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Biden To Call For Summer Suspension Of Federal Gas Tax; Biden Admin: Gas Tax Holiday Would Give Americans "Breathing Room"; GOP Sen. Cramer Says Hand May Need Amputation After Yard Work Injury; Jan 6 Cmte Details Trump Pressure On State Officials; RNC Chair: Trump On Call Where Eastman Discussed Fake Electors Plot; AZ House Speaker Giuliani Admitted No Fraud Evidence, Only "Lots Of Theories"; Source: Top Investigator For Jan 6 Cmte Leaving Position Early; Senate Poised To Pass First Gun Safety Legislation In Decades. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired June 22, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. The president tries to ease your pain at the pump. He's asking Congress now and asking the states to suspend gas taxes for three months, just as Americans hit the road for the summer.

Plus, "I didn't want to be used as a pawn." Republican elected officials go point by point through Donald Trump's efforts to throw out the 2020 election. Now, the January 6 committee calls on a key West Wing insider to share his story, Trump's White House counsel. And is the Trump brand fading? Voters say yes to a very late Trump picking a Senate race in Alabama. But Georgia Republicans again defy the former president. This time in two House races.

Up first for us though, a new White House push to lower gas prices for the summer driving season. Today, President Biden will ask the Congress to suspend the federal gas tax for three months, July, August and September. And he will call on states to do the same. At an event this afternoon, the president will also demand oil companies do more to lower prices, including ramping up production and refining.

It is a big White House play on this year's dominant economic and political issue, high gas prices and much broader problem with inflation and economic anxiety. But the odds of delivering that temporary gas tax relief, at least at the federal level appear quite long, at least at the outset.

Let's get straight to the White House and our chief correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, tell us more.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. You're going to see the president make this push today for this three- month federal gas tax holiday. And basically, that would amount to a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax. And of course, the big question people have when they hear that is, how much is that going to save them when they're at the pump. And right now, that's about $0.18 on a regular gas of gallon, about $0.24 if you're buying diesel. So, not a huge difference when the national average is close to $5 a gallon. But the White House's argument is that it would at least make some difference for people who are paying these sky-high gas prices and struggling with this, at a time of course in the summer when driving often picks up.

And this is going to be something that President Biden is pushing for today. But really, who it depends on is whether or not Congress is on board because they actually have to enact this for this to get passed and for this to actually go into effect. And right now, you're seeing a lot of concern among lawmakers about this.

Yes, there are some vulnerable Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections who were on board with this plan. But you've also heard concerns from others, like House Speaker Pelosi, who has said that she's not sure this would be effective and that potentially companies would instead just take the savings and not pass them on to consumers.

Senator Joe Manchin has said, he thinks it's a plan that doesn't make a lot of sense. And it's even an idea that one-time former President Obama said, he believed it was really just a gimmick, it wasn't actually going to make any changes. But still, the White House believes it would make some difference. So that is why President Biden is going to be pushing for it this afternoon.

But one thing we should know, John, despite this uphill battle to actually get it passed through Congress. If they do, it's just a three-month suspension. That means it would only be lifted in September. Of course, that's just two months before the midterm elections. Obviously, gas prices aren't expected to be magically fixed by then.

So, it's still a problem that would be persisted for the White House. And that's a big question of what that would look like come September, if they do get what you're going to hear President Biden call for it today.

KING: Politics quite complicated. The economics interesting. Kaitlan Collins, live at the White House. Thank you. Let's bring it in the room, with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia- Malika Henderson, Alex Burns of The New York Times, and CNN's Lauren Fox. Let's before we get into the politics, just put the numbers out there.

One year ago, gas averaged $3.07 a gallon, a week ago, it was about $5. So, it just dropped a little bit, dropped a nickel a gallon, before '96 is your national average. That's your national average. So, what does it mean when you pull into the gas station to fill up a year ago? If you have a 15-gallon tank, cost you $46 to fill it up. Now it cost you $74, close to $74 or $55.

So, the president wants to say, let's give people a break for three months. Already you hear even in his own party, Republicans are going to say no. Republicans will not do anything to help Joe Biden at this point in an election year. But even in his own party. Why? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I talked to Senator Dick Durbin this morning about this very issue. And he said, I'm supportive of the idea but we have to be, and I thought this was interesting, honest about what the effects actually are going to be on the American consumer. His argument being, of course, that the president has very little power to make a huge splash at the pump when people will go to fill up their gas tanks, that the states would also have to suspend the gas tax to really make this something that people felt.


But even beyond that, he said, when you suspend the gas tax, you get less highway funding, right. And that also has an impact on infrastructure. The President and Democrats want to campaign on that infrastructure bill that they passed, that they don't always talk about, they may need to remember that this could have an effect on that.

