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Manchin Won't Support Climate Or Tax Provisions In Dems' Economic Bill; DHS Inspector General Meets With House Select Committee About Secret Service Erasing Text Messages From Jan 5 & 6; Biden Holds Controversial Meeting With Saudi Crown Prince. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired July 15, 2022 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): And that's my -- that's -- I know people have a hard time believing that because everything is politics. My main goal is what's good for my country. I'm not worried about what's good for the Democratic or Republican Party, they're going to do just fine.
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JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So what remains what could actually get done? We're told that Manchin would support allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices, that something that seems to have the support of all Democrats. Again, anything that moves forward needs the support of all Democrats. That's why Joe Manchin is so pivotal in all of this. And also those Obamacare, ACA subsidies, those are the two issues he seems to be interested in. And John, just to zoom out for just a second and I know you're very familiar with this. We started at $3.5 trillion. Then it came down to a $1.75 trillion plan.
And now here, we are just a reminder to everyone, if Democrats want to use this budget process they have until September 30th. And they're going to be out for the whole month of August. So I'll let you all do the math on that. And one more thing he said on the radio earlier today, John, he said, I am where I've been, when it comes to this whole process.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: He is where he's been. I'll skip the math and just say it's a lot smaller than the Democrats.
DEAN: That's right.
KING: Let people to believe it might be. Jessica Dean grateful, live reporting from Capitol Hill we'll discuss in a moment. Just want to put on the record though, a couple of improvements on the economic front today, retail sales were up last month, and they surpassed expectations. And the University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index ticked up a bit too. But there's a caveat there. This from the survey director, quote, the share of consumers blaming inflation for eroding their living standards continued its rise to 49 percent matching the all-time high reached during the Great Recession. The White House line in recent days is that things are getting better on the inflation front. Many Democrats in tough races, though, take issue.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a responsibility in leadership to be honest with people to not try to spin them. And then we have a responsibility to chart the way forward. People can feel and see spin and I don't think they like it. And I think what we need to be saying is, look, we know that salaries, you know, increases in people's pay is not keeping up with inflation.
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KING: Help me through this one. Part of the problem here is that 50-50 Senate, the Democrats set the expectations bar way up here. Manchin says he is where he's always been. Inflation is not where it's always been. It is up. And the Democrats are in this family feud.
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: An incredible family feud. And Jessica mentioned 3.5 trillion. It was actually 6 trillion at some point. That's kind of the figure that Bernie Sanders and other progressives wanted. They actually negotiated down to 3.5 trillion, and then it kind of shrunk a lot from there. But yes, it is -- the development last night was really interesting, especially because after the first efforts with President Biden directly and Joe Manchin collabs back in December, when we started talking with Joe Manchin, again, about potential further efforts on the, you know, the formerly Build Back Better agenda. He actually did point to provisions of climate as a potential area of agreement. So we thought that was a really interesting development at the time.
So I think that's why particularly people in the climate space feel like a little Lucia the football here, again. But again, the challenges of a 50-50 Senate this is the longest that the Senate has had an evenly split Senate in a long time where basically any senator can be king. President Biden has acknowledged that several times. And Manchin that you have to get Joe Manchin on board and that is the reality.
KING: And so you have the policy issue, inflation hitting Americans in the head, like a two by four, several times a day. And then you have the politics where the Democrats are just not on the same page. You just heard Elissa Slotkin there. She's a House member who has a tough race this fall. This is Maggie Hassan, a member of the Senate from New Hampshire in potentially a tough race this fall. I have said for a while that I thought he and the administration have been too slow to react to it, that being inflation.
It is hard to convince your voters to turn out, let alone, nevermind reaching out to Independents or trying to peel off some Republicans. It's hard to convince Democrats to be excited when you're arguing all the time.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes, and Democrats don't have a clear pathway because different pockets of the party of the electorate want different things. You have some Democrats or advisors to Democrats saying focus on the insulation, get more aggressive, and helping people with bringing down gas prices and bringing down costs all together. Other people say, you know, we've got to combat the culture wars and then you've also got, again, the progressives who want Build Back Better and the safety net to be built up. And so because they're not on the same page, because there is not a clear Democratic playbook right now, it's almost like no one's happy.
KING: And you can connect that back to the conversation we had earlier about Republicans warning Donald Trump to please stay quiet and please stay out of 2022. I know wishful thinking. But just stay quiet because they do have a plan. This is a group Mitch McConnell's Super PAC, if you will. That's not exactly what it is. But a leadership PAC affiliated with the majority the -- want to be majority leader, the Senate Republican leader. This is in an Arizona Senate race. You're going to see this in tough Senate races all across the country.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Peaceful government spending is to blame for inflation. Senator Mark Kelly was the deciding vote for President Biden spending spree. Senator Kelly and President Biden spending trillions what we get inflation, record gas prices, and soaring prices on groceries, their spending spree worsened inflation.
