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Raging Wildfire Forces Thousands To Evacuate Near Yosemite; V.P. Harris Visits Indiana As State Lawmakers Debate Abortion Ban; AJC: Judge Says Fulton County DA Can't Question Target Of Trump Probe; China Escalates Warnings Ahead Of Possible Pelosi Taiwan Trip. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 25, 2022 - 12:30   ET



CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Getting a little better, but still a lot of work to be done here because these flames are moving quickly, John. And authorities say that part of the reason is the drought, this ongoing drought in the state of California. You can see it on the ground and you can also see exactly where the flames came into this property.

Despite the containment, though, we're seeing the flames continuing to grow. On Saturday, it was 14,000 acres burned, Sunday 15,000 acres. And then today, we're getting close to that 17,000 number. And so, you're seeing it grow, and you're seeing so many people evacuate. But it's for a reason, because a lot of them are going to come back to this.

Unfortunately, you just see the destruction. There's still some of the hotspots, some of the cars that are burned, and frankly, there's just not a lot left. And that's why authorities are saying people really need to pay attention to those evacuation orders. Although I have talked to a lot of people here in this area who told me, look, I don't want to leave, I want to be here on my property. I want to watch over what's what I have and my belongings.

And so, authorities are really just saying, look, it's easier if you leave if you pack your bags, because there is still a lot of work to be done here. There are more resources. We know -- we started Saturday with about 400 people working on this fire. More than 2,500 are here now. So they do expect some progress. But again, the bottom line is that there's still a lot of work to be done here. John?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR:: Camila Bernal on the ground for us. Grateful to you and your crew for that important reporting. The pictures are heartbreaking. Camila, thank you.

Up next for us, the abortion rights debate in red states. Vice President Harris today lending support in Indiana. And Kansas voters soon get to define the post-Roe world in their state.


[12:36:08] KING: Right now, Vice President Kamala Harris is in Indiana to join an uphill fight there to protect abortion rights. The state legislature set to hold a special session to consider a new abortion ban, the first in the nation since Roe was overturned. The Vice President said to me with local officials and Democrats to express support for abortion rights.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm here to support the legislators who are here and support the folks who are doing the work on the ground in terms of service providers to let them know we stand with the women of Indiana. We trust the women of Indiana to make decisions about their own lives without requiring their government to tell them what to do with their bodies.


KING: Our reporters sit back with us to continue this discussion. And it's a very important discussion because of the Dobbs decision which raises Roe, this is now state by state unless and until Washington does something about that.

I just want to put up, in Indiana, the legislature has a special committee. Again, red state, the home of the former Vice President Mike Pence, Kansas, red state but has a Democratic governor. On the primary election ballot coming up is whether to include an abortion amendment in the state constitution. So we're going to watch this state by state. This is interesting, though.

Two, tend to be -- Kansas is an exception, because the Democratic governor which is a tradition there. They often have had Democratic voters. But two red states, two states Trump carried very significantly are going to weigh in next on this big debate.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Yes, I'm putting aside the Democratic governor thing for a second, which I can say because I'm actually from the state of Kansas. We often joke by me, I say that a Democratic governor in Kansas would be a Republican in Massachusetts, essentially, it's a very conservative state. And now voters are going to have the opportunity to side in that ballot on August 6, whether or not they want to give the state the opportunity to create abortion restrictions.

Currently legal in the state of Kansas, but what voters will actually be deciding is whether the state should be able to put additional regulations on abortion. And you've seen Vice President Harris traveling to various different states to just tell them, look, the White House is behind you. She's also speaking at national conferences. This is a real role that they put the Vice President in at this point, as they head into the midterm elections.

KING: The Indiana proposal, I believe I have this right, has exemptions for rape, incest in life of mother. We're going to -- but we're going to go through this state by state by state. One of the lessons you get when you have a debate like this in a conservative state, is, you know, what the voters in the state think as opposed to the conversation we have here in Washington. Often there's a big disconnect between Washington and real America.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. And I think that those exceptions, especially in those conservative states, are going to be key. And I think the state by state patchwork system also shows a lot of the complications and the problems that can occur. I mean, Indiana has been in the spotlight, particularly because it was the state that a young girl in Ohio traveled to to get an abortion that had made national headlines, and now the doctor who perform that procedure is being -- becoming a target of officials in Indiana. So certainly, a focus there.

So I think we're going to see this a lot going forward. And I think we're also among the policy and sort of the real world implications. We're also looking at the political implications, and how much this matters for voters. Democrats are certainly try particularly in Senate races where voters tend to be overwhelmingly or predominantly pro- choice. But how much that has an impact in the backdrop of, you know, economy, inflation, gas prices, we'll have to wait and see.

