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GOP's Kinzinger Gets Letter Threatening His Execution; Clyburn: If Biden Doesn't Run Again, Harris Is "First On My List"; Israeli Leaders Agree To Dissolve Government. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: What if he's alone and there's half dozen people who go after him? We are closer in this country to the threat of more political violence than 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 against members of Congress every day on their phones, in their e-mail, in their mail. This is a sort of grim fact of American politics in 2022. And I think the fear is that January 6th was not the culmination. January 6th was sadly one more grim milestone on the waist down.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And to your point, Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans who serves on the January 6th Committee releasing over the weekend, you see a copy of a letter here, I'm not going to read the words, but it's a death threat, not only to the congressman, but to his wife and to his child, because he decided that, you know, he made this choice to serve in the Committee, you could disagree with that choice. Fine, that's America. But that we're going to kill you and your wife and your child.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: And what we're seeing here is these threats of violence, this intimidation, quite frankly, just making it more than uncomfortable making it dangerous to serve in public office, not just at the national level, but at the state and local level where they don't have the protections. Your local secretary, you know, election supervisor doesn't have round the clock security detail. And they're facing similar threats as well.

And so this is further undermining our democracy. We talked earlier, you know, some people want to say, you know, American democracy can withstand the weight of challenges. I don't know if that's true, because we haven't seen challenges like this at this level. And it is really scary because our government couldn't look very different. It just a few things go the other way.

KING: And to your point about foreign intervention, look, Putin is winning in that regard, in the sense that his whole point is to stoke doubt, stoke fear, stoke resentment, stoke divide in this environment, forgive the reference because it's a reprehensible thing. But it's almost T-ball, you know, for outside forces, including the Russians who are sophisticated enough to do it to further stoke what is already there.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Yes, look, that's been the intention from Russia for the beginning. It wasn't a specific outcome other than undermining Americans faith in each other, Americans faith in America, turning us against each other. You know, look, put that Kissinger letter up against an ad that we saw circulating on the internet this morning from Eric Greitens, who's a Senate candidate in Missouri, former governor.

He's got a military squad. In military but going and raiding a building and saying he's looking to bag and tag, Rhino Republicans, non-MAGA people. This is not just an acceptance of violence, it's a cheerleading of violence. It's making the violence, people with guns knocking down a door, saying we're bagging and tagging. And that is -- that's violence.

KING: And it's violence. It's not only anti-American since a democratic. It's both of those things, former Congressman Francis Rooney says, the Republican Party needs to look itself in the mirror and in his word, move on. Listen.


FRANCIS ROONEY (R-FL), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It seems to be that there's a base of people that are vocal that are fanatics, in my opinion, and fairly lawless, that will do anything to defend Trump and to defend the kind of chaos that they have justified with like January 6th, and they'll do anything. So we have to move on.


KING: But you cannot move on if Kevin McCarthy, the man who would be Speaker continues to dismiss the testimony we're hearing about January 6th from that Committee. I would argue you cannot move on if even Mitch McConnell who just doesn't want to talk about it -- so he avoids it and ignores it. You want to be the Senate majority leader, you need to talk about this every day. Leaders must lead. You cannot move on until you look people in the eye and tell them you believe a lie.

MARTIN: Yes, I think the McConnell assumption is that Trump will fade with time but frankly, that's been the calculation for seven years and Calamy now is sort of hoping somebody else will --

KING: Even if he faded tomorrow, it's everywhere now. It's not just Trump.

MARTIN: Bottle. I thought speaking Kevin McCarthy, I thought it was striking that Trump over the weekend criticized Kevin McCarthy for not having the Republican on the 1/6 Committee assign that a Trump does not have a ton of faith and Kevin McCarthy, as we already knew, but B, also that these hearings are starting to get Trump.

KING: Hearings are starting to get to Trump. It would be nice if they would get the attention of those who continue to either support the lie or just straddle and try not to avoid it out of fear or whatever.


Up next, the congressman who delivered who campaign saving endorsement of Joe Biden in 2020 says he is on Team Biden 2024. But Jim Clyburn also wants you to know he has a backup plan.


KING: Congressman Jim Clyburn's early bet on 2024, there'll be a repeat of 2020 and he'll be on Team Joe Biden, but the South Carolina Democrat does have a plan B, as there's more chatter about the possibility Biden wouldn't or shouldn't run. Here's what he told CNN this morning.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), MAJORITY WHIP: There's no question in my mind that Joe Biden is doing exactly what needs to be done for this great country of ours. We all know that our democracy is teetering on edge. We need Joe Biden to get us through rough patch. I'm just saying that if he chooses not to run again, first on my list after him will be Kamala Harris.



