Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Cheney Ponders Political Future After Losing Wyoming GOP Primary In Landslide; Cheney Vows To Fight Trump And Election Deniers This Cycle; Liz Cheney Cements Position Leading Opposition To Trump; Cheney: GOP Is In "Bad Shape" And Has "Work To Do"; Giuliani Testifies To Atlanta Special Grand Jury; Giuliani Now A Target Of Atlanta Grand Jury Probe; Giuliani Spread Bogus Election Fraud Conspiracies For Trump; Pence Says He Would Consider Testifying Before Jan 6 Cmte. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 17, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in New York today. Thank you for sharing your day with us. Mike Pence makes waves. The former vice president reacts to the unprecedented FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. And he signals, he would not automatically say no to testifying in front of the January 6 committee.

Plus, it is Rudy Giuliani's day of reckoning before in Atlanta grand jury under oath. A target now in the criminal investigation of Donald Trump's pots to steal Georgia back in 2020.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Do you believe President Trump is the ultimate target of this investigation?

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER TRUMP LAWYER: I'm not going to comment on the grand jury investigation.


KING: And Liz Cheney loses her job in a landslide. Her next fight, urging midterm voters to reject election deniers. Then, yes, perhaps the 2024 primary fight against you know who.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I will be doing whatever it takes to keep Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS CO-ANCHOR, MORNING SHOW TODAY: Well, I know you didn't say yes or no. And that's fine, if you're thinking about it, but are you thinking about it? Are you thinking about running for president?

REP. CHENEY: That's a decision that I'm going to make in the coming months today. And I'm not going to make any announcements here this morning, but it is something that I am thinking about, and I'll make a decision in the coming month.


KING: The Congresswoman Cheney there, she is on the losing end of this Wyoming shellacking 66 to 29. If you round up, she's on the losing end because she stands up to Donald Trump and because she calls out his lies. Her loss. You see how big it was, is a giant win for the former president. Cheney, one of 10, one of 10 remember House Republicans, one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Donald Trump. Cheney's defeat means eight of those impeachments 10 will not be in Congress come January.

But Congressman Cheney defiantly insists her fight is just beginning. This is just Wyoming. Let's zoom out to this map because it underscores her David versus Goliath challenge. The pink or the salmon color you see on this map, those are House districts where Trumped back candidates won Republican primaries. You see a lot of salmon on the map, right?

Well, let's shift. You see a lot of salmon in the Senate primaries. You see a lot of Trump wins in the gubernatorial primaries, many if not most of those candidates are election deniers. Now, yes, Congresswoman Cheney says she may well challenge Trump come 2024 in the Republican presidential primaries.

But her next test comes right now. She formed a new political committee overnight, calls it the great task, and its immediate goal is to defeat Trump this year by defeating the Republicans who refuse to accept reality.


REP. CHENEY: No American should support election deniers for any position of genuine responsibility, where their refusal to follow the rule of law will corrupt our future. Our nation is young in the history of mankind. And yet, we're the oldest democracy in the world. Our survival is not guaranteed. History has shown us over and over again how poisonous lies destroy free nations.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's David Chalian, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson and CNN's Dana Bash. We'll get to 2024 in a minute. But I was struck last night by heard about now, about now. Looking to camera in the eye and saying no American, meaning Republicans too should vote for an election denier.

Well, if you go through the House districts, you go through the Senate races. If you go through the governor's races, we could do secretary of state, we can do attorney general, the Republican ballot is full of them.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Extremely full of them, including on the ballot that is going to come out of Wyoming, the one that she was on, at least in the primary and the general election ballot, she lost to somebody who took a bit to get there. But at the end of the primary race, her opponents said that the election was stolen.

She has - Liz Cheney has a lot of money. She will be able to raise a lot of money. She obviously has a very famous name, and she is going to have a giant megaphone. But all of that is going to be put to the test in a very big way because the notion of election deniers being put pretty much strategically in place. And backed by the former president has gotten so vast and it is running so deep in the political landscape up and down the ballot from the federal level to the local level.

KING: So, you mentioned she has a lot of money, we could just show you. She raised $15 million for a House primary in Wyoming, $15 million for a House race in Wyoming. She had $7 million in the campaign account at the end of July. David she can raise a lot more money. One thing she just lost her seat in Congress, but she has a big national profile. Now a lot of Democrats were sending her money. A lot of independents were sending her money.