KING: And that is, again, that's another piece of the test, right? Because if your view at home is that, you know, you want rollback on the books, the math doesn't work for the Democrats in Washington, right? There's just no thought no --


KING: -- no possibility of that happening, at least in the short term. So between now and Election Day, number one, we learn state by state, what are the policy debates. But then to Seung Min's point, can Democrats use this? Will it be as effective as they believe or hope it could be as a motivational turnout tool?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, we kind of saw a preview of this last week. You did see the week before House Democrats just try and push a bill to essentially codify Roe v. Wade that passed in the House. It's never ever ever going to get touched in the Senate. There are some senators of bipartisan group that's trying to see if they could find an agreement to codify Roe v. Wade and Casey (ph) it was actually something that Senator Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, two Republicans had actually proposed, but that also failed in the Senate last year.


So maybe there's some legislative proposal. But really, at this point, what Democrats are trying to do is just put a number of bills on the floor to codify. We saw same-sex marriage, for example, that's obviously different than the abortion discussion, but also contraception. So someone like Congresswoman Nancy Mace, say, you know, what, in South Carolina, they're trying to undo a number of exceptions. So that's why we need to protect contraception. Republicans, though, of course, aren't really there yet.

CHAMBERS: But in the Senate. I was going to say Republicans are also split on this, too. We did a lot of reporting on this to find out where Republicans in the Senate stand on this and whether they actually want to see a federal abortion ban. And some of them feel that this is a state's rights issue that it should be up to the states.

But they're being pushed into these positions right now to determine whether or not it's something they want to act on. And what is it abortion ban even mean, if they decide to act on that? Is that six weeks, is that 15 weeks? And this is something that's not going to go away for Republicans.

KING: Yes. You know, the tire issues not going away for the country for the next few years, at least. We shall see how it plays out.

Up next for us, some breaking news, a big development in that Georgia special grand jury probe into Donald Trump and election meddling. We'll tell you what a judge just wrote about the top prosecutor overseeing that case.



KING: This news just into us, an important legal hiccup at a minimum in the special grand jury probe into Donald Trump. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that a judge is now barring the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from questioning State Senator Burt Jones. Jones is a target of the investigation into whether Trump and his allies broke the law by trying to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia.

Let's get straight to CNN's Kara Scannell for more details. Kara, tell us what this means.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you say, I mean he is a target of this investigation and the Fulton County judge now saying that Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, is disqualified from investigating him. The judge, you know, saying, this is all because Burt Jones is running for lieutenant governor. He was one of the fake electors and that's why he's someone of interest. But he's currently running for lieutenant governor.

And Fani Willis contributed campaign funds, contributed to the campaign of the person running against him. She also hosted a fundraiser for that rival. And the judge saying this was a clear conflict of interest. So now she is disqualified as is her office from investigating Jones, from subpoenaing him for records, from referring to him as a target as she had.

But the judge says her investigation can continue when she can collect evidence. It's just if there is to be a case that involves Jones, it's something that will be decided by another district attorney that will be appointed by the Attorney General. But Jones cannot be included in the report that this special grand jury is going to produce. So a real setback for Willis on that front. But the judge said that for all the other fake electors, many of whom are expected to appear before the grand jury this week. Those appearances can continue and the investigation at large is unaffected by this. But for Jones, he gets a slight win here because the judge saying that Willis is too conflicted to continue her investigation into him.

KING: And Kara, as we wait to see what the next move then when it comes to Senator Jones. Today, a pretty dramatic development is sitting Governor Brian Kemp giving testimony to the grand jury. Tell us more.

SCANNELL: Yes, he's the highest profile witness so far in the Fulton County investigation. He will do some tape testimony today that will be played before the special grand jury some point in the future. Now Kemp is one of the Georgia officials that Trump had reached out to after the 2020 election. And Trump had tried to pressure him to convene a special session to try to ask the state legislator to overturn Biden's victory.

Trump also wanted camp to order an audit of signatures on absentee ballots. And Kemp of Republican did not -- refuse to do either of those things and he didn't have the authority. This, you know, comes as though a number of high profile individuals those close to Trump will be coming before that grand jury.

A judge has ordered Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney to appear next month. And later today, another Georgia lawmaker, excuse me, Jody Hice, is going to appear in court because he is trying to quash a subpoena for his testimony. John?

KING: Important investigation. Kara, grateful that you're keeping track of it for us.

Up next for us, the dust up over a plant Nancy Pelosi visit to Taiwan. Beijing is furious and the Biden White House is nervous.



KING: I want to bring you what we know about a major developing story right now. A ground stop in a major U.S. airport after reports of shots fired. Dallas police tell CNN they're investigating a situation at Dallas Love Field, the airport located northwest of downtown Dallas. We'll bring you more information on that developing story as we learn it.

Back now to a big conversation here in Washington and in Asia, unprecedented. That's how one expert describes China's likely response if the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan next month. The California Democrat has not confirmed that trip. But says, quote, it's important for us to show support for the self-governing island.

Pelosi would be the first House Speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years. Newt Gingrich visited back in 1997 when Bill Clinton was President. Still, a source telling CNN Biden administration officials are privately expressing concern that China could, among other things, try to declare a no fly zone over Taiwan to up end that visit. President Biden sharing his thoughts, his hesitation last week.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you think it's a good idea for Speaker Pelosi to travel to Taiwan this summer?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I think that the military thinks it's not a good idea right now. But I don't know what the status of it is.



