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Biden To Address The Nation Tonight; Texts To Meadows On Jan 6th; Aides Worry Outdated Media Strategy Hindering Biden's Message. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 02, 2022 - 12:30   ET



KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: He had said to everyone, I will be the president for all of you. I will bring people together. He's struggled to govern in that way, sometimes, with the progressive wing of his party pushing on him and many in the House are pushing on this issue of guns. But I think if you listen to Senator Chris Murphy, in particular, in the way he's changed the way he talked about this. He was out there this morning saying, back in 2013 after Sandy Hook, he was going to draw lines in the sand about what he wanted. Now, his goal here is to show Republicans that the public will reward them if they try and do something about this. If they show that, politically, it is tenable, possible and good for them, because the mass is there on this issue with the public.

I mean, as divided as these gun politics can be, and nobody thinks -- everybody thinks we should be making it harder for people to get these giant assault weapons and take them into classrooms and shoot small children. I mean, it's obvious. We're all sick and tired of it. I mean, I don't know how many times any of you have looked up at the screen. I mean, I did it just last night, when my phone went off when we were hearing about Oklahoma. And here we go again, how many times are we going to have to say this.

I think if the president can help everyone get onto that same page, he has a chance here, but he can break through, I don't know.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: So when you have a presidential address to the nation, you have, you know, President using the bully pulpit, and we can go back in time. The question is, does this become, you know, is this yet another -- and I apologize to people watching at home, especially people affected by this because this is just what happens in Washington. You have a new town, and the President tries to rally the nation and something else happens a couple of weeks or a couple of months later, and people move on.

You have Uvalde, Texas. Can the President raise this as -- to try to make it not a red blue issue. We talked about guns, we talked about abortion, we talked about immigration, even the economy inflation now become red blue issues. Can the President make this like a 911 and make it an American issue? And can he get -- you mentioned Chris Murphy. Chris Murphy has said he's willing to compromise. He wants, you know, he wants strict gun controls. He says he's willing to do smaller, much more modest thing with Republicans to build that faith. Can the President convince the Republicans maybe to come a little bit more like now Senator Rick Scott, Governor Rick Scott after Parkland did raise the age in Florida to buy an AR-15. He has not said a peep about that as a senator because he runs the Senate campaign committee in a midterm election year.

Can we wipe all that out? And just have -- at least say get in the room and have a conversation, as opposed to going into the room knowing I'm not going to do this?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, let me just say I thought this would happen after Sandy Hook. I thought this was happened after Parkland. And we are 200 plus just this year, is that is the number? So I can't say that it's optimistic, but what else do you do at this point? If you don't go in and try to use the bully pulpit, if you don't go in and exert what pressure you have, then what are you doing as a leader?

KING: We will hear that from the president seven hours from now, an address to the nation from the President Biden at a very sober time in our daily lives.

Ahead for us, we will return to that CNN Exclusive, new text messages and new reporting shed some important new light on January 6, and what was happening at the Trump White House.


KING: I want to turn now to a CNN Exclusive on the January 6 investigation. We know that an array of Republicans texted then White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows demanding the President Trump tell the mob storming the Capitol to stand down and go home. Now, our CNN special correspondent Jamie Gangel adds in conversations with more than a dozen of the people who were texting Meadows that day. Her reporting shows how angry, even key Trump allies were, with the President's refusal to speak out. And it shows how central Meadows was to the Trump effort to ignore the will of the voters. Jamie is back with us now. Tell us more.

GANGEL: John, for the first time we are releasing all of the key text messages from late on the night of January 5th through January 6th. What it shows is in real time, minute by minute, really the drama, the fear of people closest to Trump allies who are pleading with Meadows to get Trump to act, to speak out and to tell the writers to go home.

So I'm going to give you a couple of examples. We put them all up on so people can see the TikTok of the Day. But just to start, from Republican Congressman Jeff Duncan 3:04 PM, "POTUS needs to come this," you can read it, "down." From former Trump HHS Secretary Tom Price, "POTUS should go on air and defuse this extremely important. From North Carolina conservation lobbyists Tom Cors, this is someone who had worked with Meadows over the years on lobbying, "Please have POTUS call this off at the Capitol, urge writers to disperse. I pray to you." There are dozens of those, John.

For context, Meadows rarely replied. When he did, it was a couple of words, terse. Never do you see in his messages, the emotion, the fear that you see in people who are reaching out to him.

KING: And so, you tried to fill in the blanks by talking to more than a dozen people who were involved in those text exchanges. What did they tell you?

GANGEL: So, we've had these text messages for a while but when I went back to look at them again, I decided to call the people who texted on January 6. And it was very interesting, they all wanted to talk. Some people kept me on the phone for more than an hour. They said they were waiting for someone to call them.


We reached out to former White House officials, Republican members of Congress, Trump supporters. And here is what's notable. Each and every one said they stood by their text. And each and every one said that they believed that if Trump had immediately spoken out, he could have stopped the attack. This goes to the committee's point of inaction that he doesn't appear to do anything.

