Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Today: Sen. Cornyn (R-TX) Meeting With Sen. Murphy (D-CT); CNN: DOJ Probe Of Face Elector Plot Seeks Info About Trump's Top Lawyers And Advisers; Texas Republicans Have Eased State Gun Laws In Recent Years. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 26, 2022 - 12:30   ET



LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But right now, there's no indication from the White House that Biden is going to do that, as Congress is trying to figure out a way forward.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We do know, the President is planning to go to Uvalde. And whenever it makes sense, he's trying to obviously let the pain subside a bit, figure out from a law enforcement perspective, when is it safe to bring the President's entourage in and all of that without distracting from the investigation.

But to Laura's point, do they have a plan at the White House, even if you don't have the votes in Congress? This is something the President is going to in the midterm campaign, travel the country, and say we should do this, and you should hold accountable those who will vote for it.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: And he is someone who campaigned as someone who had worked on this and made a lot of promises in this space. And I think one thing the White House would say is that they have already done some actions in the executive space, right? They have proposed new rules on what are called ghost guns. They have tried to do a number of things are doing through the Department of Justice in terms of trying to stem the flow of illegal guns, you know, to try and crack down on gun dealers.

So there is work that they have been doing in what they say they're continuing to do in that space. There is also reality that they can't -- some of the things that advocates really want them to do, are hard to do through executive order. I'm not -- I haven't heard anyone discuss really the possibility that you can do an assault weapons ban by executive order.

I'm not sure that's, I mean, I'm not a lawyer in that space. But I see it seems challenging to do. And so they are trying to figure out how they can elevate the issue, highlight it, and keep calling for change. And they are still looking at what they can do in that space but it's not here.

KING: So as this plays out, I want to listen here to Senator Murphy, who obviously his state was impacted by Newtown. And he is the one who asked leader Schumer give me some space. Let me try to see if I can work something out with the Republicans, just listen to the tone here.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): If we don't succeed, we're having votes. We're putting people on the records, right? One way or the other, we're going to have a debate here. We're going to force people to tell America which side they are on, right? So we are going to work our tails off to try to get that compromise, but we are not going away. We are not being silent.


KING: Then we will have votes here part suggest and, again, people at home will process this through their own political views that if they can't reach a compromise on some modest things, that the Democrats plan is essentially get people on the record. Let's bring -- will they bring up an assault weapons ban? Will they bring up raise in the age of purchasing an AR-15?

BARRON-LOPEZ: I mean, well, they very well, could, I mean, especially in the House, they definitely have the votes for all of those things. So the question is, does the House decide to pass those, send them on to the Senate and then pressure the Senate, especially if the senators are not able to come to an agreement? I mean, they want to show that the vast majority of Democrats are on the side of passing gun control legislation and gun control measures. It's whether or not there are 10 Republicans there at all to do it.

KING: Right. And again, as we'll talk about this later, that's not the conversation for today because we're so close to this tragedy in Uvalde. But if you look at the political map, that's what always happens. They just go back to -- it's not a threat to my reelection. We'll just let it fade.

Ahead for us and brand new reporting on January 6th, as he watched the Capitol riot unfold on television, then President Trump is said to have reacted approvingly to this.



CROWD: Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence.



KING: Hang Mike Pence, you will remember it's what some of the rioters chanted at the Capitol on January 6th. And the Committee investigating that attack now his testimony that then President Trump was watching on television and that he reacted with approval to those chants. Sources confirming to CNN that that testimony came from a top aide to Trump's then White House Chief of Staff. "The New York Times" was first to report this wow disclosure from Cassidy Hutchinson, who reportedly broke new ground in a deposition with the January 6th Committee last week.

Let's discuss, and for that CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero joins our conversation. This testimony, especially if corroborated, you know, proves, just tells you about Donald Trump's character. People are chanting hang Mike Pence as they stormed the Capitol. And he approves of that. From an investigative standpoint, what is the value?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So obviously, it's an outrageous statement. But I think the -- what's relevant about it is that it goes along with the whole theme of violence that was taking place that day. And one of the things that we don't know yet in terms of either the Justice Department investigation into January 6th, or the congressional inquiry into it, is whether or not the political leaders who had inspired this movement to try to prevent the certification of the election, also were involved, supportive, facilitated the violence that occurred. And so the individuals including Oath Keepers, the far right group that have been charged with seditious conspiracy related to January 6th, that charge involves using violence to prevent the certification of the election.