KING: This is sometimes amusing, sometimes strange conversation among Democrats. Joe Biden says he's running most Democrats take him at his word assume he'll be running. But because he is the nation's oldest president, they also think, well, who knows, or who knows what's going to happen in the midterm elections. Is there a recalculation? Clyburn is not, he's not just nobody, I mean he saved Joe Biden in 2020. South Carolina, obviously, still will be important on the calendar. So when he speaks we listen.

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: I'm sure the White House is very happy to hear him say that -- will be, you know, that there's a plan B in place. I mean, that the problem for the White House is that it's going to be very difficult for them to kind of tamp down the speculation because as you said, Biden is up in age, and there are a lot of questions, and the economy is not doing great. So there are questions about what happens next. But I think right now, Democrats probably want to just keep things going and not have like, you don't want Biden in as like a lame duck right now.

KING: And so you have some younger Democrats who say it's got nothing to do just with Joe Biden. They look -- but they look at the President of United States, they look at the Speaker of the House, I think Chuck Schumer is in his, what, 70s. He's a young guy, he's the young guy in the Democratic leadership. And Clyburn himself, Clyburn himself, and Clyburn acknowledged that. Listen here, Clyburn knowledge that, he says, look, I get it.


CLYBURN: Everybody knows that none of us are getting any younger. And we all tend to adjust our activities based upon what time it is, at any given juncture. And he'll do the same.


KING: But he still believes that, you know, Biden will be fine in 2024.

MITCHELL: Yes. Biden is doing what people wanted him to do, which was not be President Trump, not be tweeting at 4 o'clock in the morning, not, you know, embarrass us on an international stage. But there are limitations to what Joe Biden can do. Even physically, he can't travel as intensely. His speeches are, you know, his speeches, you have to pay attention a little bit more as he speaks, because he speaks slowly and things like that, that just with age comes limitations.

And I think that, you know, I don't -- Clyburn is not going to turn on his boy, Joe Biden. Clyburn is not going to turn on Kamala Harris, a former, you know, black member of Congress. But I think there are limitations, age comes with limitations. And if Democrats want to get to where they want to go, they might need to look at the next generation.

MARTIN: This is a generational discussion, too, because it's personal for Clyburn, and for Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, the top three leaders of House Democrats, because they're all over the age of 80. And a milestone the Biden himself is rapidly approaching, as he turns 80 this November. And so, look, I think there's a difference of opinion in the party about what the best bet is for the future. I think there's a lot of Democrats, certainly in Congress, obviously, in Biden's White House who believe, look, there's just nobody else that's a better option for us in 24, especially if it comes to beating Trump because he did it before.

And so look at the President. But there's voices elsewhere in the party, many of which will go on the record. But that are also I think, of the view that look, we have to have a primary in 2024 and feel the best possible candidate for the future. And that, you know, nominating Joe Biden once again, does not make a whole lot of sense, given some of the challenges he could have with age two years from now. This is not going away.

KING: Right. It's not going away. You mentioned the generational part, but one of the younger progressives who has pushed the generational time for new leadership argument more broadly in the party, not specific to Joe Biden is Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Here's the question put to her and she chooses her words carefully.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. But I think if the President has a vision, and that's something certainly we're all willing to entertain and examine when the when the time comes.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: That's not a yes.

OCASIO-CORTEZ: Yes, you know, I think we should endorse when we get to it, but I believe that the President has been doing a very good job so far. And, you know, should he run again, I think that I, you know, I think it's -- we'll take a look at it.


RASCOE: What a resounding endorsement.

MARTIN: Like, T.V.

KING: But she -- but at the same time she said, he's doing a good job, but she's not critical. So that was -- she gets the nuance.

RASCOE: But it was very nuanced. I think that, you know, there are a lot of people in the Democratic Party who are waiting in the wings, and they feel like the Democratic Party should have done more to try to mold and elevate people who are younger than 80 to help lead the party and I'm not trying to be ageist. But and -- they are ready and they want to move to a new place with the new generation.


KING: Never too early to talk about the next presidential election.

Up next, live to Ukraine for the latest, Russia's state media says it interviewed captured American fighters. And one of them says he was beaten.


