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Fmr Federal Judge: Trump & Allies "Clear And Present Danger" To U.S.; Putin Delivers Speech Railing Against West For Sanctions On Russia; GOP Senator Warns Gun Talks Could Collapse If Key Decisions Aren't Made. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 17, 2022 - 12:30   ET



ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: He claims about the election fraud as well. So you're probably going to hear that.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's a reason that he can peddle misleading claims, and that is because his supporters believe him. And his supporters aren't tuning in to every minute of the January 6th investigation and their public hearings. And I think that you cannot discount the fact that he's still speaks for such a large part of the Republican base right now that it works for him because there are people who still trust him above anyone else.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And it works for him because he is still enabled by people in elected office who either fear him or see some gain and sticking with him, which is why it was interesting yesterday to hear a deeply respected mind and conservative legal story -- circles, the former federal judge, Michael Luttig, saying, yes, what happened in the rearview mirror back after the 2020 election on January 6th was reprehensible. But the bigger problem is, it continues today.


J. MICHAEL LUTTIG, FORMER FEDERAL JUDGE: Donald Trump and his allies and supporters are a clear and present danger to American democracy.


KING: So we will see what Donald Trump says later today. But where's Kevin McCarthy? Where's Mitch McConnell? Where are the members of the House and the Senate and Republican governors saying, wait a minute, wait a minute, this is, I'm sorry, you know, these aren't Democrats, these aren't Republicans in names. Oh, this is Team Trump laying out in detail what happened, and it is incredibly damning, and it's crickets from other Republicans.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, all you hear Kevin McCarthy saying is why isn't that -- why aren't there Committee hearings on it, inflation. I mean, he wants to be speaker, and he knows that if he goes sideways that Donald Trump, he's not going to be speaker. That's it, like then seen. Mitch McConnell wants to be leader again, if -- I mean, he already is sideways of Donald Trump. So I mean --

KING: But he doesn't want to fight this fight every day.

KUCINICH: But he doesn't want to fight this fight every day. He wants to be talking about other things. They don't want to retract this again. And I really don't think just to go back to your other question. Well, what's Trump going to say? I don't think he's going to speak in generalities when he calls it what the unselect Committee. And so I think just by deriving it, I mean, it's a lot like what we saw during the Russia investigation, right? He just called it all fake. And they're all out to get me and he won't go into that. He's counting on the fact that they're not watching.

KING: Right. They -- all the Republicans used that deflection. They want to get into the controversy and forming this Committee. They had a chance for a bipartisan commission, the Republicans torpedo that. So then Nancy Pelosi went ahead with this Committee, and yes, she said she would not sit certain Trump loyalists on the Committee. So the Republicans say sham committee. If Al Capone shoots a video of you robbing a bank, you could say, oh, Al Capone is a crook. You still robbed the bank.

And the test -- this testimony is coming from Team Trump, not from Committee members. And the point Judge Luttig was trying to get at is the continuation of this just now in New Mexico. You have a county commission refusing to certify election results. One member of that commission was actually convicted for his role on January 6th, New Mexico County Commissioner awaiting sentencing for his January 6th conviction, said Thursday he plans to defy a State Supreme Court order and will not vote to certify the results of a recent primary election in a flare up of her vote-telling machines.

So they're still peddling this lie about dominion voting machines. But here's a person who has been convicted for his role in January 6th, who's continuing this, not only election denial, but ignoring the rule of law. The states -- that's -- it's not just stating your opinion, the state Supreme Court said you must do this, there have to be rules.

KANNO-YOUNGS: I mean, look at this point, we have to understand it's not just the former president that continues to seize on election fraud to galvanize any base, we are seeing that this is a trend now with mixed results, but a trend that is happening, especially in these recent primary elections, where you have candidates that are continued to -- continuing to sit on that strategy. Let me peddle these lies about election fraud in order to galvanize that same coalition that you were talking about of Trump supporters. He use as an election strategy. And yesterday, you heard a judge say this is going to pose a threat to democracy moving forward as well.

FOX: I mean, you've seen such a change in the Republican Party, where people who start running for county commissioner who believed these ideas someday become a U.S. senator, right? You rise to the higher levels of office, believing and talking about these things. And that's what's so dangerous here.

KING: Right. This testimony from loyal Republicans could be a reset moment, but we'll leave it at the but.


Up next, Russia's war in Ukraine, Ukraine's President thanks to European leaders for a major recommendation and Vladimir Putin is forced to wait his big speech today delayed by cyberattacks.


KING: Some big developments in Ukraine today, NATO now planning to move more troops closer to Russia's border. European Union also putting Ukraine's membership in the E.U. on a faster track. The Russian President Vladimir Putin today reacting with considerable scorn speaking in St. Petersburg, Putin lashed out at the United States, lashed out at the NATO alliance and he promised success in Ukraine.


