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Inside Politics

President Biden Fist Bumps Saudi Crown Prince Ahead Of Meting: Govt Watchdog: Secret Service Erased Messages From Jan 5 & 6; WSJ: 1/6 Cmte Still Could Seek Testimony From Trump, Pence; Trump: I've Made Up My Mind About 2024, Now Weighing Timing; McConnell On Early Trump 2024 Bid: "It's A Free Country"; Manchin Torpedoes Biden's Agenda; Opposes Climate, Tax Provisions; Manchin Won't Support Climate Or Tax Provisions In Dems' Economic Bill. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 15, 2022 - 12:00   ET



DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: What could be done if you have the kind of microphone power that Bannon has?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST THIS HOUR: Drew, thank you. Its good to see you. Looking forward to this special. Drew, CNN's special report, Steve Bannon "divided we fall" airs Sunday night at 8pm Eastern. Thank you all so much for being with us At This Hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. Inside Politics with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very busy Friday with us. Pariah no more, President Biden is in Saudi Arabia meeting with a regime he had promised to punish. The controversial diplomacy includes FaceTime with the crown prince, the White House says, orchestrated the murder of an American journalist.

Plus, the Secret Service says it was a mistake, not a cover up. Key texts from January 6 were deleted. The agency says, it reset the phones and didn't back up the data. Its inspector general and leaders in Congress are more than skeptical And the Biden agenda shrinks from bold to bare bones.

Senator Joe Manchin says no to new climate initiatives, and he says no to higher taxes on the wealthy. It's another family feud as Democrats failed to deliver on promises and worry voters now, will punish them for high inflation.

We begin though with a controversial and consequential day for President Biden. He is meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Royal Palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Just moments ago, NBS greeting the president United States outside the palace with a fist bump. The president says the Saudis are critical players in regional security issues, and of course, the American economy, oil prices another agenda item today.

But Biden himself remember labeled the kingdom of pariah, after the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And the president ordered the public release of an intelligence assessment that said the crown prince orchestrated that killing because of Khashoggi's reporting on Saudi human rights abuses.

Now, White House officials acknowledge the difficulty of the moment, but they say the administration needs to work with the regime on a host of important issues, from normalizing relations with Israel, to combating Iran's nuclear program.

Let's get straight to our CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, who was live in Jeddah, a fist bump and now the tough conversations.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. The White House has said that this trip really is recalibrating the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. For the Saudis, it's also about rehabilitating the crown prince. And he kind of just got that moment there with President Biden as he stepped out of the beast and fist bumps crown prince, as they made their way behind closed doors to get these meetings kicked off.

And there had been a lot of speculation. What was that first moment going to look like? Would it be a handshake? What would it end up being? It was a pretty friendly fist bump there. And that was really the moment that the Saudis wanted out of this entire trip.

The White House has argued that this is about America's interests. That's why the president is coming here. And putting aside his commitment to human rights for a moment, given he had vowed to make them a pariah and valid to say that they had little to no social redeeming value.

And of course, now he is behind closed doors with the Saudi crown prince, and the White House says that they are going to be talking about oil production, of course, about a ceasefire in Yemen. But there has been a big question and one thing that they have not said whether or not they will talk about and that is Jamal Khashoggi, because the White House has been asked repeatedly over the course of the last several days, John, whether or not President Biden would directly confront the crown prince over his brutal murder

And time and time again, they have sidestepped the question. President Biden himself doing so, yesterday saying that he always brings up human rights. But when asked specifically if he would bring up this human rights abuse, he did not say. Of course, that's going to be the big question.

Right now, they are going to be meeting with the king of Saudi Arabia. Momentarily, John, though you will see reporters go into the room as he is sitting there across the hall or across the way, across the table from the Saudi crown prince, really getting the working meeting started and acknowledging that that's really who's effectively running this country.

KING: Kaitlan Collins, live for us in Jeddah. We will go back to Jeddah as Kaitlan knows some of the important meetings about to happen. Reporters will be allowed in the room. We will take you there as soon as we see new information from those meetings. In the meantime, some very important new information today about a key January 6 moment. CNN has now learned that a Washington D.C. police officer has corroborated testimony from the former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson.

Remember, she told the January 6 committee that a colleague described to her watching an angry President Trump that day, lashing out and his Secret Service detail, when it refused to take him to the Capitol.

A source tells CNN that a D.C. officer assigned to the Trump motorcade that day, told the committee he witnessed a heated exchange between the president and his security team. That testimony all the more important because of this.

The Secret Service says key text messages from that day were erased. The Department of Homeland Security inspector general says text from January 5 and January 6, 2021, were erased after the IGs office requested that they be saved and documented.