KING: So can you connect the dots in the conversations because we all know this is Donald Trump on that day at the rally. We all know, Mike Pence was front and center to his thinking.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mike Pence, I hope you're going to stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country. And if you're not, I'm going to be very disappointed in you.


KING: So he was disappointed and the Committee now has this testimony. Number one, it shows you the Committee is continuing to work up to its deadline to pretty soon have public hearing. But what are they trying only to get at as they try to expand the information they get from people who are in the West Wing all the time.


SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they were -- there -- they've been trying to answer a number of questions. And particularly what was Trump saying, what was in his mindset, especially what was going on that day? And I think that's why a lot of this recent testimony, especially with the top aide to Meadows has been particularly illuminating in terms of how he was reacting when he saw the television coverage of what was going on in the riot that -- or what was going on with the insurrection that day.

And I think with all the covers that's been made about a lot of people in Trump's inner circle who had been resistant to cooperating with this investigation, you do see with information like this, how much new information has come to light and what we can expect to see from the from the June 9th hearings.

BARRON-LOPEZ: One thing that came out of those reports as well was that the Committee took testimony that Mark Meadows was disposing of documents in his fireplace, in the West Wing, and so that -- Carrie know better than I do that sounds illegal to me. And again, it speaks to, you know, the actions around not just what the President was doing, but also those around him who were a part of these efforts to potentially overturn the election, what were they doing? And were their actions illegal? And is the DOJ going to pursue charges?

KING: Do we have a good sense when the Committee comes public of how much of their public presentation will be about Trump? Or how much of it will be sort of the broader history and the other actors involved?

LUCEY: I mean, I think our sense is that they're going to try and put in the broader context, right, and sort of try and mark the moment in history. But I do think, as Seung Min was saying, so much of what they've been trying to establish and what they've been looking at is Trump's day. What he was thinking, what he was doing, what he was saying, I expect to be more about what he was doing privately behind closed doors.

KING: And we're also reminded as we wait for the Committee and its public hearings, and the Committee continues its work. There's new word now, the Department of Justice is intensifying its investigation of the so called fake electroplate. Remember, the Trump allies were trying to get people to come in from Michigan, from Arizona, from Georgia, from Pennsylvania, and say, no, I'm the right elector when Biden electors were supposed to come to town because Biden won the election.

But Carrie, the department issuing subpoenas and we know that central to the questions are Rudy Giuliani, Boris Epshteyn, Justin Clark, John Eastman, Bernie Kerik, these are all people very close to Donald Trump, very integrated in the part of after Election Day saying, what can we do to flip this? Again, what does that tell you about what the Justice Department is doing, how aggressive it's being?

CORDERO: So from the Justice Department perspective, what they would need to come up with when they're looking at these lawyers in their efforts to subvert the election is, what would the potential criminal culpability be? What's their theory of the case? One particular angle that they might be looking at is whether this just fits into a broad conspiracy to defraud the United States, which is something that, you know, you remember, that was the theory of the Mueller investigation, just this big conspiracy statute. So that might be something that they're looking at.

But just coming back for a minute, also to the January 6th Committee inquiry, one thing with respect to process, though, that I question and I understand from a news perspective, that, you know, we want this information to be coming out. I do question whether the Committee by releasing from time to time these dribs and drabs of what people are going to say is just taking the air out of what the eventual testimony is, we don't know who the witnesses are actually going to be in the public testimony. And I just do question from an investigative standpoint in conducting this congressional inquiry, whether they are in some ways undermining themselves sometimes.

KING: I guess we won't be able to answer that question until we have the public hearings to see maybe they have more and they're leaking some of it but we will see and we will see relatively soon.


Starting tomorrow, the National Rifle Association holds its annual convention in Texas of all places just days, of course, after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school there. The event was canceled the last two years because of the COVID pandemic. Several notable conservatives, including Donald Trump are scheduled to attend. This interesting note, we could bring guns into the sessions but they are banned during the former president's remarks. Secret Service will check all attendees with metal detectors. Also scheduled to speak as of now, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and the Texas Governor Greg Abbott. We'll be right back.


KING: Governor Greg Abbott says new gun laws are not the answer to the worst school attack in Texas State history.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): I asked the sheriff and others an open ended question and got the same answer from the sheriff as well as from the mayor of Uvalde. The question was what is the problem here? And they were straightforward and emphatic. They said we have a mental -- we have a problem with mental health illness in this community.


