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Kansas Votes Overwhelmingly To Protect Abortion Rights; Dems Hope Abortion Sparks Midterm Turnout; Poll: Dems Take Slight Advantage On Generic Ballot; Trump-Backed AZ Gov Candidate Declares Victory Before Race Called; MI GOP Rep Who Voted To Impeach Trump Ousted In Primary; Source: Federal Grand Jury Subpoenas Ex-Trump WH Counsel Pat Cipollone. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 03, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your very busy news day with us. Important midterm primary votes in five states and Kansas delivers the loudest message. Voters there rejected effort by anti-abortion groups to change the state constitution, and the dramatic voter turnout gives Democrats hope that anger at the Supreme Court will deliver a midterm boost.

Plus, the Justice Department marks a new phase of its investigation into Donald Trump. A federal grand jury subpoena now demands testimony from a key West Wing insider, the Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. And China response to Nancy Pelosi's defiance by dispatching 27 war planes into Taiwan's airspace. The House Speaker says her Taiwan visit is a clear marker in the battle now between democracy and dictatorship.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE SPEAKER: Today, the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America's determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and around the world remains ironclad.

QIN GANG, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: So, China's sovereignty cannot be infringed. And Chinese people cannot be humiliated. Our response will be very from strong and forceful.


KING: Back to that story in a bit, but we begin the hour with the biggest lessons of another big midterm primary night. Five states voted yesterday. Republican election denier scored some big wins out here in Arizona and here's more proof the Trump brand still matters. Let's shift to the House Republican races right now and bring up the state of Michigan.

Bring up this map for you. Here this district right out here in the Grand Rapids area right there. Michigan Republican Peter Meijer who voted to impeach Donald Trump well, he lost narrow race, but Peter Meijer lost, John Gibbs wins. A major subplot there. Democrats spent a ton of money supporting Donald Trump's choice, hoping him, hoping it gives them a shot at that seat come November.

More on those big races in a moment. But first, let's zoom back out to the national map and take you to Kansas. The loudest message yesterday came right here in America's heartland at Kansas shockwave. How it might affect both the state debate over abortion and the November midterm election results?

So, abortion was on the ballot in Kansas yesterday for the first time. The first abortion vote since the Supreme Court struck down the federal protections enshrined by Roe v. Wade. Abortion opponents proposed amending the Kansas constitution, vote yes, they said. Make it easier for state lawmakers to ban or significantly restrict abortion.

Yes, they wanted, but look, vote no. Voters voted no by an overwhelming margin and voter turnout was high. When you add all that up, it is remarkable. Giving Democrats some hope, the abortion issue just might rewrite the November election script.


REP. SHARICE DAVIDS (D-KS): When the dots decision came out and lives were upended, and people were feeling fear and anxiety and rightfully so. You know, we here in Kansas knew that we had this very important constitutional amendment on the ballot, and we dusted ourselves off and folks got to work. Kansans don't want the government or politicians making their reproductive healthcare decisions for them.


KING: With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's David Chalian, Leigh Ann Caldwell at the Washington Post, and Francesca Chambers of USA Today. As the daughter of Kansas, we will start with you. This is a commonsense conservative state in the middle of America, essentially, saying we're mad at the Supreme Court and essentially telling Republican politicians slow down.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And what you have to consider what was actually on the ballot in Kansas, currently abortion is legal. And what they were deciding is to give the state the power to set new potential restrictions on abortion. It is a Republican state as a conservative state. Almost certainly if this ballot measure had passed, that's what you would have seen the state legislature do, is put those restrictions on abortion.

But when you look at who was voting on this, you even saw in the rural counties, roughly four and 10 people in these rural conservative counties were saying in the privacy of the ballot box that they did not want to give the government the ability to do that. And that was something that stood out to me yesterday, John?

KING: So, Democrats predicted after the Supreme Court decision, they put Dobbs now the law of the land, Roe v. Wade was wiped out. Democrats predicted this would generate high voter turnout, at least yesterday, they were right. The question is as a carry on in November but look at these numbers, David Chalian. The 2014 primary about 351,000 people voted, 2016 primary is 386, and the general election in 2016, you see those numbers over a million. Last night, more than 900,000 people voted in a primary election in August.


DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Nearing the total in the 2018 general, I mean not quite there but just shy of it. It was astounding in terms of turnout. And you are right, Democrats said it would be and in that their side of this debate would benefit from that energy, from that turnout around this issue. In Kansas that is exactly what happened.

And this is a significant data point in this midterm election season, because it is not clear from this vantage point, when abortion is literally on the ballot versus when candidates just put it front and center and say, hey, abortion is on the ballot but so, it was the economy. And this was actually abortion on the ballot. So, we have to see if that carries over in the general election context.