KING: So, part of the president's challenge is, can you make the case that every family in America is making some adjustments. To your point, we'd lose infrastructure money, the president could make the case. Yes, we might lose some infrastructure money, but we have to make adjustments. We'll make it up later to try to help people now.

Again, to your point, if the states went along. If the states went along, and if the companies pass the savings on. In California, that could mean $0.77 a gallon, it has the nation's highest state gas tax, in Georgia, it means just shy of $0.50 a gallon, in Texas $0.38 cents a gallon. Now, you can say it's a gimmick, you can say it's only for three months, or you can listen to these people who every day fill up and say, ouch.


ANTHONY HEARD: It cost us $100 now. Sometimes if she's on really $105, that's $40 that we had to eat, we're not happy and very serious.

SWIFT MOSELEY: That's some serious money. You know, that's - it goes a long way in this truck, but still. I mean, I'm feeling - I've burned through that probably in about a week. Yes, so a lot of drive. And I'm in the film business, and I do a lot of driving. So, you know, six, seven, that's like, that's over a car payment, just for the fuel for the car.


KING: It's just, it's interesting to listen to how Americans outside of Washington talk. Number one, it's equal to a car payment. That's important. Number two, really? We all have, the gas is low, gas is low, oh, yes, this is this, I'm going to pull over there, this is the real. But there you have people, you know, OK, it's temporary. They might like, you know, it's a little extra money for hamburgers for July 4 cookout, or to go to a beach in the next state as opposed to the one down the road similar (Ph) to drive. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This is real money for families that are trying to juggle. Can they send their kids to camp? Can they afford to drive the kids to camp back and forth, in and outside of Washington, the kind of day-to-day decisions that real families have to make. And that's the argument I imagined that Joe Biden is trying to make, saying, this is what I would want to do for. You say $0.50 here, or $0.30 cents here per gallon. But guess what?

The Republicans are blocking me, right. I mean, it would be a nice sort of contrast and make with the Republicans, but in the end, it looks like this probably won't pass. If Joe Manchin, for instance, isn't even on board, Nancy Pelosi seems to be throwing cold water on it anyway. So, in the end, it's just sort of something he can say and try to do. So, he wants to do it. And in the end, that guy is going to be looking at real e in, you know, $100 on filling up his gas.

KING: Is there any way to bullet through to use your bully pulpit to save, sure, maybe it's a gimmick or find another word for it. But people would take that temporary help, whether you call it to give economic. It is an interesting. You have a Democratic president trying to cut taxes. And the Republicans in Congress are going to say no.

But a lot of Nancy Pelosi is worried about, they cut taxes in July, August and September. You're raising taxes in October, November, right, before the election. But in the states, California Republicans have urged their governor to do this. Connecticut Republicans have urged their governor to do this. So, the politics are interesting.

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Sure. I think if what you're trying to do is to create an environment where somebody suspends the gas tax, and yes, consumers in California replace like Connecticut or Maryland, maybe do get some relief, you know, maybe Biden endorsing the idea of broadly gets you there. But not because it's going to happen at the congressional level, not because it's going to happen through federal action.

I would just add to this, John, that, you know, you talk to Democrats, about the administration's messaging on gas prices and energy, generally. I kind of wonder where was this mindset all along, that you've seen Biden take a couple of bites at the apple of trying to show that I'm doing something, no matter how symbolic and no matter how incremental releasing barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve calling on oil companies to amp up production, highly symbolic gesture there, coming out in favor of a gas tax holiday.

But in sort of comes out, makes this gesture, and then moves on to talking about other stuff, right. There is not a sustained focus on we the Biden administration have a comprehensive plan to ease the pain of the pump. While the Republicans are standing in our way. You just get this sort of one-off events, one-off policies, I'm not sure it adds up to a whole lot.

KING: So, the interesting challenges is today, another example of that, or have they learned that lesson? I think that's an excellent point and many Democrats have asked for that, where's this sustained effort? You want us to take risky boats or do risky things, for whom you're going to be there for us. It's a great point. We'll see if it plays out.

Next for us. Important news, just in a Republican senator may have to have major surgery. And the January 6 committee lays out Donald Trump's personal role, directing the plot is still the 2020 election. Yesterday, prominent state officials detailed pressure from the president. Tomorrow, we'll hear from top Trump justice department officials.



KING: Just receive some news on a Republican senator seriously injured this week. Let's get straight up to our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju with the details. Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican. In his first term, it just issued a statement, saying he severe endured a serious injury during a yard accident over the weekend, suggesting that you may even have to get his right hand amputated because of this injury that he endured.