KING: Governor also says the state will explore whether its school safety plan needs improvement. Let's get some perspective not from Jolie McCullough. She's a criminal justice reporter with The Texas Tribune. Grateful for your time today. The Governor was quite adamant on the day after, he does not see new gun laws, gun controls as the answer here. Is there any indication of will anything changed in state law, will the legislature, will the governor push for any changes?

JOLIE MCCULLOUGH, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORTER, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE: So I mean, it is usual that after tragedies like this which unfortunately have happened several times over the last few years in Texas that there is an immediate reaction of this, we need to do something and here's where we should start. After the Santa Fe School shooting, the high school shooting here in 2018, there was a reaction to mental health again, as we just heard, and there was a reaction to, you know, hardening schools, making it harder to get into schools, metal detectors, the lieutenant governor offered to volunteer or to send metal detectors on his own dime to the high school.

[12:50:33] And what we're hearing here is a little bit less. There's less -- it's more muted. As you said -- as it said, there is very, there has been already the shunning of, you know, gun restrictions being the answer here. But there is a talk again. There has been a talk a little bit of hardening schools. There was money that was put into that earlier, but they're talking about again, how can we make it, how can we make it difficult to get into these schools even more so? And as we heard, how can we put more toward mental health?

We're unaware -- it's unclear yet, you know, as we're only a couple of days out as to what was going on in this case in terms of any mental illness. But that is something that we -- it is typical to hear after a tragedy in Texas is focused on mental health, not on the guns.

KING: Help people understand because there are people in some parts of the country who might pull back when I go through, we showed a little bit, but I want to walk through it. But explain the Texas politics and the Texas culture to us, because some people the country might not understand after many of these past mass shootings, the legislature has acted. And it's actually what people would say an easing of gun restrictions, meaning allowing you to carry on a college campus to allow you to carry a weapon into a place of worship, making it a crime to line a background check, that certainly makes sense there, and permitless carry in the state.

So an easing of gun laws, in some ways, in response to some of these shootings is again, people saying parts of the country might not understand it, but in Texas, passed the legislature, governor signed it as to be at least in statewide, maybe not all the state but popular, correct?

MCCULLOUGH: Yes, so Texas is very much a pro-gun state. And that was something that came up. You know, last year, the Texas legislature passed a bill that had been long fought for -- from conservatives and had failed, which was this permitless carry were already in Texas, you know, people could for -- can carry -- could carry a rifle, a long gun, without having a permit. This also allowed anyone to be able to carry a handgun without a permit. And that was, you know, shortly after, in 2020, we had these two back to back mass shootings, the one in El Paso, which killed 23 people and then a few weeks later in Midland and Odessa a drive -- like a shooting spree throughout town that killed seven people.

And there was calls and even the governor and lieutenant governor who are very conservative said, you know, this is too much, we have to do something, and they expressed willingness to look into some gun laws. And then when lawmakers came around, you know, they went quiet on those issues, including like tougher background checks. And instead they, as you said, they pat -- they loosened gun laws.

KING: Jolie McCullough, grateful for your perspective. Thank you.


Up next for us, the former President Donald Trump, his son Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump must now cooperate for depositions, more after the break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Topping our Political Radar today, a New York Appeals Court says Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump must now answer questions under oath, as part of New York Attorney General Letitia James civil investigation into the Trump organization's dealings. Eric Trump has already been deposed, but he refused to answer more than 500 questions citing his Fifth Amendment rights. In response to the rulings, the AG tweeting, quote, our investigation will continue unfettered because no one is above the law.

The Oklahoma governor have instead signing one of the nation's most restrictive abortion bills into law. The law bans abortion starting at fertilization. The exceptions are for medical emergencies and cases of rape, sexual assault, or incest. That law also allows people to sue abortion providers. The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a challenge in the Oklahoma Supreme Court trying to block that ban, block the law from taking effect.

The nation's top diplomat says the United States would like to strengthen diplomacy with China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasizing the need for dialogue and an important speech this morning, but Blinken warning the United States quote, can't rely on Beijing to change its trajectory.

The world is at a turning point, that warning to the international community today from the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He delivered it at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Chancellor Scholz says there's more at stake than just the fate of Ukraine.


OLAF SCHOLZ, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): What is at stake is a system of international cooperation that emerged from the never again of two devastating World Wars, an order that binds power to law, and order that outlaws violence as a means of achieving political aims. And that has guaranteed us freedom, security, and prosperity over the past decades.


KING: Thanks for joining us in Inside Politics today. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera, Alisyn Camerota, pick up our coverage right now.