The question is, can you do that? Can a Republican organization, her new great task pack go into these battleground states and tell Republicans either vote for Democrats or stay home? In the very close races for Senate, very close races for governors and tip the scale.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I mean we've seen some super PAC tried, the Lincoln project others have been out there in this anti Trump space. My question is, so this is a leadership PAC, right? She can give to other candidates. So now she's going to be on a mission to find candidates, where she will have credibility with their targeted audience who - so assumingly Republicans who are actually not in the election at our camp.

I mean, this is the problem for her. Yes, she has a loud megaphone. There's no doubt about it. Who is listening? Who's actually going to act on what Liz Cheney is saying here? What is the market share? We've learned in the Republican Party through all of this primary season, the market share is slim for her brand of what she's selling.

Yes, some Democrats and independents can certainly be in agreement. But what I don't think we know yet is Liz Cheney and her clarion call for this, motivating those voters to choose candidates. I just don't think we've seen the evidence.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, we've seen some evidence, right, which was last night, right? This was a big test for her. Could she herself convince the voters who are most loyal to her work at some point, to back her and reject an election denier? She was trounced. She was thumped. Maybe in some ways more than people thought she would be. I mean, this was just a massive defeat on her part.

So, the idea that somehow, she can't really convince folks in her own state to back her and to back the idea that the election wasn't stolen, that she's going to take that nationwide and be able to convince folks in Pennsylvania or Arizona or Georgia or what have you. I mean, it's a little hard to believe.

Listen, I think in some ways, Liz Cheney, maybe to her credit, and certainly it's because of her cause, is in some ways a media creation. I mean, her constituency is in some way, sort of the beltway crowd of political reporters and pundits. But in terms of the Republican Party, I mean, we've seen the big test that she had, she failed pretty miserably.

KING: Right. And so, we - anyone who says they understand what their 2024 terrain will look like, is making it up, but 17 months before the first Republican, you know, Congress were primary. But you mentioned that one of the tests of a politician is can they sell their brand back home? I just look at Cheney's house primaries over the year.

She came to Washington in the same year as Donald Trump. In 2016, she got 40 percent in her primary, then she built it 68 percent. Two years ago, she got 73 percent. So, she got 29 percent in the vote yesterday among Republicans interstate, which says the people who know her best, the people who know the Cheney name and of love to Cheney name said, sorry, sorry, we're done. We're done here.

The question is, what can you do? You know, it only takes two percent or three percent. If you can peel off to swing a battleground state, so you can be a spoiler in impact. The question is, is that her role now anti Trump Republican spoiler? Or is she alternative to Trump?

BASH: Both, both because they're one in the same. I do think that when we look at this moment, we should try to think outside of what we have always looked at when it comes to how we define political success. Of course, one of the key factors is, do people in your home state like you? The answer is no. Another is, how much of an impact are you having across the board with your message?

Largely, as you said, the market share is pretty small. But even if all of that is true, she made really clear both last night and informing the super PAC, that that's OK with her. She is on a singular mission, and she is not going to stop. And she believes that even if she has a minimal impact, it's better than just staying silent and that's not nothing.

KING: It's an important point because I covered her dad for years. He did as well. He has a long view. Dick Cheney doesn't think about next week. He thinks about next year and he thinks about next decade. If you listen to this, where she mentioned her friend, that's sarcasm. Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, Liz Cheney says, I understand, we're not going to solve this this year, or probably in 2024. It's going to be a long time.


REP. CHENEY: I think the Republican Party today is in very bad shape. And I think that we have a tremendous amount of work to do. I think it could take several election cycles. We need leaders who have reverence for our constitution, who are faithful to our constitution, and who are going to do what's required to abide by our oath, no matter whether or not it's politically convenient. Kevin McCarthy certainly does not fit that bill.


KING: There's a lot to unpack there. Let's start with Kevin McCarthy, like Donald Trump. He's a big winner today. Because when Congress comes back in January, Kevin McCarthy believes he will be speaker. We'll see what happens with that. But whether he's speaker or whether he's Republican leader, he will not have Liz Cheney on his shoulder every day being that voice, saying you're wrong. You are wrong. Stop being a Donald Trump sycophant. You are wrong. That will be gone. Kevin McCarthy wins.

