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Dem Strategist Urging Party To Label GOP As "Extremists"; Miller: No Direct Order From Trump On Troops; WNBA Star Brittney Griner Takes Stand For First Time In Russia. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 27, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And so some Democrats in Congress and campaign strategist want major party focus now on labeling Republicans as extremists and urging voters to think twice about giving those Republicans control of Congress or the governor's mansions. CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere spoke to several members of Congress and messaging experts for this report. And he joins our panel now. I just want to show our viewers the headline on CNN politics page, fearing a wipe out Democrats tried to unify around a simple midterm message Republican or extremist, my simplification tell me if I'm wrong, the Democrats know that voters are mad. And essentially, OK, you're mad at us. But you don't want to put these guys in power because they're nuts. They're extreme.

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: You know, look, there's a Democratic strategist who said to me, look, we know that you're unhappy, we know that you think Democrats suck right now. That's a strategist words. But this candidate over here, believes that you can't get pregnant from rape. And that candidate over there believes in QAnon. As frustrated as you are, do you really want to vote for that candidate? And to make it clear what is at stake here, if Republicans are in power, things like a federal ban on abortion that members of Congress in the Republican Party have talked about, on the state level, lots of restrictions on abortion, things about the way our elections are run, cutbacks to the Democratic process that could run into the 2024 presidential election. And of course, things like guns, the lack of movement among a lot of Republicans to do much on gun control, even in the face of these mass shootings that we've seen.

KING: So you see, I'm going to read a quote, this is from Senator Brian Schatz in your piece, and at least many people went on the record, you have a lot of people who anonymously start pointing fingers and whining at this time of year in an election cycle, Senator Schatz says Democrats would be irresponsible, both morally and politically, if we just went with the same poll tested stuff about delivering infrastructure, there's a place for all of that. But these people are out of their minds and are really acting with impunity, and we need to say so.

I read that a little bit as Senator Schatz saying, you know, the White House needs to get on board with us here, because the White House would tell you focus on things like infrastructure -- LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. That's absolutely right. And there's a lot of frustration among Democrats about the White House messaging and the messaging that Democratic leaders are telling them, remember to go in and sell infrastructure bill, sell the things that we did. Remember the COVID Relief Bill two years ago, sell that too. Those stimulus checks are long gone by now. But, you know, there's a growing recognition among the party, that something drastic has to be done.

And the fact that if the more that Donald Trump is out in front as well, that is giving Democrats the acknowledgement and the OK to make these arguments, because they think that is probably the best thing for Democrats. Moving ahead in the 2022 midterms is the more Donald Trump is in people's faces, the more they can point to all of these kinds of extremist policies.

KING: And to that fact, Donald Trump, to that point, Donald Trump was back in Washington yesterday. There are Republicans on the record, Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican House saying please, please do not announce for president until after the midterms. They would actually like Donald Trump to not say much, if anything, until after the midterms, because when he's in public Democrats can say look at this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to leave our police alone. Every time they do something, they're afraid they're going to be destroyed, their pensions going to be taken away, they'll be fired, there'll be put in jail. Let them do their job, give them back the respect that they deserve.


KING: It's kind of rich for Donald Trump, who sat at the White House saying Rich is an understatement and did nothing while Capitol police officers metropolitan police officers were attacked --


KING: -- he did nothing. And now he's --

HENDERSON: Well, he did do something. He watched it all unfold on T.V. and seemed to be fine with what was happening. So a lot of irony there, him giving a law and order speech given that he was sort of at the helm of a very lawless event on January 6th, it's funny, because I feel like Democrats have tried to this sort of Republicans are extreme before. I think we all remember the war on women in 2012 and 2014. It didn't work very well.

And even Joe Biden himself has tried this language, I think he said something like ultra MAGA, at some point but kind of let it drop at some point. You know, I get it the sort of contrast that you can make to voters. But I think the real key I think for Democrats is going to be can you really make voters, Democratic voters, the base voters really want to turn out to vote for what Democrats have done, right? And that's where you see over these next couple of weeks, are Democrats going to be able to pass any of these laws into law, so they'll have something to bring to their voters? Not just the infrastructure bill, which was supposed to be a kind of silver bullet, which hasn't really worked? I think, you know, can they sort of do both a contrast with the Republicans, but also say, this is what we delivered. And this is how we made a difference in your life.

KING: And be honest, specifically, you're trying to bend the arc of history and the history tells us midterm elections, especially the first midterm election. It's about the President in power and the party in power.

DOVERE: And also the economy. It's the way it goes. And so Republicans look at this and they say, good luck. Look at where Biden's poll numbers are, look where inflation is. You're finished. What Democrats would say to -- what your -- the point you raised though is that what's different now is that it's not just talking about a war on women that Roe v. Wade has been overturned. It's -- that it's not people saying we're going to change things with voting rights, but that we see what happened on January 6th, and we see what's happened since then.


And that's actually going to keep coming more and more, that case of the 10-year-old girl in Ohio who couldn't get the abortion until she went to Indiana or what happens when the trigger law goes into effect in Texas in a couple of weeks.

