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Top Ohio Democratic Candidates Snub Biden's Campaign-Style Visit; Parade Shooter's Father: "I Didn't Do Anything Wrong"; MI Gov. GOP Candidate Strikes Defiant Tone Hours Before Pleading "Not Guilty" To 1/6 Related Charges. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 07, 2022 - 12:30   ET



AUDIE CORNISH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The administration during those years saw a lot of changes in agencies and departments that were either withered, didn't have hires, or suddenly had a hire that had the favor of Trump world, so to speak, and then kind of go from there.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And you get suspicious, because to your point, Trump repeatedly asked federal agencies, including the Justice Department to do his bidding, not to do their mandated bidding, what they're supposed to do under the law, the former IRS director John Koskinen on CNN this morning said this.


JOHN KOSKINEN, FORMER IRS COMMISSIONER: It's a criminal's violation, to target a taxpayer or do anything with the taxpayers return other than normal course of business. So this would be something truly extraordinary and out of the ordinary.


KING: Something truly extraordinary and out of the ordinary. We've never heard that about the Trump years, right?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, I think we should really just take a step back and acknowledge how incredible it is. You know, this is obviously a remarkable story with remarkable reporting in the story, that we are sitting around here talking about this as a very real possibility that something so cynical, and such a, you know, miss -- grave misuse of power, is would have been possible during the Trump years. We are just sitting here talking about this as a very real possibility. I think that in and of itself is incredible, incredibly jarring, and says so much about what we have come to sort of expect from Trump and the Trump government.

CORNISH: If I can jump in here. Remember, the IRS was under so much scrutiny during the sort of Tea Party era, right? That's sort of 2012, 2014. So it's actually not that unusual to have a conversation that's like, is the IRS doing X? And is it politically motivated? Certainly, on the right, that was a conversation that was happening for a very long time. And so I don't think it's that much of a stretch to say that a more sort of right shifting administration like Trump's would do, what he often doesn't has done on the record, find a legitimate agency to legitimize sort of his targets by having an investigation into them of one kind or another.

KING: Right. To your point about the history, back in the Obama administration, Lois Lerner was the IRS official and she was accused of slow walking applications from Tea Party groups for tax exempt status. Among those saying this is a big deal is the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We've seen what's happening at IRS. The President himself has been demonizing these people. And so the point I'm making here today is just not surprising that the bureaucracy would pick up on that.


KING: That is Mitch McConnell back in the day. Jim Jordan, who if the Republicans take the House would be the Judiciary Committee Chairman twice, twice tried to impeach Mr. Koskinen, who you just saw on T.V. there. Koskinen was not even there yet, when Lois Lerner was allegedly involved in this conduct. So you would assume Republicans today would say we should investigate this, right, just like they push so hard back then. I'm looking and looking and looking for the statements demanding, they look into what happened to Mr. McCabe and Mr. Comey, don't have it.

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It's really strange. You'd expect the Republican Party to have some kind of consistency on this stuff. And they just don't, right? No, but seriously, I mean, I think to MJ's point and to Audie's point, it is totally characteristic of Donald Trump to look at something that he believes Democrats did that was cynical or aggressive, or sort of use the powers of the federal government inappropriately, and whether or not any of that actually happened sort of buy into the right wing mythology of what Democrats do when they have power? And then say, why don't I have somebody who does that for me, right, that we heard him talk about --

CORNISH: -- is on the table.

BURNS: Why doesn't my attorney general behave like Eric Holder, right, whatever that means in his head to behave like Eric Holder, right? So look, I think that we need to not get too far ahead of the story here. We know they were audited. We don't know that there's -- we don't know for a fact that there's anything sinister behind it. But, you know, again, to MJ's point, like this is a legitimate avenue of inquiry, and is not easy to sort of brushed aside as these guys sort of, they have their grievances with Trump and they're jumping to conclusion.

KING: Right. It is at least if you look at the January 6th Committee, there's a pattern of the President trying to do things way outside of the scope of his legitimate authority. We will see how this one play out. [12:34:11]

Up next for us, though, missing an action, President Biden hits the road, and he hits Republicans, yet key Democrats stay away.


KING: This just in from the White House, President Biden reacting now to the Prime Minister of the U.K. Boris Johnson announcing this morning he will resign. The Biden statement reads in part, the special relationship between our people remain strong and enduring. I look forward to continuing our close cooperation with the government of the United Kingdom, as well as our allies and partners around the world on a range of important priorities. That includes maintaining a strong and united approach to supporting the people of Ukraine, as they defend themselves against Putin's brutal war on their democracy and holding Russia accountable for its actions.

Again, that's the President of the United States reacting to the resignation from Boris Johnson. The President's trip to Ohio yesterday, returning to domestic politics, well, it speaks volumes about the state of play, or you might say the state of worry in the Democratic Party. In Cleveland, this contrast with Republicans on voting rights and the continuing influence of Donald Trump.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Not one single solitary Republican voted for the Butch Lewis Act to this legislation. And folks, and folks, I can tell you, those of us were I was in the Congress a long time and the people are still in the Congress, there's ones who want it to be, they're afraid to, afraid to, because the Trumpers would literally take them out. Not a joke that's how bad it's gotten.