HENDERSON: No, I think that's right. I mean, by and large of the sort of anti-Trump binge, it was small to begin with and it's getting smaller. I mean, we saw what happened over these last elections, not only last night, but with the folks who voted to impeach Donald Trump, they are largely gone away.


We'll see what happens in November with the remaining two, with McCarthy is in a great position. I think Trump is in a great position in terms of what he wanted, which was full dominance, a show of strength, and to show the people who cross him that there are consequences that he is bigger than they are.

KING: So, what is Liz Cheney, and people like Liz Cheney. Larry Hogan, who soon to be a former governor of Maryland. Others who believe that people need to stand up and try to pull the Republican Party back from Donald Trump. What do they look for in the next 80 days in the midterm campaign, is they then make a calculation? Can she run? Is it just Liz Cheney? Can Larry Hogan run too? Do you have to have one anti Trump candidate? How do you deal with that?

CHALIAN: Well, listen, I think, as you said, trying to figure out exactly how this is all going to play out is a fool's errand. But it does seem to me, if Liz Cheney's mission is to keep chipping away at Donald Trump and he gets a little damaged. Let's say, he's taken on some water with some Republicans through these January 6 hearings.

Even though as you noted, John, he's cleaned up this primary season, there's no doubt about that. But let's say he's taking a little more. What is the real-world impact of that? It probably invites more competitors onto the presidential campaign stage with him. He benefits from a crowded field.

KING: Does he this time - forgive me for interrupting. Last time he did because there was the unique Trump brand and a whole bunch of basically mainstream Republicans. You could say Rand Paul is different from Ted Cruz, is differ from Jeb Bush, but they were essentially within these lines here and Trump was way over here. What if you have a DeSantis and other Trumpy candidates? And Liz Cheney is the different voice.

CHALIAN: But here's the thing, I don't think - I don't think coalescing just around one singular anti Trump is probably enough. But you make my point, it's going to be a lot of Trumpy candidates that are splitting that vote. He's not going to be singular. There's no doubt about that. But he is still proving to be the most popular and the most dominant right now. And then a winner take all system. That means he wins the delegates.

HENDERSON: Yes. No, I think that's right. You know, it looks like maybe it'll be a crowded field. You talk about people like Ron DeSantis. Maybe somebody like Abbott, Mike Pence, of course, might run, but still the dominant flavor. The person who inspires the most emotional connection among voters in the Republican Party is hands down on Donald Trump. Maybe that'll take a hit over the next many months in the lead up to 2024. But for now, that is just the reality.

KING: He's strong today. Not as strong as he once was. And we will see how it plays out a lot, a lot to unpack, particularly in the midterm campaign and then on to 2024. Up next for us. Live to the courthouse in Atlanta, Trump-allied. Rudy Giuliani is in front of a special grand jury, and he is there as a target of the investigation into Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election results.




KING: Today as in right now, a Trump insider getting his turn in front of a very important grand jury. Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump's sometimes lawyer and sometimes chief conspiracy peddler is testifying in Atlanta. He is there knowing the giant legal peril. Prosecutors served notice to Giuliani, his legal team in recent days, that he is a target of the investigation into Trump's attempt to overturn to subvert the 2020 election results in Georgia.


VALENCIA: Mr. Giuliani, when you met with Georgia lawmakers, did you lie to them?

GIULIANI: We will not talk about this until it's over. It's the grand jury and grand juries, as I recall a secret.

VALENCIA: Do you believe President Trump is the ultimate target of this investigation?

GIULIANI: I'm not going to comment on the grand jury investigation.

VALENCIA: What do you think their ultimate goal is here? What are you expecting to, talk about here today?

GIULIANI: Well, they ask the questions, and we'll see.


KING: Let's get to the great report. I saw you asking those questions. CNN's Nick Valencia, live for us in Atlanta. Rudy Giuliani not a lot to say on the way and Nick what do we know?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was defiant, and he was seemingly, you know, very confident about his time before the Senate or before I should say the special grand jury, special purpose grand jury. He's been in there for the last three and a half hours, John, and it took a lot of legal wrangling and much anticipation to get here.

