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DOJ: Elite Iranian Operative Planned To Assassinate John Bolton; Trump-Backed Tim Michels Will Win WI GOP Gov. Primary, CNN Projects; Cheney Faces Trump Acolyte In Heated Primary Next Week. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 10, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: This disturbing news just into CNN, the Justice Department has charged a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in an attempt to plot to murder the former Trump national security adviser, John Bolton. Let's get to our national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood. Kylie, tell us more. This is a wow.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: This is a wow. Criminal charges against this Iranian member of the IRGC for attempting to carry out this plot to kill the former national security adviser, John Bolton, as part of retaliation for the airstrike that the U.S. carried out that killed Qasem Soleimani, a commander of the IRGC back in 2020. And it's pretty remarkable the details that are in the information that DOJ has released, saying that this Iranian did things like sending pictures of how much money he was willing to give the individual in the U.S. also a screenshot of a map that showed John Bolton's office.

And on that map, it said that it was about 10,000 kilometers away. That is the approximate distance from Tehran to Washington, D.C. Now, John Bolton himself is thanking the FBI, DOJ, and Secret Service today. And I want to read to you a line from a statement that he put out today saying, while much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable. Iran rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States. Their radical anti-American objectives are unchanged, their commitments are continuing and their global threat is growing.

We should also know that DOJ said that there was also another plot that this Iranian was willing to carry out to murder someone else for up to $1 million. We don't know who that plot was directed at. But of course, this is huge news today and gives some description as to why there was Secret Service with the national security adviser over the last year or so.

KING: It is remarkable. Kylie Atwood, appreciate the breaking news reporting there. And we should note this for the record. Please tune in, the former national security adviser, John Bolton, will be joining my colleague Wolf Blitzer later today in the Situation Room, that's tonight 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. You don't want to miss that.

Now moving to very important story here at home, domestic story, red hot inflation appears to be cooling off somewhat. You see the numbers there at the chart. The latest report on the economy out this morning showed inflation is slowing from a year ago, claiming 8.5 percent over this time last year. Now that's still a steep number, but it's down from the 40 year high, we saw last month in June. Gas prices have fallen for the 57th straight day down another two cents overnight, the national average for a gallon of gas now sitting just above four bucks a gallon.

The hope is this new report is evidence inflation has peaked. But as you can see, some items like non-prescription drugs, food, and paper products are still seeing record price spikes. President Biden though today says he sees progress.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're seeing the stronger labor market where jobs are booming and Americans are working and we're seeing some signs that inflation may be getting to moderate.


KING: You saw on the right side of the screen there, you still see it. Wall Street likes this new report. The markets are up today at least so far. Also this morning, the President delivering on a big promise to America's veterans, the PACT Act is now the law of the land. That after the President, you see there, putting his pen to paper in front of an audience of former service members and their families. This law ends the medical limbo for those exposed to toxic burn pits overseas and guarantees the VA will pay out for cancers and other conditions attributed to toxic exposure during military service. For the President, this issue is deeply personal.


BIDEN: Toxic smoke, thick with poison spreading through the air and into the lungs of our troops. When they came home, many of the fittest and best warriors that we sent to war were not the same, headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son, Beau, was one of them.


KING: Our reporters are back with us at the table. We'll talk about the potential political impact of all this in a minute, but just first, amen. In a town that has a hard time getting things done, this is something passed on a bipartisan basis, some fits and starts, on a bipartisan basis that delivers on a promise to veterans that if you volunteer we send you overseas, these poor veterans are exposed to this. Local news reporters in Vermont and Ohio particularly did amazing work on this. You got the attention finally, finally. We'll talk about the President a minute but the veterans and their families get there due.

[12:35:05] JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I saw, I was in the room for this bill signing today. And you can feel the weight of the emotion of the months and years of work that so many of these families have put in. John Stuart was also there, he got a standing ovation from people who recognize his advocacy on behalf of these veterans. And the President also talking personally about his son, Beau Biden, Beau Biden's children were also in attendance in the first row of this event.

And again, this is something that passed on a bipartisan basis, as did yesterday, the CHIPS Act. So the President has two major bipartisan bills that he's signing into law this week. Certainly significant wins for him. But most importantly, of course, for these veterans who have fought so hard for these benefits they deserve.

KING: And so, we are, this is important anyway, but what we are 90 days from a very important midterm election where, you know, history tells you -- any president in his or her first term, has a tough year. The President signed a bipartisan bill yesterday to invest in American manufacturing. President signed a bipartisan bill today that helps veterans. The Democrats hope by the end of the week, on its way to him as this big new health care and climate initiative. Is there any sense at the Biden White House that a climate that six months ago, we would have said is horrible, is getting better?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, absolutely. There is that sense. And absolutely, there is the beginning of polling evidence to suggest that, the question is by what degree. I mean, the political question is by what degree. History tells us that Democrats are not just going to lose the House of Representatives, but like, lose it in all caps. Is this going to be enough to completely change the dynamic of that, probably not.