PRES. VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA (through translator): Our soldiers and the militias of Donbass are fighting to defend their people. All the aims of the special operation will be achieved.


KING: CNN is covering the story from all angles. Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon for us, Fred Pleitgen live in St Petersburg. Fred, let's start with you, tell us more about President Putin speech.


FRED PLEITGEN, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly didn't take him very long to start ripping into the United States and its Western allies, essentially blaming the U.S. for what he called the conflict in Ukraine. And essentially, he basically said, forcing Russia to invade Ukraine, because essentially, he said that the U.S. was sort of bringing Ukraine into NATO's auspices over the past couple of years, and therefore, Russia was forced to act the way it is. This is according to Vladimir Putin.

He also was quite forceful in saying that he would not allow Russia to be isolated economically. He said Russia is too big to be isolated economically. Russia would seek different partners and Russia would build its economy. It's no doubt, John, that the Russian economy is certainly suffering. But from what we can see on the ground here, actually, it certainly doesn't seem to be it's as crippled as the Biden ministration said it would be by these very tough sanctions. And we did see a very combative, Vladimir Putin. And one as we've just seen in that soundbite who said that Russia will continue its invasion of Ukraine until all of its objectives are met, John.

KING: Fred Pleitgen live for us in St. Petersburg, Fred, thank you very much. Let's move on to Barbara Starr now at the Pentagon. Barbara, let's start with the military first. A new $1 Billion U.S. aid package, an additional package, the NATO Defense Ministers meeting to talk about more heavy weapons. NATO saying it will move some of its troops into the frontline countries Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania around here, what is happening from the military perspective for the long haul?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, the long haul is a key word, John. I mean, you are seeing still the effort to get weapons in as fast as possible to deal with the immediate crisis. But what Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, when he went to NATO this week tried to accomplish is setting the framework for that long haul, putting the more U.S. and NATO troops along that Eastern flank perhaps on a rotating basis, perhaps more permanently, that security corridor against the Russian border.

That is the long term goal here to have that long term confidence building with the allies in Eastern Europe that NATO is there, U.S. forces are there, they're not leaving, and they will be there if and when Russia ever was to make another move.

KING: A troubling development from the American perspective front and center now, Barbara, three Americans who had gone to Ukraine to join the fight missing, a photograph of two of them that appears to be them in a Russian vehicle in Ukraine. The President was asked about this this morning, listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How concerned are you about the three Americans who are reportedly missing in Ukraine? Have you been briefed?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have been briefed. We don't know where they are. But I want to reiterate, American should not be going to Ukraine now. I'll say it again, Americans should not be going to Ukraine now.


KING: Barbara, what do we know?

STARR: This is the message that U.S. has been sending all along, telling people not to go. But of course we know that so many Americans, many of them former military have traveled to Ukraine to join the fight. They feel it so deeply. Now this photo, we have a former Army soldier, Alexander Drueke on the left of former Marine on the right. They appear to have their hands behind their back. They appear to be in the back of a vehicle. Food cans on the floor with paper labeling with Russian lettering on it. Also, another Marine with 20 years of service and Marine Corps veteran has also disappeared. Their families not hearing from them for many, many weeks, no word on where they are if they are being held.

The U.S. talking to the International Committee of the Red Cross that Kremlin saying today, it doesn't know anything about them. So this is very difficult business trying to get some understanding of where they are and how to get them back to their families. John?

KING: Difficult challenge, Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, Fred Pleitgen in St. Petersburg, Russia. Thank you both. We'll continue to stay on top of the stories.


Up next for us though, America suffers another mass shooting, this time at an Alabama church and Senate negotiations on new gun safety steps in a snag.


KING: Sadly another deadly shooting to report today, this time at a small church in the suburbs at Birmingham, Alabama. Police say two people were killed, another person injured last night at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 71-year-old suspect is in police custody. The victims identified this morning as 84-year-old Walter Rainey, 75-year- old Sarah Yeager. The shooting comes as there are troubling signs here in Washington in the talks to hammer out a bipartisan bill to address some gun violence issues. Congress now gone for the weekend, and there are now serious doubts a gun reform bill would be ready for the Senate floor debate next week.

A top Republican negotiator warns the talks could actually collapse if key decisions aren't made and made soon. Our great reporters are back with us. Lauren Fox, what is the hang up and what happened to the beginning of the week there was all this optimism that gets a legislative text written this week, could come to the floor next week, no.

FOX: The hang up is the same hang up they had on Tuesday afternoon and after about four hours of discussions yesterday before everyone left for the weekend. It was basically decided we're not going to get a deal today. Senator Cornyn walking out saying he's frustrated. They have two pieces that they just have not been able to find agreement on. One of them is incentives for states to pass red flag laws. Republicans want more parity for states that have other incentives to stop violent crimes. There is also a disagreement over the boyfriend loophole, which is so contentious that it actually fell out of the Violence Against Women's Act a couple of months ago.