KING: Hit the road more is one constant requests from Democrats. Hit Republicans more is another. And yet as the President did just that hit the road and hit Republicans missing from his event, the Democratic candidate for Ohio governor, Nan Whaley, and the Democratic candidate for Senate, Tim Ryan, both sided scheduling conflicts. Our great reporters are back with us. I think we should get used to the term scheduling conflicts, is that going to happen? I mean, you know, Democrats say, Mr. President, please do these things. He does them. And they're not there to cheer him on?

BURNS: Well, it depends on where he's doing them, right? There are parts of the country where Joe Biden can go and campaign for Democrats. Ohio, it happens not to be one of them. And I think, John, it's worth to sort of step back, look at that picture. Because when Biden announced for president, part of the rationale for why he'd be a strong candidate, against Donald Trump a strong figure, the top of the ticket for Democrats is that he could make them competitive in a place like Ohio, that he'd be able to rev up the Democratic base, because he's one of the best known Democrats in the country.

But he would be able to reach out to the sort of a white guy union worker crowd that was historically affiliated with the Democratic Party that Tim Ryan is counting on in the race against JD Vance. But that had drifted away over the last few years. That has simply not happened. Nothing like that has happened. And I do think there's this increasing divergence, you hear from Democrats in Washington all the time, between the idea that Joe Biden is going to go to Cleveland and talk about the Butch Lewis Act to union workers, as though that's a sort of major political win for his party going into the midterm elections.

And the broader conversation in the Democratic Party about Roe v. Wade, being demolished about the ticking clock on reconciliation, whether they're going to get anything else out of this Congress and the stuff that the actual Democratic base of today is most engaged you want to hear about. You don't hear the President talking about that in that clip, right.

KING: Right. And so because of that, you see all these headlines in recent weeks, the Washington -- recent days even, "Washington Post," Democrats can't rely on Biden. "Vanity Fair," Joe Biden's plan to nominate anti-abortion judge even more absurd than previously thought. Here on CNN after a string of Supreme Court setbacks, Democrats wonder whether Biden is capable. "POLITICO," "New York Times," "Atlantic," you see it go on and on and on.

The challenge is, though, Democrats, some of them say they have very legitimate grievances with the Biden White House. The problem is in a midterm year, when you need to turn out your base, if Democrats are fighting among themselves, what message does that send to the average Democratic voter think, why should I vote? They can't agree what to do?

CORNISH: Right. Some of it, it's about who do you consider your base at any given moment? I think that's a really good point, Alex. And also, you know, I was reading a quote from a young activist, her name's Renee Bracey Sherman, and she's part of an abortion rights group. And she said, you know, people are tired of feeling like Charlie Brown and the Democratic Party is being like Lucy, with the football.

On issues like abortion rights, even the economy to some extent, you've heard Biden say this is Putin's fault. I think that excuses sort of wearing thin with people across the board. There is this sense that he's not quite getting where he needs to go with the people who still are the people who do the activism and turnout. I thought it was interesting yesterday that he said something like to the union workers, I see you, you know, I hear you. I'll always have your back. I think people are, we're kind of hoping he'd say that to them to some of these other constituencies as well. But that's where he feels most comfortable.

LEE: And I think we --

(CROSSTALK) KING: -- sorry.

LEE: Yes. And I think we can't overstate how much we saw the frustration that was already there among Democrats really sort of crystallize and get cemented and hardened, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. You know, if you look at the President's schedule, even just over the last week, right, yesterday, he goes to Cleveland. We heard him talking there at that rally. He didn't mention the abortion issue, one time. I think today, if you look at his schedule, we see him once it's for the Medal of Freedom ceremony. That's OK, that happens. But I think at this moment in time, there is a sense of urgency and like real urgency that Democrats want to see from the President every single day.

And even then I think Democrats would be like, that's not enough. And particularly on the Roe issue, the frustration is so deep, because the White House knew for so long that this was coming and they feel like well, why isn't there more being done? Where are the announcements that the President tees last week, those haven't come either.

KING: To that point, a lot of criticism has come from progressives on the left, so listen to hear Jamaal Bowman saying, good, Mr. President, but we need more.


REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): I appreciate him stepping up and saying that we need to carve out a part of the filibuster so that we could codify Roe v. Wade, but we need to talk about getting rid of the filibuster. I would love to see the President use the bully pulpit more be out and about among the American people and create a vision for how we're going to get out of this mess.


KING: The question is, can you find the sweet spot? I mean, I remember, you know, just speaking about Democrats happens to Republican presidents too, by the way, but Democrats took the distance from Bill Clinton in 1994. Democrats took their distance from Barack Obama in 2010. They got hammered in both of those midterm elections. Some Republicans took their distance from Donald Trump in 2018. They got hammered in those midterm elections. The question is, you know, do you run for your President? Does that actually help you?