So here are some of the quotes. The first is from Alyssa Farah Griffin. She was Trump's Director of Strategic Communications until December 2020. She is now a CNN political commentator. She put it very bluntly, "I thought the President could stop it and was the only person who could stop it. When he finally tweeted something hours and hours later, there were reports of people inside the building saying he's saying to go home. They would have listened to him."

Most of the dozen people I spoke to wanted to be on background quoted anonymously. Why? They were concerned about their jobs. One said that they were concerned Trump would be elected again. Another person said he just didn't want to put up with the misery of being attacked for going publicly. But these are all quotes from them.

One said, this is a senior Republican who is an ally of Trump, "I thought there was only one person who could stop it, and that was the President." And from a very senior former Trump administration official, "He failed at being president."

KING: So this, stay with us, Jamie. This is now part of the evidence and the committee one week from today. One week from today, the January 6 Committee will hold his first public hearings. Among the people who helped put the committee work together was the former Congressman Denver Riggleman, who then became a staff member for the Committee. He was on Anderson Cooper last night talking about, a, how you build the case and, b, the importance of these text messages. Let's listen.


DENVER RIGGLEMAN, FORMER SENIOR TECHNICAL ADVISER FOR 1/6 COMMITTEE: Congressman Think that somebody's going to do a great job of linking those text messages to the other interviews and data that they have. But I think what people are going to understand about the Meadows' text messages is how horrible they are. I have to tell you this, Anderson, when I first saw them, my bemusement turned into horror pretty quickly when I saw some of the language that was being used in there. I actually had to get away from the computer a couple of times as I was looking at these text messages. We are limited in what we can see, but what we can see is absolutely damning.


KING: The question, Kasie, is they get -- what we can see is absolutely damning. That's Denver Riggleman. The question is, and we're back in one of those red blue conversations is, are there open minds out there? What is the bar for the committee? What is the challenge for the committee as they take this information? And we know what we know and they have much more that we haven't seen yet. As they take it public, what is the challenge?

HUNT: Well, I think they have a high bar to both break through with the public that's potentially tired of hearing about this. And they also have a responsibility to come across in a way that seems as though they're being fair to the facts, and not on one side or the other. And I think one of the things that these text messages in Jamie's reporting really underscores is that there was a big difference between the former President Donald Trump, and all these members of his party and his supporters.

And, you know, John, we're seeing some evidence that, look the results in Georgia, the election results. And on the Republican side, in the Republican primary, they were able to argue Brian Kemp and the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that they had, you know, a strong message for their, you know, Republican voters. And they were going to break with President Trump.

And look, they got elected. So I think there is some evidence that there's some room here. But, you know, just to put a finer point on what you're reporting here, and that only the President could have done this. I mean, that's what the police officers, I spoke to one officer who was attacked at the Capitol on that day who was standing in a doorway. And he told these, people go away, go home. And they said to him, if Donald Trump tells me to go home, I'll go home. That that's the only person I'm going to listen to. I'm not going to listen to you.

KING: And so, as the committee lays that out, number one, it's important for history. Number two, it could be very important if Donald Trump wants to run for office again, and run for president again as we think. But number three, the question is, you know, it's corrupt. What happened that day was corrupt, what happened between Election Day and January 6, and even beyond was corrupt. The question is, can you prove anything beyond that?

In that context, this is some CNN reporting. On a memo, written by Rudy Giuliani's lawyer, Chesebro outlined that under his legal theory, then Vice President Mike Pence could recuse himself from certifying the election. And Grassley, Senator Chuck Grassley, or another senior Republican could step in to preside over the Senate and essentially set aside Biden's Electoral College win, giving Trump time for further question his loss in public discord and in court.

Meaning, translation, that since Mike Pence refused to do the wrong -- Mike Pence said he was going to do the right thing. They were still even to the last minute trying to get somebody else to step in. The question is, what do you do with that?

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I mean, the texts are, I would say, they are damning, right? I mean I think that's fairly universally acknowledged if you look at if you look at them.


I think the fundamental question, though, is that once these hearings began, look, there's a lot of noise right now in the country and I just don't know that the country or a lot of folks have really the appetite interest to pay attention to this. And if the -- so much of the committee's work has been done privately. This is really one of the first moments where we, public, will be able to see what's been going on. I think that is hugely important. But the question I don't know the answer to is whether or not people will actually pay attention.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: The other big question is whether or not DOJ is going to move this forward, goes through with the grand jury, and decide that there are criminal charges that they can bring against, not just Trump but also the Republicans around him who decided to go along with this plot.

KING: Well, we start to learn the answer these questions one week from today when the hearings begin. When we come back, if these walls could talk, some brand new, more new CNN reporting on the growing tension and competing factions inside the Biden White House.