KING: Hundred days to the election, 103 days from today gives us fascinating laboratory to watch and to study.

Up next for us, some big news from another January 6th investigation, the House Select Committee releases damning testimony from a key member of the Trump cabinet.



KING: Now to an important January 6th lie exposed, Donald Trump remember insisted after the insurrection that he offered up to 20,000 National Guard troops to protect the Capitol. His former acting defense secretary though Christopher Miller, a handpicked replacement and a Trump loyalist now says under oath, it never happened.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be crystal clear, there was no direct order from President Trump to put 10,000 troops to be on the ready for January 6th, correct?

CHRISTOPHER MILLER, EX-ACTING TRUMP DEFENSE SECRETARY: No. Yes, that's correct. There was no direct -- there was no order from the President.


KING: Our reporters are back with us. It's very significant. Again, this is the January 6th Committee investigation gathering critical new information as the Justice Department is a separate investigation. Now I want to dig a little deeper here and listen to Secretary Miller. Mark Meadows, the president's chief of staff, Donald Trump's chief of staff in February 2021, as many as 10,000, National Guard troops were told to be on the ready by the Secretary of Defense, that was a direct order from President Trump. That's what Mark Meadows says, here's what the defense secretary says.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any accuracy to that statement?

MILLER: I'm not -- not from my perspective. I was never given any direction or order or knew of any plans of that nature. So I was surprised by seeing that publicly. But I don't know the context or, you know, where it was. There was, no -- obviously we had plans for activating more folks. But that was not anything more than contingency planning. There was no official message traffic or anything of that nature.


KING: So the President, his chief of staff lied. That's what Secretary Miller says.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: And that is also something that Republicans and House Republicans who are defending the former president have been saying over and over again, that the President called for the National Guard troops ahead of January 6th, and they would blame Nancy Pelosi for not allowing the National Guard to come to the Capitol.

And so, this completely undercuts not only Donald Trump's claims, but also the claims that Republicans have been coming to his defense on. And so, I mean, are we really surprised that Donald Trump lied, not really. But now we have under oath, the fact that he did, and that it absolutely was not true. What's interesting also, one more thing is that the January 6th Select Committee didn't put this into the hearing. This was kind of outtakes after the last hearing. And so that is proof that they have more evidence that wasn't even good enough to make it into the hearing.

KING: And we've had the conversation many times about the January 6th Committee has a different mission than the Justice Department, federal grand jury, you could say there that would be evidence of dereliction of duty. Do you get a crime, criminal activity there? The president can lie in public, the president's chief of staff can lie in public, not a crime, right?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Exactly. And you see on my beloved legal dereliction of duty, John.

KING: I didn't see it, but -- WILLIAMS: It's a great case, dereliction of duty itself is not a crime. The Committee talks about it a lot. But their purpose isn't just recommending crimes to the Justice Department. It's also making the public case and I think this is Cheney and Kinzinger for not electing Donald Trump to be president again. And what you have here is number one, violating his oath of office in in a pretty basic sense. And number two lying to the American people. Now that's a political point, not really a criminal case.

KING: You also -- go ahead.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And though, we did see the Committee presented evidence, right, that he never actually picked up the phone like if he, you know, these people were supposed to be on standby, he never actually made the phone call to have them go to the Capitol.

KING: Right. Secretary Miller says it and General Milley said it.

HENDERSON: Yes. And there was concern at some point, I think from Mark Meadows that the president during that time would seem like he was unengaged. And that was Pence was making all of the phone calls around, you know, securing the Capitol, in the safety. So I think, listen, I mean, politically, this is damaging for the president to be seen as sitting there as this unfolds at the Capitol and literally doing nothing for three hours or so. And you can tell Republicans are worried about that, Donald Trump is worried about that image of him sitting back with a remote control, just watching the violence unfold.

KING: And you talk about the power of being under oath in an investigation. On a rewind the tape here, this is June 6th on "Fox News," where if you listen to this conversation, Secretary Miller seems to be saying something different to Sean Hannity than he told the Committee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Trump unequivocally authorized up to 20,000 National Guardsmen and women for us to utilize should the second part of the law, the request come in, but those requests never did as you highlighted.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, let me be very clear, both of you said this under oath under the threat of a penalty of perjury to the Committee?

MILLER: Oh, absolutely Sean.


KING: He says absolutely, Sean, he said that the President authorized 20,000 National Guardsmen.

WILLIAMS: Well, look, he's not under oath here. This is part of the reason why by the Justice Department if you're a prosecutor you don't want your folks out there doing interviews because they end up contradicting themselves and could end up gumming up your case. He's under oath that unless he have a reason to believe, to not believe what he said under oath, you have to go with that as the honest side.


KING: So a political question at the end here. Many people ask, is this having any impact all these hearings, the investigations on Donald Trump, you can look at some polling and say I'm not so sure as in Republicans, I think 74 percent in our last poll, said the January 6th Committee is just an effort to get Trump. But I want you to look at this. Should Trump be the nominee in 2024? This is only Republican voters. Back in January and February was 50 percent. Now it's down to 44 percent. Some modest drop, but it's a drop.

