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Book: Milley Drafted Resignation Letter Saying Trump Doing "Irreparable Harm" To U.S.; Biden, First Lady Visit Flood-Ravaged Kentucky; Biden: Senate Deal Filled With "Game Changers" For Americans. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 08, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We're also getting more insight now into the rifts between the former president and his generals, including the General Mark Milley almost resigned following this moment, you remember that moment that's the summer of 2020 when Milley among others joined the President in Lafayette park across in the White House after peaceful protesters removed out of the park. Milley later apologized. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs came so close to leaving he drafted a resignation letter that read in part, it is my belief that you were doing great and irreparable harm to my country. I believe that you have made a concerted effort over time to politicize the United States military.

You are using the military to create fear in the minds of the people and we are trying to protect the American people. This reporting comes from another upcoming book, "The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017 to 2021." That book by Susan Glasser and Peter Baker detailing tensions between Trump and his generals. Our great reporters are back with us.

We saw a snippet of General Milley in the January 6th hearings, talking about his displeasure in this account here came to the point that he submitted a resignation -- had drafted a resignation letter and then decided no, I'm going to fight from within.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's right. I mean, we're now seeing with all these books that are coming out the extent to which, Milley especially and other former Trump administration officials, were so frustrated and sort of on the verge of quitting the administration. And we have more details now, of course, on Milley in particular.

KING: And some of the snippets of the book are just a fascinating, that's a fascinating, some more neutral word. I think I'm going to use it here. President best schools often forgets his history. I'll just -- this is from the President's loud complaint to John Kelly, one day was typical, was typical, you effing generals. Why can't you be like the German generals? Which generals? Kelly asked. The German generals in World War II, Trump responded, you do know, they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off? Kelly said. But of course, Trump did not know that, no, no, no, they were totally loyal to him, the President replied.

MOLLY BALL, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And I am sure that everyone was completely shocked to learn that Donald Trump doesn't -- didn't necessarily have the strongest grasp of early 20th century European history. But, you know, it was clear throughout his presidency, that he was constantly in tension with the Pentagon and with the national security apparatus writ large. And that in many instances, whether it was the generals, whether it was figures like John Kelly, whether it was, you know, the Department of Homeland Security and other parts of the of the apparatus, that there was resistance to Trump from within the administration, you had, you know, the formerly anonymous Myles Taylor op-ed making the same point that there were people in the administration, and this was what constituted the so called Deep State, who in their view, were trying to protect, America trying to protect, you know, separation of powers and all kinds of other things.

I think it does raise some real questions about the line of command, right? I mean, this is someone who's supposed to be the commander in chief. And when he is in tension with the generals, whose will is supposed to prevail there, so I think there's a lot that still needs to be understood about this. But it's coming out in the January 6th hearings, more and more sort of meat being put on those bones of what we already knew was the case.

KING: And so you get these glimpses of the character and the disposition to authoritarianism of a man who, this should be interesting anyway, but he is thinking about planning intending to run again, we'll see how that all plays out. That's down the road. But that is his intent. Here's another one about the big parade Donald Trump wanted on July 4th, Trump told his new Chief of Staff John Kelly, like Mattis, a retired Marine Corps General about his vision for Independence Day. Look, I don't want any wounded guys in the parade, Trump said, this doesn't look good for me. That is so insulting to the service of American veterans, especially those who are hurt and killed in battle for the President of the United States to make it -- it's about him not about them.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: And this backs up reporting that we have seen that made similar points, like you were saying about his disposition towards authoritarian leaders. We know again, from prior reporting, that he was constantly questioning why it was that he, you know, why can't I do this? Why can't you do that? Why can't, you know, it would be great if we could do this in other countries. And you said if he does run again, there is some fear that he could try and take actions as president that would either you serve the generals that not just that but other political positions where you could try to have his own political appointees into those positions. But certainly, that would be a question for Republicans on the ballot in 2024.

KING: Right. And when you listen to Milley's language about the stakes here, to Molly's point about he decided to stay, many of them decided to stay because they thought otherwise Trump would go even more off the rails. Now listen, our job is to land this plane safely and do a peaceful transfer of power the 20th of January, Milley told his staff. This is our obligation to this nation. There was a problem, however, quote, both engines are out, the landing gear are stuck. We're in an emergency situation. The language like that it's just -- it's chilling.

PARTI: And the landing still was not so smooth as we're seeing from the January 6th hearings even after all of that.


KING: When we come back, we're getting a first look at President Biden now and the First Lady. There on the ground in Kentucky touring the horrific, horrific flood damage there live on the ground in Kentucky, next.