But losing by a little is different than losing by a lot. And is it going to be enough to help Democrats save the Senate, quite possibly, especially given some of the challenges that some of the Republican nominees who are Trump-backed are facing now in the Senate? So it changes the stakes and the tenor. It changes the feeling and the sense of momentum. But will it be a complete game changer? We are not seeing that right now.

KING: Which is important, while we take these things day by day, day by day, date point to data point, tends to be a roller coaster. The question is, is this help or hurt? This headline in "The Washington Post" today, a great analysis piece by Matt Viser, Biden trying to tout his policies faces a familiar intruder, Trump. Is it helpful or harmful, you know, to have Trump-backed center stage? I mean, he's been a constant, but in this week, he's everywhere.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, listen, Trump would say it was, you know, harmful to Biden, I think it is likely helpful. I think if you're Republican, you want this to be about the sort of bread and butter issues inflation, gas prices, even though the a climate is getting a little better, right? Gas prices have gone down a little bit. So I mean, I think the conventional wisdom has always been a Trump being everywhere, and in this way, right with an FBI, a raid is probably good for the Democrats.

And I think if you're a Republican, you would sort of like him to exit stage right, at least until you get to the midterms. He seems intent on being everywhere all the time on social media and talking about his grievances. And I can't imagine that's good for average Republicans.

KING: There's just a lot of shifting ground no matter where you look, the economy, Democrats, Republican, a lot of shifting grounds, so we'll take it day by day.


Up next for us, to that point, about last night, new primary results set the field for another huge governor's race and they show Trump's GOP influence, yes, still looms large.


KING: Four states held primary elections yesterday governor's race is a big issue as we head to the fall. Wisconsin yesterday, picking its candidates for governor on the Republican side, Tim Michels beating Rebecca Kleefisch. Tim Michels is a businessman. He is supported by Donald Trump. Rebecca Kleefisch is the state's former lieutenant governor. The former Governor Scott Walker, the former Vice President Mike Pence supported her.

So this was another Trump versus establishment contest, if you will. Wisconsin, one of the huge governor's races, an important state anyway but obviously a presidential battleground as well, you see Wisconsin, you see Michigan, you see Pennsylvania, you see Arizona, note the salmon color, all those battleground states, Trump endorsed candidates for governor will be the candidates in the fall. Mr. Michels last night saying, Mr. President, thank you.


TIM MICHELS (D-WI), GOV. CANDIDATE: I'd like to thank President Trump for his support for his endorsement. It was a tremendous validation of our meteoric rise in this campaign. He knows that we have new leadership in Madison, and he sees a lot of similarities.


KING: Our CNN political director David Chalian joins our conversation. Welcome to the table. I love governor's races. So you have in this Wisconsin race, obviously a key battleground state in presidential politics. But Tony Evers, who's the Democratic incumbent, Tim Michels will now be the Republican candidate against him. Election rights, voting rights, abortion, one of the big states were these are going to be giant issues in the fall.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And we'll see how much sort of COVID management, COVID era management plays in as well. That's been what Evers sort of got him back on his heels initially and had Republicans hopeful that they're going to be able to take out the Democratic incumbent there. Obviously, that's in the rearview mirror a little bit. So you're right to point to abortion rights and election integrity.

Listen, we know that Donald Trump is still nearly two years after he lost that state to Joe Biden is still making calls asking officials to decertify that legitimate election results in Wisconsin. So that clearly is not going away as an issue. What I'm curious that you played that sound bite, does Mr. Michels still talk about Donald Trump from today, he did last night come from today going forward through November or does he start trying to like Glenn Youngkin did, other people make that pivot away from primary to the general and leave Trump by the side.


KING: It's a fascinating question because we show you these Trump- Pence proxy battles as we call them in some of these governor's races. Tim Michels in -- won in Wisconsin, Kari Lake won in Arizona, Brian Kemp won in Georgia. If you look at all three of those states, you could have Pennsylvania, Trump's candidate won the nomination in Pennsylvania as well. Trump lost all those states. Narrowly, he has a great base, he got more votes in most of them. I think all of them actually in 2020 than in 2016. But Republicans are betting on a guy who they were close, but he lost.

HENDERSON: Yes. But he is where the energy is, in many ways in a lot of the states. And the energy is about the big lie and the idea that the election was stolen. And it couldn't be that we wake up the day after Election Day in November. And we have governors in place who would advance the big lie, who would overturn an election in their states?