This was Trump's actions after the 2020 election, were they illegal, unethical or not wrong at all. This is among Republicans. Ten percent of Republicans say illegal, 45 percent say unethical, 45 percent say not wrong. So I add that up to smaller support, a little bit lower support as the nominee, and 55 percent of Republicans saying it was bad, either illegal or unethical. Again, that's not overwhelming. But it's proved to me that Donald Trump, if it were today would need another crowded primary then at least enough Republicans have pause.

CALDWELL: Yes, there's -- this is proof that there's Trump fatigue out there. I think that this is actually having an impact deep in people's subconscious if they're willing to admit it or not. Republicans could have a problem if he's the nominee in 2024.

HENDERSON: Yes. And the hearings aren't over and either as a DOJ's investigation. So in some ways, it's sort of too early to know what the kind of political impact will be for Donald Trump.

KING: All right, watch the trajectory, the numbers, they're not overwhelmingly bad for Donald Trump, but they're worth sending. The question is, does that trend continue?

Right now up on Capitol Hill, a key Senate vote on a bill Democrats say is absolutely essential to the health of the U.S. economy.



KING: Happening right now, you see the live pictures, the Senate vote underway on the Chips Bill. It is almost certain to pass meaning Democrats are on the cusp of scoring one major legislative victory. The bill provides $50 billion in funding to develop and research computer chips, semiconductors, is expected to help reduce America's dependence on foreign manufacturers and curb the nationwide computer chip shortage we have right now. Joining us live on Capitol Hill is CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, tell us more.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this has been in the works for more than years. It's been a big priority for the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as well as some Republicans going Texas Senator John Cornyn. They initially pushed a much broader bill but that had gotten hung up among intra party fighting among Democrats as well as some disputes with Republicans. Instead they decided to pair back this bill and now they're moving forward with something that does provide more than $50 billion to help deal with that short of -- shortage of semiconductor chips naming and helping with cars that need these -- they -- these chips as well as refrigerators, other concerns that were raised by this shortage.

Now, it also provides a whole host of money that is authorized to make the U.S. more competitive against China. Now this bill has the support of all the Democrats, it divided Republicans, more than half of the Republicans are expected to vote against this over the concerns over funding levels on this issue.

Now, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader does support this but he's number two in the Senate Republican Conference, John Thune opposing this. Now after this is passed, John, here in a matter of minutes, it will go to the House. The House is expected to pass it. The Republican leaders over there are expected to oppose this as well. And this is all part of the last ditch and sprint of legislating, John, before lawmakers head home for their summer recess where they're trying to campaign. They're fighting for control of Congress.

And on the Senate side there is still a push to try to pass a bill, a large scale health care bill to provide -- allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. Unclear if that will actually passed the Senate before recess but all part of this last effort of legislating before the campaign season begins in earnest. John?

KING: One box -- important box checked today. We will circle back with you, Manu, on those other boxes in the days ahead. Manu Raju live on the Hill. Appreciate it.


Ahead for us, the WNBA star Brittney Griner testifying in Russian court today. We have the latest up next.


KING: This morning the WNBA star, you see right there, Brittney Griner back in a Russian court, taking the stand for the first time since she was detained back in February. Griner testifying that during the arrest her rights were not read to her. Let's get the very latest from CNN's Fred Pleitgen. Fred, what else happened in that courtroom?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John, yes. It was certainly hugely significant with Brittney Griner really touching on all the issues and all the things that took place as she was detained in Moscow on February 17th. As you've already mentioned, she said that her rights were not read to her. She also said she was given a bunch of documents in Russian that she was told to sign. She actually has used Google Translate to try at least make some sense of them. But obviously, that was very difficult.

It was interesting because for a lawyer afterward, said that he believes that the all the way -- all that was conducted was improper under Russian law as well. It's interesting to see that. Brittney Griner also saying that she still to this day has absolutely no idea how those vaping cartridges got into her luggage. She said that she did not intend to pack them. However, she did say that when she was coming back to Russia from the United States that she packed very quickly. She was under a lot of stress. She was very tired. Obviously the flight was very long as well, but she wanted to come back to be there for her team that she plays for in Russia in Yekaterinburg.

And that in itself is significant as well because part of the defensive strategy is to portray Brittney Griner as an individual who really wants to do a lot for basketball in Russia and for her team in Russia as well, obviously someone with a high character individual. She also has some witnesses to that regard as well.

Brittney Griner also saying that she does have a certificate to be able to buy medical marijuana in the state of Arizona, this was something that was issued to her by the state and their defense making the case that she was is using this for medicinal purposes and not for recreational purposes. The next trial date by the way, John, is going to be on August 2nd.


KING: Important update from Fred Pleitgen. Fred, thanks so much. We will stay on top of that case as it develops. This quick programming note, join CNN this weekend as we explore the extremes of Patagonia's far south where the land is a wind blasted tundra but the sea is teeming with life. Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World, Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here on CNN.

Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.