He says that he immediately had to go to have surgery after that he had this yard accident. And he said, he continues to remain in North Dakota in case there needs to be additional medical care. He said there's high risk of infection and the possible need for amputation.


Now, he goes on to say in the statement that he's in good spirits and he's going to be missing votes and hearings this week in Washington. He does plan to return. He said after the two-week for the July recess that begins at the end of this week, but he ends and says that he's in good spirits. When he says that he plans to return and expect to be doing a lot of left-handed fist bumps. So, a bit of humor from the senator even though he endured this very serious injury here.

Cramer is a conservative Republican, someone who is close to the leadership, but also close to Donald Trump as well. Very affable senator, very talkative senator as well. People on both sides of the aisle like Kevin Cramer quite a bit here. So, a serious injury, a shocking statement that the senator may have to get his right hand amputated because of this serious in fact, a serious injury endured in the yard this weekend. John?

KING: Manu Raju, appreciate the breaking news there. And certainly, we wish Senator Cramer the best as he goes through this challenge. Hope he's back here soon. That's a tough one. Let's move on another big story. Not tomorrow, the January 6 committee turns its focus to Donald Trump's effort to corrupt his own justice department in his plot to cling to power.

Tuesday, yesterday, the committee relied on testimony from Republicans in Georgia and Arizona, who were on the receiving end of Trump pressure to subvert the election results. One big takeaway, the witnesses confirmed Trump was directly involved in intimidating state level officials. Another takeaway, all shared stories of lives turned upside down as Trump lies gave birth to threats and intimidation.


WANDREA "SHAYE" MOSS, FORMER GEORGIA ELECTION WORKER: I don't want anyone knowing my name. I don't want to go anywhere with my mom because she might yell my name out over the grocery aisle or something. I don't go to the grocery store at all. I haven't been anywhere at all. I gained about 60 pounds. I just don't do nothing anymore. I don't want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do. It's affected my life in a major way, in every way because of lies.


KING: The former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, joins our conversation. The threats and the acceptance of violence as a political tool or one legacy of all of this that we're sorting out. In the testimony, the committee was going out of its way with the testimony of these officials to show Trump's personal involvement, that it was Trump on the phone, that it was Trump making the ask, not just.

So, he can't just say this was Rudy Giuliani or Jenna Ellis, or somebody John Eastman with a cockamamie scheme that it was Trump on the phone, including this call, they had this plan that for battleground states.

So, we're going to have fake electors, there were legally elected people coming here to Washington or sending the paperwork to Washington to make Joe Biden president. They had this plan. The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee confirmed, she was on a phone call about this, and Trump started the call.


RONNA MCDANIEL, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: He turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC, helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case, any of the legal challenges that were ongoing, change the result of any dates.


KING: If you are the attorney general of the United States, Merrick Garland, and you're debating a very challenging and difficult decision, do I try to indict the former president of the United States? Is that significant that Trump himself, he might have yielded to Mr. Eastman, but he initiated the call, making clear this is my plan, I want this done.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: It is significant. There is a mountain of circumstantial evidence at this point about Trump's intent. This just adds to it. I think we may hear some debate as to whether having Eastman on the phone, may be adds to Trump's defense of is my advice of counsel. And maybe he thinks there is an insulation aspect there by having Eastman talk. But here's the problem for him with that defense. Somebody has to get up there and talk about it. He'd have to talk about it. Eastman have to talk about it. They have to say, I advised the president to do this, or he advised me to do this. Right now, there are no takers on that. So, I'm not sure that's going to work for.

KING: Another big thing is, when you listen to all of this, let Rusty Bowers spell it out. He's the Arizona speaker of the House. He's getting phone calls, saying stop it. Find a way to get the legislature back in session. Find a way to do anything to block the results. And he says, I will do it if you show me the evidence. And this is what he gets.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At some point, did one of them make a comment that they didn't have evidence, but they had a lot of theories?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what exactly did he say and how that came up?

BOWERS: My recollection, he said, we've got lots of theories. We just don't have the evidence.


KING: So, let's disrupt American democracy on a theory.


HENDERSON: Yes. Let's give it a whirl and that really was what they did. I mean, they didn't have any real plan here. At one point, I think Rusty Bowers, called them the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Talked about, it was sort of a tragic parody what they were doing. I mean, making up fake electors to look like they were the real electors, hoping that the courts would rule in their favor. When the courts didn't rule in their favor, still, let's have the fake electors.

Let's pass them on to Ron Johnson, or Ron Johnson aid and try to get them to Vice President Mike Pence, as he is presiding over Congress on January 6. It was disheartening, it was unbelievable. I mean, this never gets to be, not shocking to hear that the president, the very highest level, at every level was disrupting people's lives.