Remember, it was state and local officials who held the line against Donald Trump in 2020. And now we're looking at a scenario where his people could be in place to essentially do his bidding should he run in 2024.

KING: So you look at these primaries for any clues that might help you analyze November meaning are Republicans divided when you have close primaries like that? Do they all show up in November? We don't know. Democrats look at this race in Minnesota, they lost. You see the Republican candidate, Brad Finstad, winning a special election over Jeff Ettinger, he's the Democrat there. The close margin though in Republican history.

This is to finish the term of a Republican member who died. Democrats say that's good news, because it's such a heavily Republican district. And they believe it's one of the places where they see the politics of abortion, ginning up turnout.

TALEV: Yes, glass half empty, glass half full, but in a place that is supposed to go red, something that's close suggests that the abortion argument is still working to Democrats benefit. One of the things we've been talking about this week is will the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago kind of offset the abortion dynamic. But there obviously, one is a very small story about one man. The other is a story that impacts literally millions of women in this country. And so I think that's one storyline to keep your eye on. And some of these Republican nominees are not completely tied to President Trump. In Wisconsin, the new nominee is. And so that is someone who cannot separate himself from Donald Trump moving forward or will completely lose his identity, I think.

KING: Up next for us, we'll continue this conversation. Another House Republican who voted to impeach Trump loses a primary. There were 10. The final test is next week, and it's a big name.



KING: Another House Republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump did not survive her primary contest. Jaime Herrera Beutler conceding in Washington's 3rd District last night, she says though, that she has no regrets. Quote, I'm proud that I always told the truth, stuck to my principles, and did what I knew to be best for our country.

Our great reporters are back with us. Congresswoman Beutler concedes which if you look at the scorecard, there were 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. He vowed to exact his revenge. Four decided not to run. Adam Kinzinger, Fred Upton, Anthony Gonzalez, and John Katko, and it's no doubt that that factored into those decisions.

Three have now lost their primaries, three have lost their primaries. Two won their primaries. We'll see how they do in the general election. Those are generally safe Republican seats. But it is possible, Liz Cheney is next week, David Chalian. And it is possible, it is possible if she loses that if you're scoring this in Trump's math, it's akin to.

CHALIAN: Yes, and remember when the first retirement came in, I think it was Adam Kinzinger he put out a release the former president did saying, one down nine to go. This has been a priority political mission from him and his team for this year. And eight and two on that scorecard is not a bad record. But the fact that his personal grievance politics is driving this whole process to eradicate some of these members from the party because they voted their conscience on the aftermath -- in the aftermath of the insurrection, you know, I don't -- I think that is what Liz Cheney is referring to when she says that her party is sick.

KING: You spend a lot of time with Donald Trump and the politics of grievance. I used to joke, not really joke that it was festivus every day we got the poll out and circled around. But Liz Cheney, that's the one he wants the most.

DIAMOND: Yes. And we'll find out very soon whether or not he gets it. It certainly looks like he probably will, and that it will be an 80 percent kill rate effectively by the President for these Republican members who voted to impeach him. And I also think that it tells you a lot about what another Donald Trump term would actually look like. I mean, he's always been driven by grievance politics. But we've seen that amped up with these, you know, revenge endorsements and attempts to get these Republicans out of office.

And if he wins another term, you can imagine a whole other list of people in the civil service within the federal government. We've already seen reporting from Axios, for example, talking about some of that, some of the plans that have already been drawn up. It will be a central focus. His another term will be driven by revenge.

KING: But if Liz Cheney loses next week, though, that will not end this argument. You saw her dad, the former Vice President Dick Cheney, in a minute long ad in Wyoming, essentially saying, you know, this is about Donald Trump and this fight will not end.

HENDERSON: That's right. I mean, political royalty obviously in that state, the Cheneys, but it doesn't matter anymore, because this is Donald Trump's party. No one made better use of I think their time than Liz Cheney in terms of the January 6th Committee. Certainly, Donald Trump hasn't liked what's come out of that Committee.

It's only made him want to see her out of Congress more than ever. She's got a couple of more months left. She might lose, she might win, we'll see. But we know that we'll hear more from the January 6th Committee. And we know that that has done some damage to Donald Trump in terms of his political stance.


TALEV: But also there are a lot of members of Congress for whom that is their only bully pulpit and it is their road to reinventing themselves after office for Liz Cheney, she has other options. And the end of a term in Congress is not the end of her voice or her advocacy.

KING: Right. Well, I'll connect it quickly to where we were at the top of the show, a lot of Republicans saying this investigation somehow the FBI warned somehow emboldened Trump to go. It might help clear the field. I suspect if she loses her seat in Congress or even she wins her seat in Congress. That right there could be a 2024 presidential candidate on the Republican side.

Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage after a quick break.