to say I was wrong. They do have -- she has and others like her have legitimate concerns and we'll watch as the law plays out, how it goes. But, one of the lessons here is that if they change the law, whether

it's Georgia or many of these other states and you don't like it home, you still have to study it, figure out how to make your way around it. Like the -- instead Souls to the Polls being on Sunday --


KING: -- they hold Souls to the Polls on Saturday.

BASH: Right. So, there are a couple of things. Number one is that Republicans complain that a lot of the focus, primarily of Democrats, on the change in -- the changed law in Georgia was on an old piece of legislation. That they did amend it by the time it actually became law and particularly when it came to early voting.

Also, the Democrats are mobilizing their voters on the idea that you can't let them take away access to voting and it seems to be working. Never mind the Republicans, which is a whole different dynamic.

The last thing is, on this new law, one of the major changes that is yet to be tested, because it's not relevant right now, is what happens when the votes come in. How the votes are not only counted but who determines the winner and how it's determined.

The law changed in Georgia so that it's no longer just the Secretary of State. The Brad Raffenspergers of the world, now it's him who can sort of say, no this is -- the law doesn't allow me to change it and I won't.

It now goes to the legislature in Georgia which is, obviously, inherently political. It is the elected officials in the state. So, that is the change, a really big change in Georgia that we haven't seen play out yet because we're just not there yet on the calendar.

KING: Which is, again, why you see so much focus, in this case, the state legislative races will matter, but also the Secretary of State races and governors' races around the country because, you know, the -- it's -- the legislature is less likely to do mischief if you have a Secretary of State and a governor from that party saying, we looked at the votes this is legit.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, USA TODAY WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But the law also changed when and how people can vote. And that's going to be really key with the Democrats, as we were saying, whether it's Raphael Warnock or Stacey Abrams, they're not facing significant competition like there were in the Republican races.

So, Democrats say that they're investing a lot of money in this cycle, into voter education efforts to make sure that when you get closer to that general election they don't run into a situation where their voters, they don't understand how the process works and then that also depresses turnout for them.

KING: When you -- when you either running on contested in a primary or you don't have what is viewed as a serious opponent, you don't just coast. You use that opportunity to prepare for November, just like Stacey Abrams is using it.

Raphael Warnock just elected to the Senate, he has to run for election right away because he took the remainder of a term. So listen to him here. He understands. Raphael Warnock understands, yes, I need to turn out every vote. But he also understands that is a tough political climate, so don't ask everything.


REP. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D), GEORGIA: I'm Raphael Warnock. I'm a dad, a senator, a pastor. But a magician, I'm not. So, in just a year in the Senate did I think I could fix Washington? Of course not.


KING: It's clever, right? It's clever. Again, Republicans out there saying, oh you just called Raphael Warnock clever. Now, in the sense that you're running in this political environment, where people saying Democrats you had this power, what did you do? Why does gas cost more? Why does food cost more? He's trying to say it like, I can't do everything.

CALDWELL: Right, he's setting expectations for the voter and setting in the reality of a lot of voters are still hurting out in the country, you know. Inflation, we can go through the list, as we've done over and over again.

And so, what Warnock has done has been like, I've only been there a year, give me some more time. And it is, it's a really clever strategy. He's also talking about some issues that he knows voters knows care about, including insulin, something that the Senate has not passed yet, but the Democrats really want to help these (ph) add to the midterms.


BASH: Exactly. And it's not just him and what he's done. He's the majority maker. He was the last guy elected --


KING: Right.

BASH: -- in -- after -- after a runoff and it was -- there was so much happening in Georgia, it was his election that allowed the Democrats to be in control. To have the 50, you know, one vote margin with the -- with Kamala Harris. So, that's, I think, another he's like, I know -- I know you voted for me because you gave Democrats control through me. But, just give it a little more time.

KING: Right. And that's one of the key tests. It's a tough climate for Democrats, for pretty much all Democrats. You learn about nimble candidates. Some -- you know -- sometimes the candidate matters. We'll watch how they play out.

Still ahead for us, Alabama another big Senate primary tomorrow. Mo Brooks had then lost the Trump endorsement. Yet, many see a Brooks surge right now in the works.