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KING: It is much easier to be the opposition party. You know, give the Democrats some grace, governing as hard especially when you have tiny margins. But that's the challenge for Democrats. They need to get on the same page, because the Republicans are just going to hammer them with that.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, we should also point out that in some vulnerable Democrats in these tough races are facing inflation numbers that are even higher than the national average. In Phoenix, Arizona, for example, the average was up 12 percent over the last year. And so this has been dominating conversations among vulnerable Republicans -- Democrats and Republicans are really seizing on this. They've spent twice as much on campaign ads, as Democrats have really hammering Democrats over this issue.
And when you ask Republicans, well, what is your plan for inflation? They don't really have a specific answer. But privately they say we don't need to. We can just continually beat Democrats over the head with this.
KING: And so you have the conversations in Washington, which makes it really important to get out in the country, especially in a campaign year. CNN's Ryan Young is in Davenport, Iowa. Just listen to this trucker.
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GAVIN DISNEY, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: Everybody in D.C. needs to wake up and just think of like us, the small town guys. Like you said, trucking industry, at one point in time, everything in this tent was on a truck at some point. So they need to stop thinking of themselves and just start thinking of the smaller guys. I mean, small guys get you everything you need.
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KING: Now, the gentleman said, everybody in D.C., everybody in D.C. That's Gavin Disney there. He says everybody, but the problem for the Democrats is they're in charge.
KIM: Right, right. They're in charge. But because of various issues, such as you know, a few certain senators who don't want to get on board with the broader party's agenda. They really are kind of in this position where they feel like they can't do anything, even though they have all levers of power. And I think sentiments like the gentleman there show why you've seen all of these polls recently that show the wrong track right track for the direction of the country being so high when it comes to the wrong track, and that's never going to be good for the party in power despite what they're doing.
KING: All right, a quick break. But any minute now, any minute now President Biden's highly anticipated meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were alive in Saudi Arabia next.
KING: Bring you some breaking news in a CNN exclusive right now, the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General just now meeting with the House Select Committee about January 6th, the meeting about the Secret Service erasing or deleting text messages. Let's bring in our crime and justice reporter Katelyn Polantz who has the details. Katelyn, what do we know?
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, John, now we are obtaining at CNN some exclusive video of the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General meeting with the House Select Committee, all nine members of the House Select Committee saw a significant meeting for several hours today to discuss what is just coming out this week, all this developing story that we learned about yesterday. So that story was that the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General has been investigating the Secret Service for over a year now basically back to January 6th, as part of their inquiry into January 6th.
And they had some trouble getting data. They were unhappy about that, notified Congress that there were text messages that appear to have been erased or missing. The Secret Service Department of Homeland Security says that this was just part of a tech process, a data migration. But this is a situation that the Capitol Hill was notified about multiple committees. And then there's that video right there. And then the House Select Committee is taking interest in this because they care deeply about what the Secret Service witnessed on January 6th. And what was said after these apparent events with the President where the Secret Service was around Donald Trump, other witnesses in the House Select Committee have spoken about a possible altercation between Trump in the presidential SUV and being very angry with members of the Secret Service.
And so we don't know exactly what's missing in those text messages. But the House Select Committee wants to get to the bottom of it. And they are trying to get some answers from DHS which is doing its own separate investigation. John?
KING: Katelyn Polantz, thank you, to our team on Capitol Hill too, Zach Cohen, Annie Grayer, Ryan Nobles for that important reporting. Let's bring the conversation in the room. And we could show the video again as we talk. Joseph Cuffari, he is the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General. We don't know what was discussed in the meeting. But it is interesting that he decided or was asked to come up to Capitol Hill to sit down with all nine members of the Committee. Often the staff handles negotiations or back and forth over getting documents and getting information often done at the staff level. This tells you that they have some, you know, the Committee wants eyeballs here. They want eyeball answers on what happened here.
ZANONA: Yes, this signals to me that the Committee is really zeroing in on these erased text messages. We also know that they've been talking about witness tampering, and that that's something that they're going to present at the next potentially last hearing. And so, you know, this is really coming into focus for the Select Committee. They obviously want to get to the bottom of this, whether they can or not remains to be seen, but it's obviously a big deal.
