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Inside Politics

Jan 6 Cmte Hearing To Examine Trump's Role In Electors Plot; Trump Pressured Georgia Election Officials To Find Votes; Clyburn: "Concerned" By Biden DOJs Handling Of Jan 6 Prosecutions; WH Doubles Down On Economic Message: Recession Isn't Inevitable; Biden Hopes To Decide On Gas Tax Holiday By End Of This Week; Analyst Warn Spending On Services Is Slowing Amid Inflation; U.S. Fears Russia Will Try New Ways To Exploit Divisions; Texas GOP Falsely Claims Biden "Was Not Legitimately Elected". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing this day with us. Crime and punishment, tomorrow the January 6 committee, says it will show the country evidence Donald Trump was directly involved in the plot to submit fake slates of electors. And multiple members of that committee say, yes, the former president committed prosecutable crime.

Plus, "there's nothing inevitable about a recession" that from the president United States just moments ago, taking questions from reporters in Delaware. The president says a recession is not destiny and he says lifting the gas tax is on the table.

Plus, captured America fleet. Russian state media shows two Alabama men who volunteered to fight alongside Ukraine in captivity, held by Russian backed separatists. Up first resto, new developments in the insurrection investigation. The January 6 committee's next hearing is tomorrow. The panel promises to expose Donald Trump's role in a scheme to sub in faked electors for the real ones, and repeated attempts to intimidate state officials to help him.

On CNN, a committee member says part of Tuesday's evidence will directly tie the former president to this plot.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We will show evidence of the president's involvement in this scheme. We'll also again show evidence about what his own lawyers came to think about this game will show during a hearing and what the president's role was in trying to get states to name alternate slates of electors. How that scheme depended, initially on hopes that the legislators would reconvene and bless it.


SCHIFF: I don't want to get ahead of what we're showing during the hearing. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We did here last week from the former president's own lawyers, who dismissed this plot as half-baked and most definitely illegal. Tuesday, the witnesses include a pair of Georgia election officials, the Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and a key deputy Gabe Sterling. They were on the receiving end of course of a Trump rant to "find votes" and throw out Joe Biden's Georgia win. We will also hear from Rusty Bowers, the Arizona House speaker who Trump and Rudy Giuliani pressured to let his state's legislature pick new electors.

With me to share their reporting and their insights, NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, Jonathan Martin of The New York Times, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Tia, let me start with you. The witnesses tomorrow include two of the Georgia state officials, the secretary of state and chief of staff essentially Gabe Sterling, who came under intense pressure from Donald Trump. Let's just remind our viewers, Donald Trump lost Georgia. He had a recap. He lost it. They did more checking. He lost it. Then he got on the phone and said, fix it.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have because we won the state.


KING: The challenge for the committee is to prove that's just not a desperate man ranting. That's somebody who was told it's the intent. What was his knowledge? And what was his intent? Did he know he lost? Did you know he ran everything out? And was that not only corrupt, but criminal?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. And it's interesting. The former president is already trying to shape the narrative ahead of tomorrow's meeting, he put out on his social media, and then an email said it was a perfect call is how he described it, his call with the secretary of state because he said he was just pointing out the fraud. And we know that's not true.

I think what the committee is trying to do, but what's going to be tough is, we know that there were advisers to the president who were feeding into the misinformation, feeding him lies, or if nothing else, confirmation bias.

And so, what the president is saying is that I had people in my ear telling me there were problems in Georgia, I was just following up. So, it's going to be up to the committee to make that connection as to whether, at what point did he know what he was saying wasn't true and move forward with this intimidation anyway.

KING: But politically, the committee has laid out some damning evidence for members of Trump's own team is, you know, for all the Republicans who want to say, it's an alleged a committee from Donald Trump, who want to say these people aren't telling the truth. These are his people. The question is, can they connect the dots to make a strong enough legal case, not just the political case?

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY": Well, I mean, he was told over and over again, that this was illegal. And you even have one of his advisers saying, hey, you know, John Eastman, saying, are they still given out pardons? I want to get on that list. Why do you want to get on that list if you didn't do anything illegal? I mean, people were laying it out to Trump that what he was doing was illegal. It was breaking the law, but he didn't want to hear that.


So, he went and found some people who would tell him that it was OK. But the question is, I'm not a lawyer but is that good enough, is that a way to get around the law as long as you can find someone who tells you what you want to hear.