But right now, every Democratic politician on the ballot, their strategists are saying, if you're in a battleground state, and you are trying to win back some of those suburban independent voters who were repelled by Donald Trump in '18, and '20, put abortion rights front and center in your campaign.

KING: Put it in your campaign. And if you go through the map, you're dead, right about the rural areas, roughly four in 10. And most of those rural counties said, hey, wait a minute, whoa, whoa, whoa. But if you look at the suburbs, in the Topeka area, the Kansas City come across the border to Kansas City, Kansas around there off the charts, the suburbs. So, the Democrats say, let's see if we can make this work.

We know Leigh Ann, this will be an issue in the Michigan governor's race. We know this is likely to be an issue in the Wisconsin governor's race in the Pennsylvania governor's race, and other governors' races as well, especially now that Democrats see there is some evidence, we'll see if it carries over to November, that this is generating turnout, and maybe bending the midterm mark.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: You mentioned Michigan governor's race, there's also an abortion amendment on the ballot in Michigan. So, this can really help Governor Whitmer and all those House races, where it's going to be a key battleground come November.

But what this also tells me is that the polling on the issue of abortion is right. There have said over and over again that 60 percent of Americans support some access to abortion. And that's the result that we saw in Kansas last night, about 60 percent of Kansans want access to abortion. And that's not just Democrats, there's evidence of Republicans also who are supporting it too.

KING: I'll come back to the November politics in a minute. But what about the here and now in the sense that the politicians look at Kansas, whether they're here in Washington or in different state. Legislatures say, maybe we should rethink this we can show you this map. This is from the Guttmacher Institute.

And you're looking at the states that are moving quickly after Roe v. Wade, some had laws already in place, a trigger laws Thursday. Others are moving quickly. Indiana's in the middle of the debate right now. Is there any evidence that the mostly Republican forces pushing these laws at the state level, will say maybe we should take a pause?

CHAMBERS: Well, maybe too soon to say on that, John, but you were talking about the polling USA Today. And Suffolk (Ph) has similar polling to that, showing that this is something that will drive Democrats to the polls. And so, if this is the number one issue that Democrats are going to run on, it may drive out turnout within their own base.

But you can't lose sight of the economy, you cannot lose sight of inflation. That is something that, you know, the White House has been really stressing alongside abortion, because there are many voters that we're also seeing in polling, who say that that is going to be the thing that they will be voting on in November.

CHALIAN: John, I'm dubious that state Republican lawmakers who are pushing this agenda for abortion bans are going to take a pause on that. But I do think the results in Kansas explain why Mitch McConnell and other national Republicans are not rushing to do that. In fact, a lot of Republican strategists when the Dobbs decision came down, a 50- year quest that Republicans have sort of finally reached the promised land and said, you know what, talk about something else, talk about the economy, talk about inflation. Let's not talk about this, because they understood where the country is. And I think the Kansas election last night kind of proved that that might be the best strategy for Republican.

KING: And they understand that close elections in America are decided in the suburbs. The suburbs, revolted against Donald Trump in 2018 in the midterms, and then again in 2020, which is why Joe Biden is president. So, it brings me back. I showed the governor's map a minute ago, if you're the Democrats and you're looking at the key Senate races, is the suburbs will decide who wins Pennsylvania, or the suburbs will decide if Democrats can take a Republican seat in Wisconsin, the suburbs will decide if Democrats can hold that seat out in Arizona.

The question is what happens from this? And let me just add to this, this is one data point. And again, some people over jump or overreact to polls, but Monmouth is out with a new poll today that does show at this moment. The climate is a little better for Democrats. The Republicans were plus two in the so-called generic ballot.

If your vote for Congresses today, which party will you vote for? Republicans were plus two in June, a Democrats are now plus three. Again, don't run to Vegas. This is one poll, but there is some evidence that the climate now is less terrible, and maybe a bit more favorable for Democrats.

CALDWELL: Yes. Those suburbs were moving away from Joe Biden until this, and then that polling suggests perhaps that they're coming back but this is also something that Republicans were concerned about. They knew that this abortion ruling was coming, and they knew that they were worried about the suburbs, as moderate voters, especially those women voters.


And getting on to the gun issue, that's a big reason why Senate Republicans signed on to gun safety legislation because they thought that guns and abortion was just going to be way too much. And they would absolutely lose those suburban women.

KING: And this event was already on the president's schedule. I need to make that clear, but the Democrats do see the potential here of this issue. The president is going to sign some executive orders today aimed at safeguarding access to abortion rights. He also said this after the Kansas vote last night.

This vote makes clear what we know, the majority of Americans agree that women should have access to abortion and should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions. Congress should listen to the will of the American people and restore the protections of Roe as federal law. To the last point, the odds are zero, right? Before the election, it's just a fact.