KING: Right. And one of the facts at issue is Carrie Cordero note at the top of the hour. The Secret Service is saying the request came in after they had a pre-planned, they call it device replacement or device mitigation program. And they erased the phones because they were replacing them and they didn't backup the data, which sounds a little odd. But there's a factual piece here too that I guess, if better than in the room than doing letters back and forth.
KIM: Right. I mean that shows to me just how -- I mean we've heard in the immediate when we found out about the initial news that members of the Select Committee said this does raise a lot of questions. And I think this is the first step to try to get those answers. You know, was that data backed up? What exactly is this data migration process? What did that entail? Is there a server somewhere? And so I think this is certainly the first major step for all members of the Select Committee to get -- started to get some answers.
KING: If nothing else, another example of we keep hearing this Committee's work going on longer than we thought because they keep getting new information and new questions.
MITCHELL: Yes. And it shows that the Committee follows up. I think it also shows a little bit of skepticism towards the Secret Service right now. You know, we had the Secret Service reaction to Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony. And then there was someone who verified what she said. And then now this, the text messages has come out and I think the Committee is like, what's going on with the Secret Service.
KING: Well, face to face meetings to get better information or at least more reliable information? Again, we're waiting to see President Biden meeting with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia live in Jeddah. We'll be right back.
KING: To Saudi Arabia now, you see the pictures right there. That's last hour the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman greeting the President of the United States at the Royal Palace in Jeddah. A fist bump there, this photo released by the Saudi Foreign Ministry. We're waiting now for -- to see details of a hugely consequential meeting with the Crown Prince. We're covering this story live from Saudi Arabia.
Our CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer is there, our Chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collin is there, as well as our international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson. Mr. Blitzer to you first, the President of the United States as a candidate for president said Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi regime were pariahs. And now he's trying to make them strategic partners. It is awkward to say the least.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very awkward. And there was a lot of wonderment how were they -- when they first got together, would there be a camera there to show what was going on? Yes, we saw the picture. It was a fist bump, not a handshake, no hugs or anything like that. It was a nice fist bump. I shouldn't say that. But clearly the U.S. is really interested in improving the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia for a few reasons.
One, the price of oil is high. Saudi Arabia exports a lot of oil, they exports some more, maybe the price of gasoline will go down before the midterm elections. That would be important where the President is we know. And secondly, they want to reestablish a strategic coordination. They want to see the Saudis, for example, normalize relations with Israel. That's a high item on the agenda for the President of the United States. We'll see if the Saudis do what the UAE and other Arab states have done, establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
KING: And Kaitlan Collins, we don't know if the President himself is going to bring up Jamal Khashoggi. But we do understand that when the reporters were brought into the room, the subject came up.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, so this is the meeting is now underway. But of course, reporters were escorted in briefly just at the top what's known as a pool spray of just a handful reporters who are allowed to go in, take pictures, shout some questions. And we are told that some of our fellow colleagues did ask questions. One was whether or not MBS would apologize to Jamal Khashoggi's family. That is a question that apparently went unanswered, according to reporters as they are leaving the room. And also President Biden was asked to be still considers and wants Saudi Arabia to be a pariah, the vow he made not that long ago, Wolf, just on the campaign trail, that he would make them a pariah, because of the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which U.S. intelligence agencies say was authorized by the Crown Prince that the President is meeting with right now. So not surprising that those questions went unanswered, John, of course, it's still important that they get asked, of course, this is a crown prince who isn't often asked questions by a free press.
And so that is an important moment there in the room, following this greeting by President Biden here visiting the Crown Prince, someone that he had vowed to really keep it an arm's length distance and something that he had done over the last year and a half. But now, White House aides say basically, reality has set in when it comes to foreign policy, and they feel it's important and productive to come to this meeting, even if it comes at a political cost to President Biden.
KING: And Nic Robertson, we will get details obviously, in the hours ahead. But the Saudi Foreign Ministry rushing out a number of photographs of the fist bump of the Crown Prince walking with the President of the United States, the Saudis view this as a win already, the rehabilitation on the global stage of their Crown Prince with the President of the United States.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: They do. And one of the reasons they do is because they believe that the Crown Prince is going to be king, in probably the not too distant future and king for a couple of generations to come. And we're watching here, some of the sort of local Arab media. And we've been able to see video of President Biden going into the room and meeting with the king whom incidentally, he did a full handshake with. But I got to say, looking at the key the king looks really frail. I'm thinking back to when former President Trump was here in 2017, the king was on his feet for an hour and a half greeting more than 50 regional guests who were coming at the same time as the then President -- as then President Trump. Now, the king looks really frail, the time to wear MBS to come to the real power here, it doesn't seem so far off.