The Secret Service issued a statement last night, saying nothing nefarious happened here. The service insisting it happened as part of a routine planned phone migration system program. January 6 committee members though, want to know more.



REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): It's obviously an alarming thing to learn that there were Secret Service text messages from January 6 itself, and also the day before that were deleted as part of a device replacement program.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D) JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: If it's relevant to the work of our committee, we're going to find the facts. We're going to chase these.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): This is obviously very concerning. We plan to work with the inspector general, get to the bottom of this and try to determine what the situation is with these records that have been requested by the committee for some time.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Seung Min Kim the Associated Press, Tia Mitchell the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and CNN legal affairs analyst Carrie Cordero. Carrie, let me start with you.

The Secret Service says, yes, the IG asked for them. And after the request came in as part of a routine planned phone migration, they were deleted. And apparently there is no backup. Secret Service says nothing nefarious here. Just an odd coincidence.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. Well, so we've got two different stories, and one of them is correct. On one hand Secret Service statement is saying that the IG asked for the information later after it had been deleted. And the IG is saying, we asked for the information first, and it was deleted after. So, there is a factual dispute at issue, at least based on my read of the two different statements in the IGs' letter.

Look, government agencies don't always work efficiently and effectively. The Secret Service being one of them, the Department of Homeland Security being one of them. And so, it is not completely unbelievable to me that in fact, there simply was a transition. And the timing didn't wasn't correct. And information was deleted that should have been retained.

Now, that doesn't mean it necessarily can't be recovered. So, we still have an outstanding question of whether or not it could be recovered in some way. But I think there is a plausible explanation on one hand. On the other hand, the committee needs to do a better job of conducting oversight as relates to January 6, of what the Secret Service was doing.

In my view, the hearing so far had given a pass to the federal law enforcement agencies. And so, there is a lot of unanswered questions as it relates to the Secret Service activities, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which based on a lot of research that I've done and work, that I've done in the past on the policy side requires a huge amount of additional oversight and accountability.

KING: And a part of this that people watching at home might not know is most people, career Secret Service people don't like being part of the Department of Homeland Security, used to be part of the treasury department. When homeland security was created after 9/11, they moved the Secret Service over there. There's been a lot of resentment in the service that they were put in this bigger department.

But now the question is, how deep does the committee go? And trying to see, is there a server somewhere where these texts exist? Is there somebody else who received the text, maybe outside of the Secret Service, who might have their copy of it?

The Secret Service last night, the statement was pretty tough. It said the insinuation that the Secret Service maliciously deleted text messages, following a request is false. In fact, the Secret Service has been fully cooperating with the OIG in every respect, whether it be interviews, documents, emails, or texts.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. It's pretty rare to see the Secret Service in the spotlight like this. This has happened multiple times. Now, throughout the Select Committee's investigation, it's an uncomfortable spot for them. I mean, they are sworn. They take a sworn oath to protect the president. They would take a bullet for the president, and now they find themselves ensnared in the middle of this political investigation.

But the Secret Service played such a key role on January 6, not only in this heated confrontation and preventing Trump from going to the Capitol, but we also learned that they tried to take Mike Pence away from the Capitol. And so, the select committee rightly has a lot of questions, and they are going to get to the bottom of it.

KING: So, one way to clear this up is to have the agents, the detail, come up and answer questions whether at a public hearing or in a private session. If you don't want to put them on the slip, they could just come and testify under oath. What did you text? What did you see? What happened?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. I think it's, you know, I think the Secret Service would like to position itself as like non-political, we're police officers, we're law enforcement, we are here to protect and serve. And we're not going to get involved in the political conversations that may happen around us. But the more we hear about January 6, and what was going on, you know, with Trump in his inner circle, the Secret Service did make decisions on that day, and perhaps the days leading up to them.

So, I don't know if in good faith, a lot of the agents who were involved and who were right there had a front row seat, can kind of have that talking point that like we're just a fly on the wall because, again, decisions were made that I think the American public and definitely investigators want to understand more about.

KING: And the question is everybody wants the full historical record of that day and the days before, the days before matter as well, too. The question is, how important is this particular incident? In the sense that Cassie Hutchinson says that at the White House, she was very clear that she did not see this. But she says, one of her colleagues recounted to her on January 6, the president after his speech on the lips, wanted to go to the Capitol, and this happened.



CASSIE HUTCHINSON, FORMER AIDE TO TRUMP WH CHIEF OF STAFF MARK MEADOWS: President reached up towards the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm, and said sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing. We're not going to the Capitol. Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge towards Bobby Engel. And when Mr. Ornato had recounted this story toward me, he motioned toward his clavicle.