BURNS: Well, look, I think Jamaal Bowman is a smart guy. And I think there's a consciousness of the Democratic Party that you don't want to have Biden do something you want him to do. And then you whack him for doing it anyway, because then why would he do it the next time. But the whole point of the absence of the bully pulpit, and that wasn't as much of an issue with Bill Clinton or with a Barack Obama. The sense of where are these guys even, you know, their salesmanship didn't get the job done in the election. But there are a whole lot of Democrats who talk to them every single day here and in the states, including Ohio. And they just wonder what is Biden's aspirational message for the midterms anyway?

CORNISH: Right. And I mean, I just want to add one thing, which is that like in a bigger picture, essentially, you also have a left wing of the party that saying, there should be more disruptive, bigger moves, OK, bigger than they would have asked for many years ago, right. And so there isn't this sense of, let's politely do this thing in the Senate. Let's politely do this thing in a series of op-eds. They're asking to put for instance, an abortion clinic on federal lands.

They're asking for things that instead of saying, we can't do that. They're saying, why can't we. What's the good reason? What are the voters you're trying to win that you can't get anyway? So I think there's just even sort of a different expectation on him than there is and was on some past presidents.

KING: Right. That's a generational thing definitely with Biden that he's not a pushed --

CORNISH: Yes, exactly.

KING: -- and you see it playing out.

Up next for us, is simply remarkable interview, quote, I didn't do anything wrong. The father of the Highland Park shooter says he's not guilty of bad parenting, this in a brand new interview.



KING: A jaw dropping a new interview today from the Highland Park shooter's father Robert Crimo Jr. defending himself and his parenting to "The New York Post" a day after his son reportedly confessed to gunning down seven people in the Fourth of July parade. Crimo tells the newspaper, quote, I'm going to stay here hold my head up high because I didn't do anything wrong. And he explains his decision to sign off on a gun license for his son despite glaring red flags about his behavior this way, quote, I thought he was going to go to the shooting range. CNN's Adrienne Broaddus is on the scene for us in Illinois. Adrienne, what more do we know?

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And, John, Robert E. Crimo told "The New York Post" that's exactly why he sponsored that firearms owner I.D. card nearly three years ago, because he thought the guns his son purchase were going to be used at a shooting range. He also told "The Post" and I'm paraphrasing here saying he is furious, and he wants a life sentence. Now, Jr. is not taking responsibility for his son's actions, saying quote, he bought everything on his own. And they're registered to him, they're, meaning the guns. He says they make me like I groomed him to do all of this. And as you mentioned, he said I've been here my whole life and I'm going to stay here, hold my head up high, because I didn't do anything wrong. His son is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder. And state officials say there could be more charges. John?

KING: Adrienne Broaddus on the scene for us. Adrienne, thank you.

Up next for us, a busy 24 hours for Republican candidate for Michigan governor.



KING: Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley today entered a not guilty plea to federal charges related to the January 6th the Capitol riot, his virtual court appearance came the morning after a televised debate during which Kelley defended his conduct.


RYAN KELLEY (R-MI), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: January 6th, 2021, back when gas was under $2 a gallon. Those were good times. You know that was a First Amendment activity by a majority of those people, myself included, we were there protesting the government because we don't like the results of the 2020 election the process of how it happened.


KING: CNN's Sarah Murray is with me now. Not guilty, the plea in court, but in the debate kind of like, yes, so what?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, he is certainly not backing away from the fact that he was in Washington. He's calling it First Amendment activity in the debate. He said, you know, there was this big theater show, all for these misdemeanor charges when the FBI showed up at my house. You know, meanwhile, federal investigators say he wasn't just there. He wasn't just participating in some kind of a rally. They say he was actually climbing up through the scaffolding that was at the Capitol.

So, you know, it's very clear that Ryan Kelley believes that this is something that could actually benefit him with voters. It's something that has now become part of his campaign. He said, you know, it's clear that people are trying to silence him. And he's kind of using that to try to boost his standing in what is a pretty competitive Republican primary.

KING: That part you just mentioned that he thinks this could actually help him is what is remarkable about election deniers running for Republican office. Others who were here on January 6th running for office says Republicans that despite everything we now know, and despite all the evidence that Joe Biden won fair and square and everything we'd heard from the January 6th Committee, these Republicans still think in a Republican primary, it helps.

MURRAY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this is not someone who appears to be ashamed of showing up in Washington, not someone backing away from it. You know, he went on to insist that he still supports Donald Trump to say that he believes that the state of Michigan was stolen from Trump. Meantime, that's a state that Donald Trump lost by more than 154,000 votes. It is very clear that this is something he believes will help him with those Republican primary voters. Will it help them in general election? We'll see.

KING: Well, we'll watch and see the primary first. But again, disturbing, that many candidates think it actually helps them to have attack their own United States Capitol building. One hour from now at the White House, President Biden will award the prestigious Medal of Freedom to 17 individuals, among those receiving the nation's highest civilian honor today, the Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, the former Congresswoman and gun safety advocate Gabby Giffords, and the actor Denzel Washington.

Several recipients will be honored posthumously including the war hero and former Republican senator presidential candidate John McCain and the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Plus, this quick programming note, join CNN as we explore the diverse land and marine wildlife of Patagonia's desert coast, Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the world premieres this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.


Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, very, very busy News Day. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.