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Biden Heads To Summit As Mexican President Boycotts; California's Primaries Send Message To Democrats On Crime; Audio Reveals Trump-Endorsed AZ Senate Candidate Questioned Whether 1/6 Was Set Up By FBI. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 08, 2022 - 12:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Trump, his inner circle, his family, witness, this pressure campaign to try and overturn these results and pull Biden's election win out of there.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And if you most Senate Republicans don't want to talk about this, they just think that it might distract from their message. A lot of Trump loyalists among House Republicans are saying things like this today.


REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-NY), HOUSE REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE CHAIR: This committee is not about seeking the truth. It is a smear campaign against President Donald Trump, against Republican members of Congress, and against Trump voters across this country.


KING: The Committee actually has unearthed a lot of truth. But those House Republicans, look, we're in a midterm election year. They -- some of their own leaders have refused subpoenas from this Committee to come and testify. They're trying to shape the politics, trying to get voters right of center, just not listen.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And I want to go back to your point too about the alarm that you were talking about. My reporting at the time was also that people close to the president, individuals who worked for him in the White House, were very concerned at the time. They were shocked. They were dismayed. They were telling him that he needed to go out and say something. His own daughter into the Oval Office.

I mean, this has all been backed up by all the reporting, including you and others as well. And so certainly, I think you're going to see a lot of that not just during tomorrow night, but also on Monday and continuing on in the hearings, whether you hear from those individuals directly or not. There will be plenty of other people who will speak to those aspects. John?

KING: It's a remarkable moment for the Committee. We will see how it plays out and you should watch please right here if you can. Join CNN, our special coverage to hear the new details of what happened inside the White House from Election Day up through January 6th, that's tomorrow night. Our special coverage begins tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. I hope to see you then.

The President heading west for an important regional summit, but some key leaders are boycotting upset at the White House invitation list. Up next, key member of the President's national security team joins us on the summit agenda and the debate about meeting dictators.



KING: Right now. President Biden is wheels up heading to Los Angeles to convene and lead the Summit of the Americas. Immigration is a giant topic but the leaders of Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala are not attending. Those snubs stem from the White House decision to exclude the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua. The White House Press Secretary saying Monday the Biden administration made that decision because it did not quote believe dictators should be invited.

Joining me now is the National Security Council coordinator for Strategic Communications, John Kirby. Admiral Kirby, of course, the former Pentagon press secretary as well, has also served at the State Department. John it's good to see you. And so the President is wheels up, migration is one of the key issues. You have a boycott by leaders who take offense. They think the United States was wrong not to invite Cuba, not to invite Venezuela, not to invite Nicaragua. It has become a mess over the invitation list, not a conversation about the substance. Why did that happen?

JOHN KIRBY, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: Well, look, I think the President took a very principled approach here, John. I mean, the whole purpose of the Summit of the Americas is for democracies to gather and to talk about challenges to democracy in the Western Hemisphere, challenges to economic prosperity and security. So President felt, and the first president to go since 2015, that it was important that democracies go. And he understands that others have a different view. That's one of the things that's great about democracy is that we can have those debates and those discussions and he respects the decisions of some heads of state not to come.

But I will remind, more than 25 heads of states are going to go and 68 delegations, even some of those countries who are not sending their heads of state are in fact sending delegations and government officials to participate in what will be a very robust set of discussions.

KING: So you say this is a, it's principle move to stand up for democracy in the region, which adds the question that some say is hypocrisy. You can help me with what you think is the appropriate legal language. Yesterday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secretary said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is quote, an important partner. The President of the United States is on the record as calling them a pariah before he was President. Webster defines pariah is one that is despised or rejected, an outcast. How can one who is despised or rejected being an important partner?

KIRBY: Now the President was responding, of course to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. And a killing that this administration has actually moved to put into place that accountability measures for Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is an important partner. And the President believes that. And the President also believes John, that it's important for him to be willing and able to meet with leaders all across the world, no matter who they are, who they represent, if in fact, it's going to improve U.S. national security interests.

And in this case, the President absolutely believes that's the case. Now, look, we don't have a trip to Saudi Arabia to announce or meetings to speak to specifically. But the Saudi Arabians are key across the region, and quite frankly, across the world in terms of helping our national security interests. Look, our pilots have flown with their pilots, striking missiles, striking targets against ISIS, our sailors and our ships had sailed with their ships in the Red Sea and counterterrorism missions.

And because of U.S. diplomatic engagement, that were able to get this truce in Yemen in place, which has now been enforced for two months saving countless lives. So there's an awful lot to talk with the Saudis about. And the Crown Prince isn't just a Crown Prince. He's also the defense minister of that very important partner.