KING: Now, a glimpse there if that account is true, a glimpse there at the rage of Donald Trump and president of the United States had his own security detail when he couldn't go to the Capitol. But is that the important point? Or is it you now have CNN reporting that a D.C. police officer assigned to the motorcade? There's always D.C. police escort, the president is OK, so I heated exchange. Is that important or is the fact that matters that Donald - is the fact that matters simply that Donald Trump wanted to go join the protesters at the Capitol?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think that is kind of the big point here. Obviously, the details matter. And I think it's important that that part of her testimony was corroborated. Because you're right, that was kind of the one part where Cassidy Hutchinson acknowledged that this was not something that she had witnessed firsthand. And also important, because that was the one part of her testimony that Trump role kind of seized on to try to dispute her credibility.

And to my understanding that people who said they'd be willing to talk to the committee to dispute her testimony have so far not spoken to the committee. So, I think that's interesting. But I think the overall story of just what Donald Trump was willing to do that day at the Capitol, to go to the Capitol, which has, you know, his White House counsel warned that they would get charged with every crime in the book, if they did make that movement. What he was planning on doing, while this, you know, insurrection was about to fold, that is the most important part here.

KING: But that we can't answer these questions or that there's a dispute about when did the IG make the request? What happened to the records? That to me is alarming in the sense that the Secret Service not only protects the president. We live in the digital age, it is in charge of whether it's counterfeit investigations, a whole lot of high-tech digital age investigations.

And so, you have this from the IG. The Department of Homeland Security, DHS, personnel have repeatedly told OIG inspectors, they were not permitted to provide records directly to OIG and that such records had to first undergo review by DHS attorneys. This review led to weeks long delays in OIG obtaining records and that is your government not at work. Your bureaucracy getting in the way?

CORDERO: Yes. The Department of Homeland Security, office of inspector general, it conducts oversight over DHS over the Secret Service. And so, I think we do have an issue at least the way the IG is describing it to his congressional oversight committee. So, he is waving a flag, the inspector general saying I am trying to do my job, Secret Service is not cooperating.

And so, this really needs to get to the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security. In my view, the secretary needs to step in because he is ultimately responsible for what transpires in the Secret Service and if they are not cooperating, they need to be directed to do so.

KING: Right. Important in the context of the January 6 investigation and much more broadly because the agency is critically important to the government. Up next for us. Donald Trump teases a decision. Yes, he does about 2024. And one member of the January 6 committee says asking Trump and Mike Pence to answer questions, is still on the table.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: The January 6 committee now says it's work might continue into the fall, and one member says asking Donald Trump and Mike Pence to answer questions is still a possibility. It was the Republican committee member. Adam Kinzinger telling that to the Wall Street Journal, he says the panel has not rolled out contacting the former president and the former vice president. Democratic member Jamie Raskin though says, interviewing Trump and his view would be a waste of time.


STEPHANIE RUHLE, NBC NEWS SENIOR BUSINESS ANALYST: Do you believe the committee - do you think the committee will be talking with President Trump or Vice President Pence directly?

RASKIN: Oh, I've got no idea about that. Any lawyer worth his salt is not going to want Donald Trump to be anywhere near being sworn under oath, because he obviously is a compulsive liar.


KING: Our great panel back to discuss. Is this Kinzinger's preference or is the committee still actually thinking about sending a formal request to the former president and the former vice president say, come on in?

ZANONA: They've been talking about this for months. It has popped up recently. They started resurfacing these conversations because there have been new revelations that have popped up. But even if they were to make that request, it's not like Trump and Pence are going to comply, and they don't need the information from Pence and Trump themselves.

They have gotten sources, information from other places. They've talked to aides to Pence and Trump. And so, I think that they feel like they have momentum right now. It's certainly on the table. But it remains to be seen when they're actually going to do it.

KING: From a historical record perspective, it would be good to get especially the vice president's perspective because he was under threat that day. But from an investigative standpoint, is there value in either Trump or Pence? Is it worth the effort? Is it worth as Congressman Raskin, I don't know, except his language, but Donald Trump does have a very casual relationship with the truth?

CORDERO: So, I would view from an investigative perspective, Trump and Pence very, very differently. 100 percent spending any time on the former president, in my view is a complete and utter waste of time. He's not a truth teller. It would just drag the committee down, a hole that is a waste of their time to go down.

As to the former vice president, I think there is value in having a dialogue with him if he is willing to engage in a dialogue with the committee. And they're actually, you know, there is some precedent for this former President Bush and his capacity cooperated with the 9/11 commission. This is a very different type of inquiry, congressional inquiry than that commission, but it is a matter of historical significance.