KING: This week Republican voters in Alabama answering a big question. Can Mo Brooks come back after Donald Trump left him for dead? The Republican Congressman won and then lost the former president's endorsement in the middle of his run for Senate. But now in the campaign's final week polling does suggest Congressman Brooks has a chance to send the tight three-way contest to a runoff.

We're back with more with our great reporters. And so, let's just listen first, there are three major candidates in the race. Here's a little sampling of their ads.


KATIE BRITT (R), CANDIDATE U.S. SENATE ALABAMA: Growing up here in Alabama I learned your word is your bond. I love this state and I believe in this state. Together we'll create more opportunity for Alabama and make America safe and secure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one has fought illegal immigration harder than Mo Brooks, fought the Gang of Eight Amnesty Bill, fought to fund President Trump's border wall.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ads for Katie Britt are paid for by a big pro-abortion donor and refuse to say if she'd stop Biden's election, which resulted in a pro-abortion court justice.


KING: The Trump back and forth makes it interesting. In the old days Katie Britt was the Chief of Staff, I believe, to the retiring senator in Alabama. In the old days that's how it worked, right? The guy who was retiring looks around says, OK we're going to help you, you raise some money, that candidates goes on. It doesn't work that way. It's not as easy anymore.

BASH: Not at all. And when -- in the old days, I mean, that's classic Richard Shelby, who is retiring after many, many, many years in the Senate and first the House, by the way, used to be a Democrat because that's what they were back in Alabama.

KING: Nineteen ninety-four --


BASH: That's how long -- that's how long ago it was.

KING: -- the night -- the night of the election. Switched the night of the 1994 election.

BASH: But, if you --

KING: When his (inaudible) got shellacked and then thumped.

BASH: Yes. Yes. But, if you look at the Mo Brooks ad, I mean, that could have been a Donald Trump ad.

KING: Right.

BASH: In any -- you know, in 2016 or 2020, it is the Donald Trump issue playbook on immigration and on, you know, the other and all of those things. And that's what he still thinks wins there.

It, irrespective of the idea of what happened in 2020, never mind that the fact that Donald Trump is mad at Mo Brooks because he didn't stand up enough for whatever lie Trump was trying to sell is also like -- it's hard for -- I'm sure even voters in Alabama who really like Donald Trump, it's hard for them to wrap their minds around that.

KING: Right.

BASH: Like we see our -- the Congressman who wants to be senator. We understand where he actually stood on that, which is with Donald Trump.


BASH: He supported the big lie. He was at the rally.

CALDWELL: One of the biggest defenders --

BASH: Yes.

CALDWELL: -- of the big lie as well. And I will say, that Republican leadership in the House and Republican -- some other Republicans in the House were not sad to see Mo Brooks running for Senate. They didn't want him in the House anymore. They thought was a problem.

Leader McConnell and his campaign operation, Mo Brooks is not their first choice. And so, the fact that Donald Trump rescinded his support for Mo Brooks, I was in that camp of thinking that Mo Brooks, there is non possibility that he can actually win this election.

But, maybe it goes to back to what the Pennsylvania Senate Republican candidate Barnett said last week or before the Pennsylvania, she lost, but when she said Donald Trump is not the MAGA Party, we are the MAGA Party and he became us. And so --

KING: There's -- there's no -- no question, a lot of these voters are saying, we were there -- you know -- we were here first. It's amazing, we can just show you some of the spending going into this race.

Look, this is Alabama in a midterm election year, Democrat in the White House, the Republican is most likely -- the Republican winner is most likely the next senator from Alabama.

So, you have all these groups throwing a ton of money in there. And, again, you mentioned Donald Trump is very popular in the states, so even if you don't have his endorsement your ads tend to say, I like him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's Liz Cheney trashing Trump again. Didn't say that when she was running before. Just like Katie Britt. See, Britt might not say it, but she's really a lobbyist. Katie Britt, the Alabama Liz Cheney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Career politician Mo Brooks, did he always support Donald Trump? No.

REP. MO BROOKS (R), ALABAMA: I was just asked if I'm going to endorse Donald Trump. And I said, no, I'm not.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he trust Trump? No.