KING: Breaking news this hour, a giant political shakeup in Israel. The parliament there plans to dissolve. And a new caretaker Prime Minister will take over until new elections are held. Let's get straight to Jerusalem, CNN's Hadas Gold. Hadas, what happened?


HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: John, this government was fragile teetering for weeks, but I think few people expected the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to essentially fall upon his own sword. In the last hour or so, we received word that the Prime Minister and the alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, have agreed to dissolve parliament themselves.

And then when the vote passes next week, it means that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid will now become prime minister of Israel and it will likely send Israelis to their fifth elections in less than four years. Essentially, this government decided they would rather dissolve themselves rather than give that pleasure to former Prime Minister and now opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. There had been efforts for several weeks to get enough votes to dissolve parliament. But essentially the Prime Minister and the foreign minister deciding they would rather do it themselves and put Yair Lapid in power as an Interim Caretaker Prime Minister.

Now what this means, John, is that it will be Yair Lapid who will welcome President Joe Biden when he visits Israel next month and not Naftali Bennett. And as far as we understand, the President still plans to make that visit despite the new Prime Minister, John.

KING: Remarkable turnover. We'll stay on top of it as it plays out. Hadas Gold live for us in Jerusalem. Thank you so much.

President Biden said this morning. He was not likely to visit Ukraine during a trip to Europe this coming weekend. Meantime, Russian backed separatists in a video posted on a pro Russian YouTube channel say they are holding two captured American fighters. Those Americans are being held in Donetsk in the eastern part of the country. One of them Alexander John Robert Drueke says he has been beaten a few times.

Ukraine now admits Russia now controls a town on the outskirts of the strategic eastern city in Severodonetsk. Let's get live to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's now live for us in Kramatorsk. Ben, what's the latest?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest on those two Americans is not good. They're being held in the Donetsk People's Republic. That's that pro-Russian breakaway part of Ukraine. And the problem there is that we have seen in the past they have put these on the 9th of June, they found two British fighters with the Ukrainian army and one Moroccan guilty of being mercenaries. And the worry is that in the Donetsk People's Republic, they do have the death penalty. In Russia, there's a moratorium on the death penalty.

If they are put on trial, there's a danger that they will be found guilty and will be sentenced to death. Now those death sentences on the other two, the two Brits and the Moroccan have not been carried out but there are no indications coming from the officials in the Donetsk People's Republic which is recognized by nobody, but Russia that they will be pardoned anytime soon.

Meanwhile, on the front, the situation is increasingly dire for the Ukrainian defenders, a town on the eastern outskirts of Severodonetsk, has been captured by the Russians. Meanwhile, Russian forces are advancing from the south to Lysychans'k. It looks like Ukraine's hold on the Luhansk region is increasingly tenuous. We did hear the Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister that they believe the Russians are aiming to take all of Luhansk by the 26th of June.

And of course the problem is the Ukrainians are wildly outnumbered by the Russians when it comes to artillery. There is some Western supplied equipment including advanced artillery systems on the frontlines in eastern Ukraine. More is on the way. But at this point, we've heard various different accounts but as many as 15 Russian artillery pieces to every one possessed by the Ukrainians, John.

KING: Ben Wedeman, sober reporting live for us in Kramatorsk. Ben, thank you very much.


Up next for us, the President of United States talks gears, spokes, and pedal cages. Yes, Joe Biden explains how he took a tumble off his bike.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Topping our Political Radar today, COVID-19 vaccines for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers could be available as soon as tomorrow. The CDC over the weekend authorized Moderna and Pfizer doses for kids six months through five years old. The former FDA commissioner, a Pfizer board member, Scott Gottlieb, warns this rollout is more complicated and he says the process may be slower. Many pharmacies are not set up to handle children so young. The White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says young kids will experience similar side effects as those experienced by teens and adults.

President Biden this morning saying he's doing just fine after falling off his bike and Rehoboth Beach over the weekend. The President was biking near his Delaware home with the First Lady when his foot got caught in the pedals.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: OK. I'm feeling great. I'm feeling great. What happened was, yes, I mean, you guys ride bikes? Well, they have some that have this thing you put your toe here that strains your foot so then it slow off the pedal. When I was getting off the bike, it got stuck on the right side.


KING: Today is Juneteenth, the day of course marking the end of slavery in America. This year, the country is commemorating it with a new federal holiday. The Vice President Kamala Harris visiting the Smithsonian African American History Museum this afternoon, where children were learning about the new holiday.


Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.