KING: I get it. I've been in this town a long time. And I get that President sometimes have to sit down with bad actors to do important business even though there are other things your man about. But the challenge here is that Joe Biden as a candidate and Joe Biden as a private citizen and Joe Biden as vice president before had some things say about the Saudis. But let's listen, this is Joe Biden in 2018, he's a private citizen at a campaign event after the Khashoggi killing, beating up on Donald Trump saying Donald Trump was coddling the Saudis.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a cold blooded murder of a journalist, giving the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt. Look, look at the example this sets around the world, forget what it does here. Think this set around the world. People wonder what has become of us.


KING: And then John, there's also this from the Democratic Convention in 2020, same issue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BIDEN: I'll be a president that will stand with our allies and friends and make it clear to our adversaries, the days of cozying up to dictators is over. And I'll always stand for our values of human rights and dignity. I'll work in common purpose for a more secure, peaceful, and prosperous world.


KING: Now I get it. Again, there's real politic, Ronald Reagan was the crusader against communism who met with Gorbachev and history benefited from the President doing that. Is this a case at a minimum of candidates say things that President some -- candidates say things to black and white, presidents have to deal with nuance?

KIRBY: No, I don't think so, not at all, John. I mean, look, the President was honest, at the time after Jamal Khashoggi was killed. And it was his administration, his leadership where we put accountability measures in. We held the Saudis accountable, parts of their government for that. But they are important partner in a region that is absolutely still vital to U.S. national security interests.

And so again, without speaking to a trip that hasn't been announced, or a meeting that hasn't been set, I can tell you that the President is going to be completely unafraid to have honest, candid discussions with leaders around the world, those with whom we agree, and we almost everything and those where we have differences. That's what leadership is all about is being able to have those discussions. And that's what a real partnership is, when you can disagree about things. And you can have an honest discussion about, say human rights or civil rights and still be able to get things done on the national security landscape.

KING: I want to ask you this question, because I think it's the reason you're there. I know, this is your -- I think your third day at the White House. You're in a new position there at the White House. But you say a meeting that hasn't been scheduled. The President's own staff anonymously, but before you took this job was saying the meeting was set. And then the President himself was asked about it publicly and pushed back. Is that part of the problem here that there seems to be the Joe Biden ran saying, I'm the adult who knows how to run the government. There seems to be a lot of confusion about this within your West wing.

KIRBY: There's one commander-in-chief, one president, and he gets to determine who he's going to meet with and when he's going to meet with him. Look, Saudi Arabia, again, is an important partner, we're going to spend time with their leadership, we're going to spend time trying to address issues in the region and around the world that intersect with our national security interests.

And look, the schedule will work itself out, though, when we have something to announce, when we have a meeting to talk about, we'll certainly do that.

KING: I want to sneak in one quick question before I let you go, Admiral, about Ukraine. President Zelenskyy spoke to the German Chancellor today. There was a conversation about the German said they would do anything they could to help with this global food crisis because the Ukrainian grain is held up. There been some conversations about is there some way to use NATO forces or some Western forces to help get those shipments out? Can that be done without coordinated with Russia? Is that a pipe dream or a possibility?

KIRBY: Well, look, I think everybody's focused on this issue of food security and the literally the embargo now that Russia has put in place on getting grain and foodstuffs out of Ukraine. It's a conversation that the President's been having with international leaders. All of us are having across the international community about how to do this. And there's lots of different ideas being floated. I don't want to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet. But we also have to be mindful that it is a war zone and the Black Sea is occupied and sailed by Russian Navy warships.

And so there's -- that's a larger issue that needs to be talked about. No decisions have been made. But I can tell you that everybody here is very, very focused on the food, potential food crisis here that could be looming by what Russia is doing. Russia is weaponizing food. Mr. Putin is weaponizing food, not just to hurt the people of Ukraine and their economy, but to hurt the rest of Europe as well. And so it's a big focus of a lot of global leaders.

KING: Admiral John Kirby just days in to his new position at the White House. Appreciate your time, John. We'll continue the conversation.

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

KING: Thank you.

KIRBY: Thank you.


KING: Up next, California voters send a message on the politics of crime. And that message, making Democrats even more nervous about November.


KING: Two of America's most liberal cities sending a very loud message to the Democratic Party, it is time to refocus on crime. San Francisco voters last night recalling their District Attorney, Chesa Boudin, a progressive who ended cash bail and sought to reduce the number of people sent to jail. And in the race for mayor in Los Angeles, the former front runner progressive Democrat Congresswoman Karen Bass could be in trouble. She's now headed to a runoff with Rick Caruso, a billionaire and former Republican who ran on a tougher on crime approach. Just moments ago President Biden acknowledging voters are sending a message.


BIDEN: I think that voters sent a clear message last night. Both parties have to step up and do something about crime as well as gun violence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Joining me now is our CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's also senior editor for The Atlantic and a veteran of California politics. And sometimes Ron the message California sends the nation, you have two of the most liberal cities saying no to liberals on the issue of crime but it's bigger than that, isn't it? Isn't it's liberals, progressives who believe in government saying our government's not working?