KING: Right now President Biden and the First Lady Jill Biden are on the ground in Kentucky surveying the damage left behind by the recent catastrophic flooding. You see right there the first pictures of the President, touring an area that sustained damage, 37 people in all killed, in eastern Kentucky, two others are still missing. The state's governor says it will take years to recover. This is the President's first trip since being cleared from his COVID isolation. Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns joins us now live in Perry County Kentucky. Joe, tell us what you're seeing and what we expect from the President.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, which is 20, 30 miles from where I'm standing right now, and the pool reports that the President appeared stunned at the damage he saw before him when he arrived on the scene, a school bus smashed, storefront simply destroyed. I drove through the Lost Creek area just last night. And I can tell you that on a road that runs parallel to the water there just utter devastation to the point that it's almost indistinguishable from the damage you would see say from a hurricane or a tornado.

People's possessions littered across the landscape, people lost houses, some people, in fact, lost their lives. So that is Lost Creek. The President is also expected to get a briefing, of course, from FEMA, and they're going to tell him what they're doing. We do know that FEMA has taken control. They're an elementary school that's on the ground in the area, and they're using it as a disaster recovery center.

The White House has already directed tons of money for this situation in eastern Kentucky, also important to say, who is participating in the President's trip, who's not. Our Jessica Dean reports that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader is not going to be there or at least did not participate in the tour. But very notably the dean of the United States House of Representatives, the Republican Hal Rogers, who has personally directed billions of dollars in aid to his district here in Eastern Kentucky was available when the President got on the scene at the airport. So we'll be watching to see what else happens with the President here. We expect to hear from him at some point, John. KING: Joe John's live on the ground for us, Joe, appreciate that. And if and when the President makes news there in Kentucky, we will take you back live to it.

Up next for us, though, some Senate races to watch the Georgia candidates right now in a debate about debates. And in Pennsylvania, the Democrat is about to hold his first rally since a primary season health scare.



KING: Democrats were feeling better about their Senate odds even before this weekend's action on a big health care and climate bill that the Democrats think will help them in the elections. Here's the map, 35 Senate seats up across the country, 14 currently held by Democrats, 21 currently held by Republicans, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Ohio are battlegrounds getting a lot of tension in recent days, in part because of celebrity Republican candidates. We're 92 days out now. And the curious take of the Senate's top Republican, the cautious take of the Senate's top Republican is very telling.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We have a 50-50 Senate now. We have a 50-50 nation. And I think when this Senate race, smoke clears, we're likely to have a very, very close Senate still, with either us up slightly, or the Democrats up slightly.


KING: He's cautious by nature, but that it is telling that he's not saying I'll be the majority leader in January.

BALL: A very notable lack of optimism there from Mitch McConnell. And, yes, he's a man who speaks very dryly. But, you know, if he had confidence that the Republicans were going to be in control, he would be out there selling that. And he's clearly saying not so fast. And we know from other reporting that he and other top Republican officials have had a lot of heartburn about their class of Senate recruits. And, you know, McConnell was very involved in trying to get different candidates in a lot of these races. He didn't necessarily get his way. And now he's just sort of got to accept reality and do the best we can, which is not to say that they still might not take the Senate, right? I mean, if it is a Republican way of year, as many people are still expecting that a lot of these candidates could wash it on that tide. But, you know, he's -- Mitch McConnell is looking at the same polls that we are and probably some better ones as well. And he's seeing that that tide shift a little bit.

KING: And the map, the map was tough for Republicans to begin with, if you put the map back up there and just show of the 14 Democrats who are trying to hold their seats, so the 14 Democratic held seats, the Democrats want to keep, Biden carried all of those states. So it's not like you have a John Tester in Montana, or something like that coming up. That's one of the reasons.

The President this morning voicing some optimism, we don't know how the legislation just pass will play out, but the Democrats are delivering if they can get it to the President's desk, the House vote on Friday, on climate promises on health care promises, and the President says it should help candidates, Senate candidates in November.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To what extent do you expect the inflation bill to help Democrats or during midterms once it passes, Mr. President?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Will I expect it to help? Yes, I do. It's going to immediately help. For example, no senior will have on Medicare will have a bill more than $2,000 for drugs, no matter what the costs are. That's a big deal, it changes people's lives. There's a whole range of things that are really game changers for ordinary folks.


KING: We talked a bit about this earlier, but he goes quickly straight to health care. Again, if you look at the 2018 midterm election year, the Democrats took back the House, 2020 Biden takes the presidency. Healthcare was a very important issue both and they're essentially they're saying this has been working for us. That's where we're going to go.

CHAMBERS: Right. And that same book is where he went on to acknowledge that some of these things won't kick in for several months or even several years. But Democrats are feeling better about their chances in the election not just because of that legislation, but because of the candidates in some of these races, that their candidates are pulling much higher. You mentioned, Ohio, Georgia, I think Pennsylvania was another one, that even by several points, it's outside of the margin of error in some of these races, and they have successfully turned it into what they view as a candidate on candidate versus being about the mood of the country or the President's approval rating. But one thing we were talking about before, that I'll be curious to see is what the generic ballot looks like. In new polling, how much this is actually helping Democrats who will be on the ballot?