KING: One of the questions, obviously, again, if you just listen to the committee, just listen to the testimony. Forget your partisan views. It's damning. It is just damning about the former president being told you lost. We tried in court, you lost. It's over, you lost. The question is does it break through? Other ratings have been OK. People are paying attention to social media interaction. If you look at internet searches in the like, there's high interest.

This ABC News/Ipsos poll, Jonathan, a 60 percent of Americans overall think Donald Trump had committed crimes, but you see this partisan split there. Now there's a big sampling error. It's a small sample. So, it's a big margin of error. But you see right there, 91 percent of Democrats think, yes, only 19 percent of Republicans think that that that's the political challenge, the public opinion challenges this committee breaking through.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I break it down slightly differently. I think that question is about the Trump break the law. And I think the instinct of Republicans is to sort of knee jerk defend him, mostly because they're siding with their tribes. So that 19 doesn't surprise me.

But I think is more interesting is less the legal question here in the aftermath and more than a political question, because I think at the end of this, what this committee is laying out, ultimately is not just pursuing a legal indictment, it's pursuing a political indictment, too.

I thought Peggy Noonan's column over the weekend sort of got at this very, very wisely. I think what they're putting in the groundwater of American politics here is, you can avert your gaze, did that Trump was culpable offered for January 6, and by the end of this, that is going to do damage to him politically, yes, within his own party.

They're never going to admit it to a pollster and probably won't to a reporter either. But I think that sort of cumulative baggage from this, John, is going to weigh on Trump within his own party, probably more than he wants to attempt.

KING: To your point that even for Trump loyalists, it is too risky. It's just too risky to do this again.

MARTIN: Right? Look, like the policies they'll say, like him, but I think quietly and probably euphemistically say, it's just time to move on, look to the future, somebody else. Doesn't mean Trump won't be the nominee in '24, given the whole he does still have on a lot of Republicans. But I think at the end of this, you're going to find a larger group in the GOP, quietly looking for an alternative.

KING: And part of the conversation is, we continue to listen to the committee, which again, has done a remarkable job presenting new evidence and testimony from people directly involved on teen trip. Is all we doing this for history? Or are we doing this because the conspiracy lives and that is part of the debate?

The national review editorial board saying this, we should not forget what happened on January 6. But we should also be confident in the strength of our democratic institutions to withstand attempts by bad actors to illegitimately cling to power. They're making the case, the system held up. We're good. Adam Kinzinger, Republican member of the committee says, no.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): There is violence in the future, I'm going to tell you, and until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can't expect any differently. 2024 is going to be a mess and wake up America, wake up Republicans, because this is not going to be good for you, if you think it is.


KING: His point is, and again, if you look at the primary elections in your state, primary elections all around the country. Republicans running based on the big lie, running based on the idea that elections are somehow rigged, not just about Trump, that the system is rigged.

RASCOE: I mean, the thing is, this is a very seductive argument, right? Like if you believe, you know, you want Trump to win. If he doesn't win, then it was fraud, right. The person you want to win, didn't win, then it's impossible that he lost. And so, you have a lot of people that have bought into that. They really believe it.

If Republican Party, maybe some of the stalwarts, they may be able to, you know, move on, but you know, there is no evidence that the base wants to move on. And if they really believe that this election was stolen, which they're saying over and over again, I don't know why you don't take them at face value.

KING: But the other base is watching too, meaning the Democratic base is watching. And again, the testimony has been incredibly damning. So, you have people like Jim Clyburn, the number three in the House of Representatives say, hello, Biden, justice department move.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): People are concerned that the Department of Justice may have too many carryovers from the last administration and not moving in order to do what's needed to protect this democracy.

JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR OF NEW DAY: Are you concerned that they're not moving quickly enough?

CLYBURN: Yes, I am.


KING: Again, that's, you know, that's - if some would say politically inappropriate pressure on the justice department, but he's a member of Congress. He gets to say what he was. You know, there is a question of, will is the justice department, he's asked for the transcripts from the committee hearings, is what comes out of that Biden justice department.


MARTIN: Well, I didn't collaborate in a lot of ways is the sort of voice of Democrats, the inner voice of Democrats, that he often blurts out loud, and he just, there did it again, right. Well, I think a lot of Democrats, including some perhaps who worked for Joe Biden would tell you, they wanted on a political justice department, but perhaps not this a political job, which is to say, yes, Merrick Garland is respected jurist and man of the law.

But also, my goodness, the facts here are pretty damning, why are we moving, you heard Clyburn's reference there, which I thought was very telling of the holdovers from justice. And I think that's a message to the political appointees from President Biden, get moving.