KING: Right. And we're showing this video just coming into us. You see the two delegations seated across the table here. The United States delegation on the left, on the right side King Salman is part of this meeting, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his son is the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia because as Nic notes King Salman is quite frail, as you just watched this remarkable video right here. Wolf, again, you know, King Salman is the ruler but the Crown Prince is the de facto ruler and you see him leading the conversations here with the President of the United States.
The President of the United States hoping, number one that Saudi normalizes relations with Israel, they have cooperated privately for years, but he wants to have public. He wants an end to the war in Yemen. And as you were noting at the top, he hopes the Saudis will agree to increase oil supplies and that perhaps American consumers get a break from what otherwise is a very awkward, controversial diplomatic meeting.
BLITZER: And they already did start a new step for the Saudis in allowing a direct flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia, namely Air Force One left Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport and flew directly to Jeddah. That was significant. And we're now told the Saudis have agreed to allow Israeli planes to use Saudi airspace, fly over Saudi Arabia, and allow Israeli planes to bring Muslims from Israel to Saudi Arabia to come to the holy places back in Medina during the Hajj, the pilgrimage. So those are important symbolic steps on the part of the Saudis as far as improving the relationship with the -- now you can hear some reporters shouting some questions at the beginning of this meeting. I don't think we're going to hear any answers.
KING: Right. The thank yous and pool escorted out there. You can see this video. Kaitlan, how does the White House explain this in the sense that, you know candidate Joe Biden called Saudi Arabia pariah but candidate Joe Biden was the former vice president United States, candidate Joe Biden has served for 40 years in the United States Senate. He had to know that the any United States President whether he maybe at the time didn't think he was going to be President, when he said it, any United States President going to have to do business with the Saudis. Do they regret, does he regret that he used that word?
COLLINS: I've asked Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser who was seated there at the table if he has expressed any regret about that language. He said the President has not expressed regret about it. But I think that's one of the reasons you see, when voters get sometimes disillusioned with political candidates, it's because they often do say one thing on the campaign trail, and then they do another when they're in office. When you talk to the aides around the President, they say this is just reality, life is much better and easier when the Saudis are working with you than when they are working against you.
And for example, look how high gas prices are at home, that sort of political reality that they feel the need to deal with, but not just that. They have this concern about a vacuum being created in the Middle East and China and Russia being able to make inroads. And so that is another reason for this visit today. And many presidents of course, before have made it but it's just those words on the campaign trail.
I do want to note, you saw President Biden and the Crown Prince. They're both exchanging words. Reporters who were in the room were not allowed to bring an extended microphone. And so that's why you could not actually hear what President Biden is saying clearly to the Crown Prince to kick off this meeting behind the scenes. You could hear the reporters because they're further away much closer to the microphone. And the Saudi Crown Prince turned his head when NBC News Peter Alexander asked him if he would apologize to Jamal Khashoggi's family. He looked to the reporters, did not answer John.
KING: Looked and did not answer. Kaitlan Collins, Wolf Blitzer, thank you for your important coverage. I want to bring into the conversation now the former State Department Middle East Negotiator Aaron David Miller. He's also a CNN global affairs analyst. Help me Aaron on this day, you cut your teeth back in the Jim Baker days where real politic dominated the State Department. And sometimes you have to meet with the bad guy. Sometimes you got to meet with the bad guy to get things done. Put this into context for us.
AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's true. One picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, John, it's probably worth a million words. The Saudis basically got what they wanted. And so did Mohammed bin Salman, an endorsement of his leadership by the President of the United States. And not to put too fine a point at it, I think there is a sense of victory and elation. You saw how quickly the Saudis released these photos.
Question now, I would ask you, John, because I don't think there's an answer. Will Joe Biden gets what he needs on oil and Ukraine on Russia, and the Saudis are hedging and on human rights. Not to put too fine a point on it. But four years after Jamal Khashoggi's murder and dismemberment, there's accountability. And it strikes me not only do we have ongoing Saudi repression, but Mohammed bin Salman got away with murder. So the question is reciprocity, John, will the Saudis begin to change as a consequence of our engagement. Values may not be that important in the scheme of things in terms of American foreign policy, Joe Biden decided that they were and it poses a somewhat of a political and credibility for him in fact if there's no satisfaction on those human rights issues. I hope there will be in the days to come.
KING: Important questions raised. Aaron David Miller, we'll continue this conversation as we learn more about the meeting. Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Hope you have an enjoyable and peaceful weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.