KING: Right, 92 days is a long time. We'll see. Gas prices down, maybe that helps the Democrats, something else happens to the economy, who knows. But let's look at a couple of these. This "Fox News" polls in both Georgia and Pennsylvania show the Democratic candidates ahead. Now on the right, the Pennsylvania race that is currently held by a Republican, Pat Toomey, is not running for reelection. You have John Fetterman, who is going to return to the campaign trail later this week. He's been off the campaign trail for weeks now, weeks and weeks, because he had a stroke just before the primary against Dr. Oz. It's shoo the polling has Fetterman up 10 points, a closer race in Georgia. But that was a race again. Warnock wins in the special election. And Herschel Walker was recruited. He says not directly by Trump. There's a little dispute about that. But Trump favors him there. A lot of people thought Georgia in a midterm election year the Republican almost automatic, not so.

PARTI: Yes, there have been, you know, a lot of controversial comments that Walker's made. He's, you know, the establishment would consider sort of a politically flawed candidate. But I think Democrats know after 2016 not to underestimate the sort of candidates who are considered politically flawed, the celebrity candidates, they know that they now have to post Trump, they have to take these candidates seriously. And, you know, Georgia could again be the decider in terms of Senate control. There's actually another Libertarian candidate running so and you need to go get over the 50 percent threshold to win the seat and Georgia. So we might see the Senate again, a repeat of 2021, where the Senate control isn't decided until January, you know, if this has to go on, for longer,

KING: Republicans believe that history kicks in at some point that the political historical DNA kicks in. It's the President's first midterm and therefore, you know, Ohio is going to come off the map, for example. If you look out there right now, Congressman Tim Ryan running a competitive race against J.D. Vance. What do you look for? Inside three months now, inside 100 days, what do you look for to see is that right?

BALL: Well, you know, I think what Tarini was just saying is really important, because like, let's remember how Raphael Warnock won that seat in Georgia, it was in a January 3 runoff election. And the conventional wisdom has always been that in those lower turnout elections, in those non presidential year elections in a midterm, the Democrats are at a natural disadvantage. But when you look at things like that January 3rd runoff, which was, you know, just in 2021, if you look at things like the Kansas vote that just happened on the abortion ballot initiative, I think the old assumptions about turnout may or may not apply this year, because the landscape has so changed because I think, you know, Donald Trump, frankly, changed the midterm electorate in a lot of ways. We saw skyrocketing turnout in 2018. Do those voters now have a habit of voting in midterms? Do they come back to the Democrats? And you see Democrats, I think particularly with the way they're talking about the climate provisions of this new bill, really trying to amp up the enthusiasm of a Democratic base that we know has been relatively dispirited

KING: Younger voters.

CHAMBERS: Being up, though, and this was a good point in Georgia by four points, is not enough, because you do have to across that 50 percent threshold. But when you look at that that particular race was different about last time is that there were the two Republicans who were fighting, and they didn't even get to the general election, general election, so to speak, where you heard from Warnock until much, much later in the race. And here they've had all summer to talk about it. That being said, we haven't yet heard a ton from this candidates battling out in debate yet, and that can make a significant difference. KING: Can you imagine if, once again, we need a run off to decide control of the United States Senate, that would be something. But our politics are volatile at the moment to say the least.


Ahead for us, angered, saddened, President Biden condemning the murder of four Muslim men in New Mexico.


KING: Some serious news topping our Political Radar today, the President of the United States denouncing the separate killings of four Muslim men in Albuquerque, New Mexico. President Biden writing this on Twitter, I am angered and saddened by the horrific killings. While we await a full investigation, my prayers are with the victims' families and my administration stands strongly with the Muslim community. These hateful attacks have no place in America.

Albuquerque police say there's a reason to believe the four killings are linked. And they are looking for information on a vehicle of interest potentially a Volkswagen. They could be, they say, connected to this case. The President also expressing concern over China's expanded military drills around Taiwan. That following Nancy Pelosi's visit, China has been conducting drills in the waters and airspace around the island for the last five days. The President asked about the escalation on his way to Kentucky.


BIDEN: I'm not worried but I'm concerned that they're moving as much as they are. But I don't think they're going to do anything more.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it was wise move of the Speaker to go to Taiwan?

BIDEN: That' was her decision. Thank you.


KING: The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, hitting the campaign trail to rally support for Republican candidates in Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Governor DeSantis scheduled appearances in those four key battleground states push him further into the national political landscape as he considers the 2024 presidential run the conservative organization setting up these rallies says DeSantis has quote a unique ability to unite the Republican Party.


Appreciate your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you back here again tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.