But those are the two sticking points. They have not made progress. There are no plan meetings, I'm told between those four senators today, that could always change. But, you know, staffs continuing to try to hammer this out. But at this point, there's just not agreement on those two sticking points. And until you get that, you can't write the rest of the bill, they do need an agreement overall, to have something to roll on.

KING: And so when you get to this impasse or pause and trying to write the text, they can't reach an agreement. You listen closely to the key players. This is John Cornyn, who's the lead Republican negotiator. He brings up the issues Lauren just mentioned. Let's listen to how he brings them up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): Before in a better place in terms of the grants to states that have crisis intervention programs, some of those are like a 19 states are red flag, we want to make sure that due process is protected, because we're talking about a fundamental constitutional right. The so called boyfriend loophole continues to be a bit of a challenge.


KING: Why is it a challenge?

KUCINICH: There are a lot of -- lots of technical reasons why it's a challenge for Republicans. But I do think guns is one of these issues and gun -- even if this has nothing really to do with limiting guns where it only takes one thing, one hang up to make the whole thing fall apart. And maybe this is something that gets dropped from the deal entirely. That is not impossible. But, you know, when you hear that due process, you hear things like that, it just -- it seems to be indications where it's going in the wrong direction, if you're someone who wants reform on these issues.

KING: Right. And so this is the debate we've had weighed too many times, which is right after one of these mass shootings or two of these mass shootings, or how many have we had in the last couple of months, too many to count mass shootings. There's this political momentum and then every time the time ticks, it starts the air comes out of the balloon, if you will.

But I thought Neil Newhouse, Republican post record of "The Washington Post" today saying nothing on the table in this plan is a problem for Republicans. He says that all tests fine with Republicans. So why, why can't we get it done?

KANNO-YOUNGS: I was just going to say when Senator McConnell basically delegated Senator Cornyn to be really the representative and one of the lead negotiators with Murphy, you knew that it was going to be modest gains, the focus was going to be modest gains, incremental sort of changes, even then you have Senator Murphy for the Democrats also saying, look, we're open to that at this point.

We are talking about provisions that just a couple of weeks ago, we would be emphasizing for not aligning with some of the proposals. The top line, the goalposts proposed that President Biden laid out in his speech, they were much more modest than we've seen, even in made something like mentioned to me, but we have to look at history here and the precedents of any progress on gun control or any progressive message on gun control.

Even after Newtown, when nothing was done there, you can imagine why many Americans and many people around the Hill would be dubious of the pace of any sort of thing getting enacted here.

KING: The Democrats have been quite clear, we will accept a lot less than we want to get something done, would -- if they had to drop this boyfriend loophole. Is that a red line for them? FOX: Senator Murphy says that he doesn't want to do that, that he doesn't want to have that conversations. To your point at one of their Senate lunches this week, Senator Cornyn actually walked members through internal polling that he said showed positive feedback from Republican voters for all of the items that were on the table. But the issues over the boyfriend loophole, for example, I mean, you're talking about very important but small disagreements over the language. And it's just hard to nail that stuff down at the last minute and they're going to run out of time because they're only in session for a few days next week.

KING: They better not use that excuse again. We're going to run out of time, sit in the room, sit in the room, figure it out.


When we come back, Florida, the only state that did not preorder COVID vaccines for its youngest residents. What Republican Governor Ron DeSantis says about that decision, next.


KING: Topping our Political Radar, the FDA today authorizing Moderna and Pfizer's COVID vaccines for children as young as six months old, 49 states pre ordered those vaccines to be ready when the CDC gives the final OK, that should come as early as this weekend. But Florida is balking. Governor Ron DeSantis declined to preorder vaccines and makes clear he thinks parents of young children should take a pass.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The state of Florida has had the recommendation from five and up for a while. We are the first state to do that. And now from the sixth month to five, the state's recommendation holds. It's a recommendation against doing it. That's different than saying you can't, you are free to choose. That's not an issue.


KING: The former Trump adviser Peter Navarro in court today. He pleaded not guilty to federal charges stemming from his refusal to cooperate with the January 6th Committee investigation. Navarro, the second Trump ally to face criminal contempt charges, Steve Bannon's case goes to trial next month.

Millions of veterans exposed to burn pits during their military service are getting closer to getting care. The Senate voted 84 to 14 to pass the bill. All of the no votes came from Republican senators. The massive pits were used to burn waste, trash, all kinds of hazardous materials on military sites and they released toxins that made troops sick. The bill now moves to the House where it likely will be passed and then to the President's desk for signing.

[13:00:04] This quick programming note, join some of the biggest stars as they lift their voices for Juneteenth, a global celebration for freedom, that's live Sunday night 8:00 p.m. only here on CNN. Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. I hope you have a peaceful weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.