KING: Our reporters are back with us. That's I'm going to translate here. Nancy Pelosi is a key Biden ally so he doesn't want to say please don't go. That was a please don't go.

KIM: That was a please don't go without him actually having to say the words, please don't go. But certainly there -- you saw the public concern expressed by President Biden there. And also this comes in the context of a potential another conversation with -- or between President Biden and Chinese President Xi. I mean, I was with him, you know, when Ken Thomas with Wall Street Journal asked him that question, and he predicted that he would talk with the Chinese leader in about 10 days now, that was before his COVID diagnosis. So we don't know the timing of that call, but certainly creating a lot of tensions over Speaker Pelosi's reported trip.

Now what's interesting, though, is that she is getting some unusual support from an unusual corner, which is Republican lawmakers and former Trump administration officials. You saw Ben Sasse of Nebraska, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, saying you cannot let China dictate the actions of a high ranking U.S. official. So a lot of different dynamics here.

KING: Right. And that unlikely alliance, unusual alliance call it what you will is striking this. It says, I want to read you out. Let me add Newt Gingrich to that, the former House Speaker, who, again, went to Taiwan in 1997. "What is the Pentagon thinking when it publicly warns against Speaker Pelosi going to Taiwan? If we are so intimidated by the Chinese Communist we can't even protect an American Speaker of the House, why should Beijing believe we can help Taiwan survive. Timidity is dangerous."

It is an interesting argument if you're making the case. China is increasingly aggressive. China is a bully. We need to make clear to China you cannot take Taiwan, why not? Nancy Pelosi has 20 years plus legitimacy, if you will, on this issue. It's not like she's just deciding to poke China in the eye. She has been a friend of Taiwan since her days as a junior member of the House.

SOTOMAYOR: Right. Should not be surprising that she would want to go there for all of those reasons. It is also not surprising that her office is not going to comment on this. Typically, it's how things go here in Washington where they try to keep any foreign trip under wraps.

August recess is coming up, giving ample time for the travel to happen. But, you know, to your point of, you know, the interesting bipartisan moment, we're seeing Pelosi, in some ways, leading bringing in Republicans in this way, who are saying you know what, we need to stand up to China. This should be a signal of source.

You're also hearing that from some Democrats as well. I believe it was the Democrat, the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee over on the House --

KING: Adam Smith, right

SOTOMAYOR: -- Adam Smith, just saying here on CNN in the last hour, we shouldn't be intimidated by China. She shouldn't make her decisions based on what they want, what Washington wants. You should just go and we should stand up to them.

KING: It's complicated. And you can have back channel conversations with China to say, look, we're going to do this and you try to figure it out. You try to watch them. But especially General Mark Milley, America's top general, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is in the region right now. And part of the administration's message to trading partners with China, to others with China is you can't turn a blind eye to this anymore.

Everybody needs to, in their own way, stand up to China and make things clear. General Milley saying this, "The message is the Chinese military, in the air and at sea, have become significantly more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region." So if you're trying to rally the region -- he was in Indonesia when he said that -- if you're trying to rally the region, to Speaker Gingrich's point-- is timidity, that's his word. Someone else might call it something else, is that the right approach or should it be, we're going to prove to China we call the shots, you don't.

CHAMBERS: And this comes at a particularly precarious moment in the United States's relationship with China, because putting it in the broader context, you have, on the one hand, oh this is going on. You also have that chips legislation that's going to be in the House and the Senate, which is meant to improve the United States's competition against China, to decrease the reliance on China, to produce those computer chips that we're also reliant on for about every device right now.

You also have the situation in Ukraine, with Russia attacking Ukraine and the U.S. wanting China to stay out of that, and not provide material support to Russia. So there's a lot of different issues that are convening right now around Taiwan. And that is part of the reason you're seeing so much emphasis on this potential visit.

KING: Right. And Biden himself has stepped outside of the normal protocols by saying publicly what you're not supposed to say publicly or what past American president should have been reluctant to say publicly. That if Chinese were to attack Taiwan, the United States would step in. That has been known to everybody for years is try not to say it publicly because of the so-called One China policy.

But this from the A.P., "Taiwan's capital staged air raid drills Monday and its military mobilized for routine defense exercises. While there was no direct link between China's renewed threats, and Taiwan's defensive moves, they underscored the possibility of a renewed crisis in the Taiwan Strait."

This has been an issue for years, but it is magnified now because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Everybody watching what message does Xi Jinping take from it. So why would not the United States want its third -- its highest ranking woman and the third ranking official president, vice president, Speaker of the House to go quietly not to poke the bear, but just to say this is important?

KIN: It's a really good question but I think the fact that President Biden's first instinct when we asked him this question, was to kind of signal that it's a bad idea shows just how nervous they are about this potential trip. And it's not just, you know, his -- you know, President Biden's trip to Asia in May was just all about confronting China, so it's certainly an issue here.

KING: It's something fascinating to watch as it plays out again, not officially confirmed. We shall watch.

Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here at this time tomorrow. Very busy breaking news today. Stay with us. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.