KING: Remind you if you were not with us earlier in the program, the president of United States will address the American people tonight, 6.5 hours from now, a little more than that, at 7:30 PM Eastern Time tonight on the spate of gun violence in America. As we wait, we want to share with you some new CNN reporting on some frustration in Biden's West Wing. It stems from the realization the President isn't breaking through, at least not breaking through in a way that is improving his political standing.

One big debate is whether the President keeps using an outdated playbook. Just this past week, for example, take a look here, the President penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed on soaring inflation. He posed for an Oval Office photo op with the Federal Reserve chair. And he dispatched top aides, including his Treasury Secretary for TV interviews to talk up the economy.

But CNN Edward-Isaac Dovere has a detailed look today, you want to go to and read it, that includes reporting that Biden and his inner circle have reams of internal polling and memo showing the messaging isn't working. The account is based on conversations with 14 White House aides and close allies of the Biden White House. They did includes this.

"They have the same internal meetings over and over, insisting that they need to change up their whole approach to how they're using Biden, and then each time watch as nothing changes." Isaac is with us. He joins our conversation now.

So there's -- the piece is fascinating in that you get part of it is generational. You have some older Biden aides with some younger Biden aides. You have people who are just like Joe Biden, his approach to sort of the old, I call it the broadcast news, way of viewing --


KING: -- doing media consumption. I'm thinking the ABC, CBS, I mean the pre-cable world. Older aids dismissed the younger aides as being too caught up in the tweet by tweet thinking. Younger aids give up. Its tension.

DOVERE: It is. And it's all coming back to the fundamental problem that the President is obviously not where they want him to be politically, and then his approval ratings. And you see that they are doing over and over the same thing. He gives a speech. They can't get them away from the podium. Another part of it is that the President himself, even though we all know Joe Biden has that retail politics, virtuosos, slapping backs and doing all the things they used to do on the trail. He hasn't been doing any of that.

He thinks of the presidency, now being president, as being about something else. About that if he can just as one person said it to me give a speech. He can explain it to people, if he could just do that and we'll see him tried do that again tonight with his gun speech.

Also, as another White House aide said to me, look, it's hard when he's talking about all these serious things to then have the next shot of him going and getting ice cream. That's -- it's all this going on. But it's just they know it's not working.

KING: And so this, is Ron Klain, his Chief of Staff and a longtime aide and friend of the President of United States, in the January memo. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain offered a compromise plan to have Biden do one townhall each month to at least grab some unscripted moments and media exposure. That got sucked into the maw of blaming and dysfunction like so much else. And in the end, not a single town hall was scheduled. He's the Chief of Staff. He can't move his boss or how does he not make things happen?

DOVERE: I mean, if you read that part of the article, where they have these meetings over and over, and like some of it is a White House, and the operation around President. It's a big ship. It takes time to turn it around. But that was a memo that was written in January. We're now into June.

They're telling me now, they said to me, an aide said to me yesterday, there are town halls that are going to be scheduled. Let's see. But if it was supposed to be once a month, that's five town halls that were thought of that never happened.

KING: These stories come up in difficult midterm election campaigns. You go back through presidency, through president. The question is now, can the President find a turning point? It is tonight a possibility in the sense that you have had White House aides say, OK, yes, inflation is bad. Yes, there are other big issues. But maybe the president should make the midterm campaign about American character, and about American values. That is where he operates from a position to --

KHALID: They can try that all they want, but so long as gas prices remain where they are, right? And people are frustrated with rising prices. That just doesn't pan out in any polling. Inflation, rising prices has been the number one concern for voters for months and months, and months.

And to your story. I mean, I thought it was so interesting when I was reading it, because I could see some of that playing out in the public messaging around inflation, that we've heard different messages from this White House. And there does seem to be this sense of like, well, why doesn't the public get this? You know, job numbers are good. And I think the challenge, you know, is one former Obama economist was telling me as inflation remains high, no message. This only going to be able to change that.

BARRON-LOPEZ: So there are a number of democratic pollsters and people who have been holding focus groups with Democratic base voters, as well as Independents who say that the best shot of the President, you know, changing the conversation, is to focus on issues that rile up the base.


So whether that's now about gun control, and being able to keep the momentum going after all of these mass shootings. We see that tonight the President is trying to at least be consistent and keep that message going. Because that's something that a number of people have questioned about the White House's ability, which is whether or not they're actually going to make sustain cases, whether it's about gun control, abortion rights, as well as threats to democracy, which a number of voters that I've heard say that they want to hear the President get more aggressive.

But again, he is a product of bipartisanship. Kasie, I know you've covered a lot. And he's someone who has his traditional inner circle around him.

HUNT: I think the challenge for them is to make sure that they don't look like they're behind the eight ball. They've looked flat footed and caught behind Afghanistan, inflation. They just had to apologize this week, baby formula, the list goes on. I think that's the main central problem.

KING: We'll watch the President tonight on an issue that every American should want to listen to and hear what he has to say. Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break.