KING: Shake the tree a little bit. All right. Again, a very important committee hearing tomorrow as the business continues. Up next for us, new important words from the present United States on the economy and soaring gas prices. The president says, he may pause the gas tax to ease pressure on your family budget.




KING: A dip in consumer spending is a new red flag for the economy. And it is getting quick attention from the president and his economic team. They are well aware of such spending drives the American economy. Listen to this year, including the president.


JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PRESIDENT: I was talking to Larry Summers this morning. And there's nothing inevitable about a recession.

JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, I expect the economy to slow, but I don't think a recession is it all inevitable.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, ENERGY SECRETARY: Recession is not inevitable. The president really wants to have a steady and stable recovery.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Not only is the recession not inevitable, but I think that a lot of people are underestimating those strengths and the resilience of the American economy.


KING: It's consistent. Number one, which is important, but that's cheerleading because the American economy is so driven by consumer spending, and we're approaching our July 4 holiday summer vacation. They are afraid that if Americans are convinced the economies by the time, they'll pull back, and then that will make - that would make it inevitable.

MITCHELL: And I think, you know, it's such a fine line with American economic policy between like inflation that's acceptable versus inflation that's too out of control in like price decreases that are acceptable versus price decreases that are like we're in a recession and for the American public, that perception is just - it's hard to gauge when Americans believe we're in a recession.

So, prices start to decrease, you can't kind of control that public perception. And I wonder, you know, the Biden administration gotten a little trouble with creating too rosy and outlook of the long-term impacts of inflation. And now it's like they could be setting themselves up again, for perhaps setting it up too rosy like, at the end of the day, they want prices to drop. The Fed is making movements for prices to go down. And if it starts to tumble, they won't have a lot of control over that.

KING: And so, we're four months now, from the election. You cannot separate the politics from the economic, just can't, the depress the United States. So, if you look at the national price of gas, it has gone down a couple of pennies, but a couple of pennies count. $4.98 a gallon is the average today. It's down three cents from a week ago.

But what everybody remembers is a year ago, when they were paying almost $2 less for gas. So initially, if you go back several weeks ago, the administration was cool to this idea of a gas tax, federal gas tax holiday, it's 18 cents on the gallon. Just today the president says, maybe and you'll know soon.


BIDEN: Yes, I'm considering it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How soon can we expect a decision?

BIDEN: Well, I hope, I have a decision based on data, I'm looking for by the end of the week.


MARTIN: Right before the July 4 holiday, Americans are going to be in their cars. Look, the Biden folks know that $5 a gas for week, or even months, it's politically challenging to put it mildly. I was so struck by Biden's mentioned of talking to Larry Summers this morning. That's the biggest it's classic Biden to blurt out who he ought to call. But also because Larry Summers was one of the loudest voices in 2021 warning about inflation.

And as Alex Burns and I report in our book, this will not pass. The Biden people were eye rolling left and right in 2021, when Summers was warning about inflation. And now obviously Biden is talking to Larry Summers in trying to sort of keep him inside the tent. I could help him as Larry Summers was on a show yesterday in the previous Sunday, perhaps Joe Biden saw some clips of those shows and wants to keep summers on message.

KING: But that is part of the president's challenge. Look, a president cannot make wave a magic wand. And even if, yes, he could suspend the gas tax for weeks or months or whatever. But then the federal government loses. There's a bigger price for that too. The Highway Trust Fund, lose love it. You can do modest things, but you can't make it all go away. You just need - he's trying to show the American people. I'm doing everything I can't, I'm trying anyway,

RASCOE: He wants to show that he's trying. This is as you're saying. This is an economic problem that has really serious political ramifications. Now, a lot of Biden's supporters, Biden supporters don't like to hear this. But this is a problem for the president. No, he did not cause it. No, it's not all his fault. But at the end of the day, presidents get all sorts of problems on their desk that they didn't cause, they didn't ask for it, and they got to deal with it. And he has to deal with it.

If he gets - if he does the gas tax holiday. The question is, when do you bring it back? Because then you're raising. And that's the problem when you do a holiday, so you want to raise my gas prices later. That's the problem with that, but you may see it because at $5 a gallon or close to it, they want to do something

MARTIN: mid-November.

RASCOE: Exactly.

KING: But you do see on the economic front, if you, you know, you read the smart people, they just see this dangerous spot. But can the Fed get the sweet spot, slow things down without tipping into recession? This is from the Washington Post all through 2022, the narrative has been that as COVID faded, households would ramp up spending on services, the Barclays analyst noted. They know this week and indeed that narrative has been true for much of this year, but services spending seems to be slowing considerably.