RON BROWNSTEIN. SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. I mean, look, I think if you look at the immediate circle of the blast radius from last night's results, it clearly is about crime and even more than crime, John, disorder as reflected in the pervasive homelessness and large encampments, particularly in LA, in both cities. And voters saying we need more focus on order and safety.

It doesn't mean Democrats are going to abandon the cause of police reform, it does mean that in the case of officials like Boudin who seems to prioritize reform over safety, who seemed more worried about the small minority of people accused of crimes in the broad public whose principal interest in criminal justice system is that to keep them safe, I think that is going to see rebalancing.

But it is broader than that. It is a reminder that when voters feel that certainty is being removed from their lives, and government is failing to provide basic order, there's a real threat to the party in power. And that extends beyond crime and homelessness toward issues like inflation, gas prices, and the continuing disruptions of the COVID epidemic. So all in all, that is a bracing message for Democrats.

KING: And so extrapolate on that a bit in this with the history in the sense of, you know, California woke up America to the anti-tax movement. California woke up America to the power of the immigration issue in favor of Republicans at one point and then the other way. In Los Angeles, we have had a Republican mayor before Mr. Caruso is running as a Democrat, but he's a former Republican, crime propelled Richard Riordan, what should Democrats and other races around the country be looking at thinking about today after these results?

BROWNSTEIN: You know I think two things. First, by the way, there's no guarantee that Caruso is going to win in November getting those last few points to reach 50 percent in a one on one race is still going to be a challenge. But even if he falls short, in the end, the fact that he has gotten so much of an audience for this message in a city that as you pointed out, historically, has leaned to the left is revealing to Democrats and it's revealing on two levels.

First, that there has to be I think, a recalibration of the of the balance between the priority on reforming the criminal justice system and making sure that it works to provide public safety. I think that is a very clear message that was developing already with the win for Eric Adams last fall. And you see, thus, Lori Lightfoot in Chicago, Adams in New York, multiple Democrats struggling to kind of balance internally, the parts of the coalition that want to emphasize reform and it's clear signal from the broader electorate that they want more safety.

But also it shows that you need to focus on kind of the day to day experience of voters. I mean, Democrats have some issues that are going to work in their potentially in their advantage in the fall in terms of gun control and abortion that speak to people's values. But it's hard to make those front and center when people are a field that the certainties of daily life, their ability to navigate their daily life is compromised, whether it's from high prices or gas prices, or just the sheer erosion of the sense of safety in their kind of daily experience.

KING: And that was a fascinating night in California. We'll continue the conversation about the message now in the five months of November. Ron Brownstein, thanks for your time today.

And ahead for us, some more 2022 politics, new CNN reporting on a key Senate race, a Trump-backed candidate and his embrace of conspiracies.



BLAKE MASTERS, GOP SENATE CANDIDATE: I think Trump won in 2020. Maybe you disagree, but you've got to admit this election was really messed up.



KING: Some new CNN reporting now on a Trump-backed Senate candidate in Arizona. Blake Masters is on the record saying he still believes the 2020 election was stolen. And now this new audio, Masters floating the idea that the January 6th insurrection was somehow a false flag operation orchestrated by the FBI.


MASTERS: Don't we suspect that like one third of the people outside of the Capitol complex on January sixth were actual FBI agents hanging out. What did people know and when did they know it? We got to get to the bottom of this.


KING: Our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is behind this reporting and he's here with more. Manu, tell us more.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is audio obtained with my colleague Alex Rogers about an interaction that Blake Masters, the Trump-backed candidate in that very crowded Arizona Senate Republican primary had with Tea Party activists. A conservative activists at a Phoenix IHOP in March. It was an activist actually asked him as to whether they should investigate, quote, nefarious activities of the federal government.

And Masters himself floats this idea that, don't you suspect that the FBI agents were around January 6th, potentially weren't involved in January 6th, you heard the audio right there of exactly what he floated himself. And he raised other concerns throughout this audio suggesting that big tech was essentially gave the election to Donald Trump to Joe Biden and also suggesting that the January 6th rioters were receiving lighter sentences than liberals themselves.

Now liberals all across the country, including in the riots and the demonstrations that we saw in the aftermath of episodes of police violence. Now Masters himself declined to comment to us when we reached out to their campaign. A source familiar with his thinking said that he was simply asking questions about the FBI's actions all around January 6th and in the run up to January 6th.


But John, this is all about a broad group of Republicans who have aligned themselves with Donald Trump's claims that the election was stolen and rigged somehow without any evidence in order to get that coveted Trump endorsement.

KING: Remarkable. Keep an eye on that race. Great reporting, Manu. Thanks for your time today. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.