I don't think we're going to see the former vice president testifying in open session. I don't even think we necessarily would see a deposition. But if the former vice president is willing to engage with the committee, maybe in written answers in some way, I don't think it would be a bad thing for him to establish something in the historical record of the committee's work.


KING: Our reporting is there's been no formal request to the former vice president. We'll see how that one plays out. Another thing that has popped up this week that is somewhat related, is this is Donald Trump to New York magazine. In my own mind, I've already made that decision.

I would say my big decision will be whether I go before or after. For context, in my own mind, I've already made that decision, that's about running in 2024. The timing part, Seung Min, is whether he would announce his - announced that make that public before after the November midterm elections?

KIM: Right, right. And at that sound, you heard where a lot of Republican start to screaming when they saw the former president's comments. Because what Republicans are wanted to do, basically from day one of President Biden's term, is to make sure that the midterms stay what congressional midterms usually are that a referendum on the governing party.

The party in the White House, and they have made that case talking about the economy, inflation, immigration to a certain extent. And what they don't want as a contrast election, President Biden the White House have been trying to do that by pointing to Republican policies that they say are unpopular with voters.

But having the former president in the race was certainly helped make it that a contrast election that Democrats want. Now, it could also certainly drive-up conservative support with Republican primary voters. But the consensus now is that this is something that Republicans in Washington don't particularly want at this point.

KING: You mentioned some Republicans screaming. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader said, it's not a screamer. But he does have his own unique way of saying, please no.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, it's a free country. Who knows, who's going to start talking about '24? It seems to me the American people are focused on '22. And ought to be because that's the next election. And they're going to send an important signal about which way they might want to go in '24.


KING: The last thing congressional Republicans want, at least most of them is for 2022 to be about Donald Trump. But Donald Trump, some people think has a legal question here, or at least in his mind, he might think he has a legal question here that if he is a declared candidate, whether it's the Georgia investigation, and the state you write for or whether it's the justice department has to back off.

MITCHELL: Yes. I do you think there will be - if he becomes a candidate, that does create a new level of calculus for all these investigations that are underway, because especially at the federal level, the DOJ does not like to get involved with campaigns and look like it's trying to influence the outcome of campaigns.

That being said, him announcing this early, I don't think that means that any of these investigations are going to hold off for a two-year campaign. It accelerate the campaigns. It may cause them to be a little bit more cautious about how they approach anything involving the former president. But I don't think he can derail campaigns for two years.

KING: It's a pretty good trick, if it works. In the idea that if you just declare you're a candidate, everybody has to back off and the justice department would have to talk about this. But is that not enough, is it?

CORDERO: That's not the way it would work. So, to the extent that the justice department has investigations ongoing that potentially would implicate the former president, we're a long way away from 2024. And they will continue on those investigations. Would it rise to the matter then of what they call a sensitive investigative matter? Yes.

Would they make sure that they handled it very carefully and cautiously? Yes. Would it rise, you know, approvals in the investigation rise to higher levels within the department, certainly, but it is not a block to conducting investigations that need to be conducted.

KING: The flip side is, once you're declared candidate, it's also there much more restrictions on how you can raise and spend money. So don't try to think about that too. If it might benefit them in some ways that might not benefit in others. We will continue because he wants us to follow that drama. Up next, a little silver lining. Retail sales on the rebound and consumer sentiment while still up, still sour I mean is up a bit.




KING: Washington today dissecting another Joe Manchin moment and it is a massive blow to President Biden's legislative agenda. The West Virginia Democratic senator, now says he will not support democratic proposals on climate change, nor will he support democratic ideas to raise taxes on the rich and on corporations.

That means the president's build back better act dead in its current form. And of course, we are just three months and a little more from the midterm elections. Let's get live to CNN's Jessica Dean up on Capitol Hill. Jessica, they thought they were making some progress and then boom.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And then boom, John, and then it was pretty much moot and dead in the water, at least as things stand right now. We're learning again, as you mentioned that Senator Manchin says he's unequivocally opposed to supporting any of these climate provisions, which they had been talking about and working on these tax provisions does not want to raise taxes on corporations or the wealthy.

And of course, that's the cornerstone of this entire plan. That was how a lot of this was going to be paid for. And he had said that he was always looking at inflation. We've heard over the last several months. We've talked to him again and again and again. He always brings up inflation as a reason not to proceed forward. This time was no different. He pointed to the July inflation rate, saying that it's just not prudent. He went on local radio earlier today and talked a little bit more about his thinking. We can listen to that.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): There's no human being to put themselves through this, if we weren't sincere about trying to make things better for our country. And I know people have a hard time believing that because everything is politics. My main goal was what's good for my country I'm not worried about what's good for the Democratic Republican Party, they're going to do just fine.