BROOKS: I don't think you can trust Donald Trump with anything he says.


KING: It is, you know, if you go back to 2015 and 2016 and what a lot of Republicans said about Donald Trump then, and again, there's tape.

BASH: I mean, you could use the whole hour to play all the things Ted Cruz said about -- about Donald Trump and every other Republican. It is true. But, it seems as though -- we'll see what happens with the actual results, but it seems as though it is the issues, what you were saying, that sort of MAGA voters, not the MAGA man.


KING: I'm going to hit a pause -- hit the pause just for a second in this conversation. I want to take you to the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley, giving an update on Russia's war in Ukraine, including what weapons other countries are willing to bring to the fight.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- limits on how they can be used either in Crimea or the Donbas? And then, General Milley, can you -- the Army the other day said that it's going to take about 18 months to replenish some of the stock that they have sent in the drawdown, specifically javelins. What is the risk to the U.S. military as it goes forward on weapon systems and other things that may be now going to Ukraine that the U.S. needs?

And as you send more complex weapons into Ukraine, is there a need to send U.S. Special Forces or other trainers either into Ukraine to help train them or other -- in other locations? And if not, what are the consequences?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think that was about 12 questions, Leah (ph), but I'm not sure.


AUSTIN: OK. All right. Well listen, first I'll get to the questions that you had up top there for me. Let me reiterate that I believe that today was a very successful meeting. And you heard the chairman talk about the numbers of countries that were involved. You heard me speak about the number -- the types of donations that some 20 countries came forward with today to announce.

That's real progress, which is needed for real problems. And so, we're very, very satisfied that we had a very productive meeting. But we recognize that this is a work in progress. And we will need to continue to remain focused on this going forward.

Now, in terms of what they need -- what their needs are, they really are pretty much the same, but as they were the last time we talked. And that was long-range fires, armor and in terms of tanks and armored personnel carriers, some UAV capability.

And so, that has -- that has not changed. The nature of the fight, as you've heard us describe a number of times is -- this is the fight is really shaped by artillery in this phase and we've seen serious exchanges of artillery fires over the last several weeks.

Regarding HIMARS, I don't want to get ahead of where we are in the process of resourcing requirements. I'd just like for you to know that we are not only talking to the Ukrainians today, but it's everyday. As the chairman pointed out, he's talking to his counterpart routinely. I talk to Minister Reznikov at least once a week and probably more than that in most -- in most weeks.

So, we'll continue to refine their requirements. We'll engage the international community to make sure that, you know, we can get as much capability against those requirements as possible. But again, I don't want to discuss specific systems in this forum. So.

GENERAL MARK MILLEY, : So, Leah (ph), yes it's about the replenish peace. Overall, U.S. military as an entity, all of the various munitions stockages that we have, the secretary's got us looking at those very, very carefully to make sure that we don't drop below levels that become moderate, significant or high risk. And we're doing that. So, right now the risk to ourselves is relatively low. It's not something that we're going to get overly excited about.

We have a category called critical munitions and preferred munitions, we're solid in all of those. And Javelins is not in that category. So, your small arms, your anti-tank weapons, some of your MANPAD Javelins, et cetera, as opposed to say, for example, other, you know, smart munitions and PGMs, et cetera. So, we're OK. We're doing OK and our risk is being managed appropriately.

With respect to the training, we are doing training in several different countries right now. And along with other NATO and partner countries are training Ukrainians in various -- I'm not going into all the details of it, but it's -- that's ongoing. Not in Ukraine, but outside of Ukraine.

The United States doesn't have trainers right now in Ukraine. And the -- some of the things that may have been out there in the media, those are planning efforts that underway at a relatively low level. Have not yet made it into the secretary or myself for that matter for refinement of courses of action and what's needed.


At the end of the day, any reintroduction of U.S. forces into Ukraine would require a presidential decision. So -- but we're a ways away from anything like that, we're still developing courses of action, and none of that's been presented yet to the secretary. Courtney (ph).

UNKNOWN: Thank you. I want to read a question that President Biden got this morning, and -- on his trip in Asia. He was asked, "You didn't want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?"