CALDWELL: Yes. It's absolutely a fact, it's not going to happen. But you also have the Department of Justice who has filed suit in Idaho. So, they are starting this campaign, even though they know nothing is really going to change. And so, but this will be a political issue for voters to decide how they want it to be taken care of in the future.

KING: It is always fascinating to me anyway that, you know, Washington talks, strategist talks when people vote. They send a pretty clear message Kansas did last night. Up next for us the other big Tuesday takeaways. Democrats help Donald Trump get revenge in Michigan. And Arizona Republicans fill, yes, fill the November ballot with election deniers.




KING: Take a closer look now at some of the other big headlines from Tuesday primaries. And let's start with a Republican congressional primary here in Michigan that is generating a lot of conversation today. Peter Meijer was one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump.

At the time Democrats said, good for you, sir. Standing up for your principles. That no, they dumped several $100,000 into his congressional primary, essentially helping Donald Trump. Donald Trump wanted revenge. He backed John Gibbs. John Gibbs will now be the Republican nominee in this district.

Why did the Democrats pumped the money in because they believe they can beat gets maybe in November? They did think that a chance against Meijer. A lot of Republicans in the House are furious, saying if you applauded him for standing on principle, why did you spend money against him? That's one of the big conversations today.

Now, let's move to some Senate races and bring back up the national map here. Yes. One of the Eric's did win in Missouri. It is Eric Schmidt, the state attorney general. Republicans breathing a big sigh of relief today. Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former governor was on the ballot as well. They believed if Greitens had one, perhaps Democrats could win back the Senate seat. It's in Republican hands right now.

Eric Schmidt is the Republican nominee there. A Trump candidate also winning the Republican nomination for Senate in Arizona. Blake Masters is an election denier. You're going to hear a lot about Arizona and election denying as we go forward. Blake Masters is the Senate candidate against the Democratic incumbent, Mark Kelly.

And in the governor's race, we haven't called this one yet right now, but Kari Lake also an election denier has a lead right now. She has the lead. The Republican candidate for attorney general who's leading is an election denier. The Republican candidate for secretary of state, the person who counts the votes is an election denier. And the candidate for governor who is leading right now, also says the election was stolen from Donald Trump in 2020 and get this. She says, if somehow this changes, there is cheating.


TUDOR DIXON, MICHIGAN GOVERNOR NOMINEE: We won today, seven out of 10 Election Day votes. Do you know that? That is massive. And those votes are not counted yet. There is no path to victory for my opponent and we won this race.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us. I want to start with you, Mr. Chalian on this one. Georgia Republican said, no to the big lie, and they back their establishment Republican candidates who stood up to Donald Trump. In Arizona, it's a very different story. The big lie is in the bloodstream.

CHALIAN: Without a doubt. And we've seen it play out there since the 2020 election, right, that whole cyber ninjas absurd recounting of the vote. So, this has been in the bloodstream in Arizona Republican politics. And in fact, you recall Rusty Bowers, the Speaker of the House who lost his state Senate primary. He went and testified before the January 6 committee as a total outlier rock, red conservative Republican, but he was an outlier and now, you know, lost this job he was seeking because of this.

KING: Stood on his principles. So, let's just show the Trump encase. Again, we have not called. You see the checkmarks. Those are the races CNN has projected when we put this graphic up. Kari Lake is the leading candidate for governor right now, that one's not called yet. Blake Masters won the Senate nomination. Mark Finchem won the nomination for Secretary of State. Abraham Hamadeh is leading it for attorney general or election deniers. The question here is, can Democrats turn this to their advantage in a state that has traditionally been a Republican state trending blue, obviously two Democratic senators now. The question is can Democrats turn that to their advantage?

CALDWELL: Well, I know in the Senate race, Mark Kelly, who's going to - who's the nominee there and the incumbent. They're pretty pleased that black plague might plague masters want, they think that he is easier to beat. But the question is, you know, in these races, if these candidates are already saying that there is cheating happening in an election, they won against a Republican. What is going to happen in November? It could be just as chaotic and I'm very tumultuous for the state of Arizona who might have to go through all of this again, what they've been going through the last two years.

KING: And I've mentioned the Michigan race. Let's just show the scoreboard again. 10 House Republicans voted to impeach Donald Trump, but you have six who now who have lost their primaries or decided not to run. There is two out in Washington state. We don't have any votes yet. Two in Washington state House Republicans had primary challengers yesterday.

Republicans are furious that the Democrats were putting money in against Peter Meijer. They said, so you patted him on the back, said thank you for being a principled conservative when he voted to impeach Donald Trump. Then you dumped several thousands in on his head to get his opponent.