A person who was working in Georgia in a very humble capacity, trying to make democracy work. And then top officials at the RNC, trying to make the scheme, so he could remain in power. What a tragic thing that happened in this committee, obviously trying to get to the bottom of it, and the DOJ will see if there was actual criminal.

KING: And so, to the DOJ part, they've gone through these several different pieces, the pressure on Pence, the pressure on state official, the fake electors plan. Tomorrow, we're going to hear from Jeffrey Rosen, who was the acting attorney general. Then we're going to hear from Richard Donoghue, who was one of his deputies, Steve Engel, and also a deputy there.

And so, we've already seen Bill Barr's testimony, Alex, and he said three times he met with Trump. He used the word bullshit, another language, and there's just no there-there. Mr. President, give it up. It's not there. What is the committee's goal in trying to say, Donald Trump kept going to the justice department and saying, I want you to help me, say there was fraud? They kept saying, we have no evidence.

BURNS: Well, they clearly have demonstrated and are continuing to demonstrate that the president had every reason to understand that what he was saying was baseless and fraudulent, that he didn't actually have evidence or legal cause to take the kind of extreme actions that he wanted to take. The fact that Rudy Giuliani said, we don't have evidence.

We only have a lot of theories at this point is quite an admission on the part of somebody very close to the president. I'm not a lawyer. And I'm not going to speculate about what the sort of criminal implications of this, but it's quite an admission that they're just sort of operating on thin air.

And I think even calling it theories is sort of elevating the credibility of their material in a certain way. I think that beyond the sort of legal implications or potential criminal implications. This committee is doing a superb job of shining a light from so many different angles, on the ways in which Donald Trump personally corrupted the process. And where could it be more important to do that in the justice department.

KING: And they've done it very smartly by using Republicans and people close to Trump to tell the story. One of the Republicans we saw, who is working for the committee, John Wood, a senior investigator. You saw him asking some questions the other day of the Republican witnesses, including Judge Michael Luttig, who was there.

Our Jamie Gangel is now reporting, Lauren, that John Wood is going to leave. He's the senior investigating committee. He's leaving the committee early. There's been a campaign, former Senator Jack Danforth in Missouri, forming a group to try to get him to run for Senate as an independent because they don't - they think they're going to get - going to get a Republican nominee that they think is outside the mainstream. That's interesting.

FOX: Yes. I mean, that's fascinating, right? Given the fact, that he has clearly demonstrated an ability to get people to come and testify, to get answers from these individuals and really shed light on things that before this, no one has been able to shed a light on.

I mean, imagine if the committee had just issued subpoenas for people to come and publicly testify in an open hearing room, they went about this much more deliberately. The strategy here behind closed doors is what has led to a lot of the success of them telling the story of what happened leading up to the race.

KING: More on the committee in a few minutes, and we'll watch John Wood to see if he takes the step into politics. Ahead for us, a major milestone. The Senate advances the first bipartisan gun safety bill in 30 years. What's in it and when it could become law, that's next.




KING: Congress is on a path now to pass the first major gun safety legislation in nearly 30 years. The legislation cleared a significant hurdle yesterday, 14 Republicans joining all 50 Democratic senators in agreeing to open debate on the measure. The Senate plan is to get the measure to final passage by the end of this week. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the House will act as soon as it can after that.

Our reporters are back with us. Lauren Fox, you spent a lot of time on this. First, let's just walk through what's in this gun safety bill. $750 million for crisis intervention programs, closing the so-called boyfriend loophole, more review time, background check time for 18 to 21-year-old, gun buyers up to the age of 21, tougher penalties for gun trafficking, funding for some mental health programs and school safety. Not everything that most Democrats wanted but more than many Republicans wanted an actual true compromise in Washington.

FOX: Yes. And I was told by many members and aides over the weekend that this almost fell apart a number of times. The fact that they were able to roll out the legislative text, have an initial vote and then get more than a dozen Republicans to advance it. I mean, they're going to break the filibuster tomorrow on this legislation. That's the plan.

And everyone is feeling very confident that right now this is on a guided path to actually pass in the Senate. I mean, I covered the vote right after Sandy Hook, universal background checks vote. It failed. It was a devastating vote for the families that were there. I mean, this time was really different. And I think that we are going to be thinking for a long time in Washington about why that was the case.

KING: So, it looks, nothing is guaranteed in this town anymore. But it certainly looks like this will get to the president's desk because of the congressional recess around July 4. They say, that won't happen until the end of July. We just had on the screen. The 14 Republicans who voted to advance the gun safety measures. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania is retiring. He wasn't there for the vote. He said, he would have voted, yes. So, you have 15. So, 15 which gives you 65.