His answer was, "Yes, that's the commitment we made." So the reason I wanted to read the question is, the -- it indicates, and his answer would indicate that the U.S. is prepared to do more to defend Taiwan than what the U.S. is already doing to help Ukraine defend against the invasion from Russia.

Which as we know, as you've been saying here today, is provide a tremendous amount of equipment and support and even intelligence to Ukraine. President Biden said today that the U.S. is willing to do more to help Taiwan.

So my question for you, Secretary Austin, is, is the U.S. making a commitment to send troops to defend Taiwan in the event of an invasion by China? And General Milley, I have a follow-up for you as well.

AUSTIN: Courtney (ph), as the president said, our One China policy has not changed. He reiterated that policy and our commitment to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. He also highlighted our commitment under the Taiwan Relations Act to help provide Taiwan the means to defend itself. So again, our policy has not changed.

UNKNOWN: I think the Taiwan Relations Act is -- the U.S. is committed to ensure Taiwan has resources it needs to defend itself but it doesn't require U.S. military intervention. So again, I just want to ask would -- is the U.S. making a commitment by saying that they are willing to defend them militarily for U.S. troops to be involved in that military response?

AUSTIN: Again, Courtney (ph), I think the president was clear on the fact that the policy has not changed.

UNKNOWN: And then General Milley, could -- since you, you know, you're talking about the risks with Ukraine, can you walk us through what you see the potential risks that would be a part of a U.S. military defense of Taiwan should China invade?


KING: You're listening to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley, the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin taking questions largely about re-supplying Ukraine and getting other countries around the world.

But at the end there a question about remarks the president made in Tokyo today saying the United States, yes, would help Taiwan if it were invaded by mainland China. Let's get to CNN's Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Barbara, what else interesting is coming out of this important briefing?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, John, I think it is fair to say you saw a bit of a dodge, not unexpected, from Defense Secretary Austin on the question of military support, military action to defend Taiwan if China were to invade. Because of course, it is so sensitive under the One China policy.

U.S. has always been ambiguous on that, the president was not in Tokyo. He said that the U.S. military would support Taiwan in the event of an invasion, Austin clearly not willing to be as blunt as the president.

On the issue of re-supplying of -- of supplying Ukraine with weapons, so they had this virtual meeting with 40 countries today, they got new commitments on new weapons going. But General Milley very clear, they are taking a close look at U.S. weapon stockpiles to see how far down they need be after all of the donations the U.S. has made to Ukraine, John.

KING: Barbara Starr for us live at the Pentagon. Barbara, thank you very much. Ahead for us, the first overseas shipment of desperately needed baby formula arrives here in the United States.



KING: Today the Biden administration working to distribute some 35 tons of formula that just arrived in the United States from Germany on Sunday. That formula part of the administration's plan now to help alleviate the nationwide shortage.

This batch will not make it to store shelves in your neighborhood, it's prescription-only formula destined for hospitals and pharmacies. Polo Sandoval in Indianapolis where this shipment arrived with more. Polo.

POLO SANDOVAL, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, John, that military aircraft landed here at the Indianapolis Airport not far from where we're standing yesterday. What's key here is that those 35 tons, those will be going directly to hospitals, directly to healthcare providers.

The goal there according to the Biden administration is to serve those, at least those parents where the need is great. Especially those children that have special dietary needs. The officials that were on the ground here estimating that that could potentially serve up to 17,000 children based on that supply.

It will not, however, help the situation for millions of parents that turned to general use formula that they can get at the their corner grocery shops. That's where the Biden administration is saying that they are working on that.

Not only working with European manufacturers to potentially import excess product that's been approved by the FDA into the United States. But also looking forward to that Abbott Nutrition plant in Michigan to re-open, and basically, go back to 100 percent production so that they can stock up on the shelves, and also, most importantly, continue with these flights.

Both the White House and FedEx, which is that charter airplane partner that is working with the government already announcing multiple flights in the near future. The White House saying that we could expect a flight in the coming days with more of the special formula, John.

But the big question remains when will those other parents finally get some relief.


The secretary of agriculture was here yesterday saying that, in the next 30 days, we could potentially finally see some abatement in this crisis.

KING: Well, let's certainly help that progress is coming.

Polo Sandoval, grateful for the live report.

And grateful for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.