CHAMBERS: And these have been top targets for Trump world to get these Republicans out who voted for impeachment. This has been a key strategy. All along ever since this happened, it wasn't just the Senate races, John. And you have to look at it through that lens, about how much time and money that Trump world has been putting into those races in particular. And it's not about the outcome of what happens in the House of Representatives or even taking back the House. This is about getting those people who Trump found to be disloyal to him out of the House Representatives.

KING: So, Peter Meijer said last night, I'm proud to have remained true to my principles, even when doing so came at a significant political cost. There is intellectual inconsistency, if you will, in the Democratic position here, I get the raw math. It's a tough year for them when you look at the House map. If they can somehow get a Republican nominee where they think they can take a seat. But wow, you pat Peter Meijer on the back when he goes to impeach Donald Trump, and then you dump all that money on his hands.

CHALIAN: He don't even just pat him on the back, right. You make sort of the defense of our democracy, a centerpiece of your party's entire identity in this era right now. That's the hypocrisy that I think just is so unsettling--- KING: And you elevate Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, and you dump on Peter Meijer.

CHALIAN: Exactly. And imagine, if Liz Cheney was in a competitive seat instead of in Wyoming after the way Democrats have sort of elevated her, if they would be doing this as well, John. But, you know, there is an element here of also playing with fire because I know this district has been redrawn.

I understand it's more democratic. I get that the DCCC thinks. It is theirs now for the picking with John Gibbs as the nominee. But you know, when you're a nominee, you're on the precipice of getting into Congress, and they may actually help an election denier get a seat.

KING: And we talked about Arizona. We're talking now about Michigan, two states critical this year, but also critical presidential battlegrounds come 2020. For the governor's race in Michigan now has the Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the incumbent against Tudor Dixon, she is the Republican nominee. Yes, she too has denied the election at some points, but she is going to run on taxes, on education and on COVID restrictions. Listen?


DIXON: The battle lines in this race couldn't be any clearer. This is going to be an epic battle between a conservative businesswoman and mother and a far-left birthing parent and career politician. And now we have the opportunity to truly hold Gretchen Whitmer accountable for the pain she has inflicted on each and every one of us during the past four years.


KING: Her language is her language, but it is an interesting test for an incumbent Democratic governor. Any leader who's gone through the COVID times, making controversial decisions. I love governor's races. This is going to be a big one.

CALDWELL: Yes. And Governor Whitmer was out in front, making those decisions regarding COVID. But it's also interesting how Tudor Dixon has recalibrated knowing that she can't run on election lies and win against Governor Whitmer. And so, this is going to be a good test and Dixon is one of the few candidates in Michigan, that both Trump and Betsy DeVos his former education cabinet secretary were on the same side as that Betsy DeVos, of course, resigned after January 6, and she was opposing Trump on a lot of races up and down the ballot.

KING: Right. Fascinating contests, that were 35 states now have held their primary. So, we've got about 15 to go through and then we'll know the entire November slate and we'll have some fun. Up next. The Justice Department in January 6, the new subpoena reaches deep, very deep into Donald Trump's West Wing.



KING: New evidence today, the Justice Department investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election now reaches deep, very deep into the Trump White House. A federal grand jury subpoena demands testimony from Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. A source tells CNN, Cipollone and his attorney are now negotiating that appearance and how to deal with sensitive executive privilege issues. We already knew two top Mike Pence aides were called before that grand jury.

The former federal prosecutor Shan Wu joins our conversation. And so, it's the White House Counsel, important distinction not Trump's lawyer, the White House, the institution's lawyer, if you will. But we know Pat Cipollone was in the meetings when there were suggestions about seizing voting machines. He was in the meeting when Trump tried to install Jeffrey Clark as Attorney General.

In the meeting when there were conversations about potential pardons of people involved and trying to overturn the election. I obviously knew a lot about the president's plans on January 6. What does it tell you about the investigation? We'll get to the privilege issues in a minute. What does it tell you about the investigation that the federal grand jury wants to have Pat Cipollone come in and tell?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it tells us the investigation is going in the right place. I mean, they're a little bit late to the game, but they are honing in and they're making good use of the committee's work. They're using that basically jumpstart the investigation, honing right in on White House counsel obviously, has tremendous insights and could share a lot of very damning evidence against the president and the rest of its inner circle.

KING: We know from the January 6 committee testimony of Pat Cipollone. Several times he did not want to answer directly about direct conversations with the then President Donald Trump. But he did shed a lot of information on things he saw, and things other people said to him, including his view of that they should have known better, and they sort of stopped. That Bill Barr then the attorney general said, there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Pat Cipollone telling the January 6 media at that point, everyone at the White House should have said, we're done.


PAT CIPOLLONE, TRUMP WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: There was a real question in my mind and a real concern, you know, particularly after the attorney general had reached the conclusion that there wasn't sufficient election fraud to change the outcome of the election. When other people kept suggesting that there was? The answer is what is it. And at some point, you have to put up or shut up. That was my view