[12:20:00] Again, that's hotels, you know, that's airfare, that's travel That's the American consumer saying, it costs more but that's OK, I'm OK. If the American sewer says, I'm not OK, then the economy gets in trouble.

MITCHELL: Right. And you hear, you know, I'm sure we talked to our friends to say, you know, the outside is getting very expensive, and I'm going to have to be home more. And it's not just the prices at the pump, its airline fares, it's just their grocery bills. And I think people, again, that sweet spot is just so hard to catch. Because people are very perceptive of what's coming out of their pocket.

They're very perceptive of how far their paycheck goes. And guess, we liked when prices decrease. But if that price - if the prices of goods going down, starts affecting how businesses move in this world and hiring and things like that, then it'll have even bigger effects on the economy.

So, it's just so hard to catch that sweet spot. And I wish the Biden administration was a little bit more honest about that. I know they want to put on a rosy picture and it's about politics and wanting to help out the party. But I think it doesn't always serve the general public to not understand the factors at play.

KING: A quick break for us. When we come back, weekend reminders, the political climate is beyond raw. And Alexa (Ph) said experts now worry, Russia will again try to meddle and try to exploit the American political divide.




KING: The Texas Republican Party convention this weekend, full of reminders our political climate is raw, to say the least. And some new CNN reporting today, details how federal and state authorities are bracing for the likelihood. Russia will try again to exploit America's political divide and distrust.

Here's a slice of that reporting. Homeland and national security officials are worried about how Russia could significantly exploit U.S. divisions over the November midterms, considering scenarios like Russia staging smaller hacks of local election authorities, done with the deliberate purpose of being noticed. And then, using that to seed more conspiracies about the integrity of American elections.

CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere reported that and wrote that story, joins our conversation. So, the idea here is that Russia in the past has tried to hide its activity. Part of the thinking here is, they don't care if they get caught, they would be happy to get caught. They just want people to continue to have the flower of doubt about the math of elections.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: It's an evolution and sophistication from 2016. We're in 2016. They were probing into election system, seeing where they could get in, doing some things with social media. When they were caught, they blamed, remember, Guccifer 2.0. This would be done.

Going after local election authorities all over the country, at the county level, city level, trying to get information, even if just a little bit, make sure that they get caught. That's the purpose of it. And then use that information to then put into these now much more developed social media networks and see this into an anger conspiracy feedback loop.

KING: Anger conspiracy feedback loop, just makes you shake your head. But you know, the basis is there for it. And again, I mentioned the Texas state Republican convention, they passed a platform, the state Republican convention that declares Joe Biden quote was not legitimately elected. It goes on to have positions about ramping up anti-abortion rhetoric and public schools.

If calls being gay an abnormal lifestyle choice. But this fact that Biden was legitimately elected. Then in Texas where Biden lost, the Republican Party feels it has to go out of its way to say, he's not a legitimate president just tells you that this cancer is in the bloodstream of the party.

RASCOE: Well, it is, and you don't even have to look to Russia to stir this up. You know, I talked to Kathleen Belew on Weekend Edition just yesterday. And what she said was, when you look at what happened on January 6, when you look at attacks on LGBTQ events, that all of these things, what happened in Buffalo, all these things are related that there is a very serious white power movement, going on in this country, that they want to overthrow the government and set up a white ethnostate, or they want to use the levers of government to set up a more fascist system. This is real. This is happening. And they are using mainstream people and mainstream outlets to try to get it done.

KING: And so, the question is, how do you stop it? Or how do you slow it? If you can't stop it, slow it first and then stop it. At that same convention, Congressman Crenshaw confronted, essentially equated with John McCain, John Cornyn, who's the former attorney general of Texas. Now the senator from Texas. He's involved in these bipartisan gun safety negotiations. He is booed. So, these are Republicans withstanding, getting booed by the own activists in their party.

MARTIN: Yes. I thought, look Cornyn being booed in some ways is somewhat coin as a politician who transgresses his own party being booed by party activist, isn't exactly a new story. What is, I think a new more troubling and frankly, much more alarming story is Dan Crenshaw being confronted? And I think what happens if Crenshaw is not surrounded by advisers and people there who were friendly.

What if he's alone? And there's half dozen people who go after - we are closer in this country to the threat of more political violence and people realize or want to accept. And I think you see this with this sort of Crenshaw clip and even more depressingly, John, you see it with the level of death threats that come in.