Initially, his team last week filed a late emergency motion asking for continuance citing health concerns, saying that he was unable to travel by air. Ultimately, though a Fulton County judge ruled that he had to appear today giving him ample time, he said to get here by alternative means.

The big question though, John, is whether or not he's going to be cooperative here. He is the biggest name in the former president's inner circle to be named as a target of this criminal probe. And he's probably the biggest name so far to testify in front of this criminal probe, led by district attorney here Fani Willis. But Willie invokes his Fifth Amendment rights.

It was in an interview that he gave just after shortly after being named a criminal target in this investigation that he indicated every conversation that he's had with the former president is protected by attorney client privilege, but it's probably not that cut and dry especially after being named a criminal target. He did indicate in an interview with Newsmax that he would play hardball. His attorney says that the district attorney's office here is playing hardball. And they know how to play hardball too. John?

KING: Nick Valencia on the ground for us in Atlanta. Nick, thanks so much. Keep us posted if anything changes or if Rudy Giuliani comes out for a break or anything. Let's get some important perspective. Now joining our conversation is the CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Carrie let's just start with, if Rudy Giuliani were your client today, and now that he knows, he's a target of this investigation. How does that change his posture in that room? Knowing, he's not there as a normal witness? They're not asking him, you know, what happened on this day or that day? They're asking him questions with the stated goal of that he may well be indicted.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, John. He has a lot of legal exposure, and they did inform him ahead of time that he was a target, which means that I expect him to be very circumspect. Perhaps take the Fifth Amendment. Perhaps try not to answer certain questions. But I don't think that he is going to be in a position where it's going to be in his interest to speak freely and share everything that he knows he has a lot of legal exposure here now that he's been informed, he's a target.


KING: So, help me and help our viewers understand, where he is Donald Trump's lawyer and where he is not? As in where he can say, I can't talk to you about that, this is a privileged conversation. In the context of that, I want to go back to just after the election in November 2020. Most people think of a lawyer. You think OK, you're having private meetings with your client. Or as a lawyer, you represent your client in court, or some of the legal proceeding. Rudy Giuliani was out in public all the time, saying things like this.


GIULIANI: The recount being done in Georgia will tell us nothing. Because these fraudulent ballots will just be counted again, because they wouldn't supply the signatures to match the ballot. The company counting our vote with control over our vote is owned by two Venezuelans who were allies of Chavez, our present allies of Maduro, with a company whose chairman is a close associate and business partner of George Soros.


KING: That last part there, so broke the fact check machine. It hasn't been fixed yet, even though we're now almost two years later. But to back to the sub, can he say, I'm Donald Trump's lawyer, so everything I said, every phone call I made, everybody I pressured to change your election results, I was speaking from my client, therefore, can blame me, can hold me accountable?

CORDERO: Not credibly. So, the attorney client privilege only goes so far, and what it pertains to his actual legal advice provided by the lawyer to the client. And there is so much in the role that Rudy Giuliani played in the election issues and in being a public spokesperson, in addition to a political adviser, in addition to himself being involved in the activities that we're trying to discredit and undermine the outcome of the election.

So, he has the involvement that he had in terms of supporting the prior president, some of which I think, was legal advice, and some of which I think was political or public relations advice, which is not protected at all. And then he has the conduct of his own activities, which are subject to legal exposure, potentially at the federal level, certainly, we know, at the local level in Georgia. So bottom line, John, he's not going to be able to rely on attorney client privilege to avoid answering all of the questions.

KING: So, let's focus on Georgia and the state law. He's before this grand jury there in Fulton County, the special grand jury. We know the Justice Department, for example, is looking at a federal level into - is it the fake electors? Was that knowingly illegal? Were you trying to disrupt the proceedings of the United States government, disrupt the peaceful transfer of power? In terms of state law in Georgia, what is the legal peril Rudy Giuliani is staring in the face today.

CORDERO: Well, what the district attorney there is looking at, she's looking at the violations of Georgia state law. She's looking at conspiracy. She's looking with respect to the state, the fake electors, excuse me that were put forth, whether that was false statements. So, she has several different crimes that she is investigating. And Rudy Giuliani now that he is a target of that investigation, was obviously according to the prosecutor's office significantly involved.

KING: Just quickly in closing. If Rudy Giuliani is the target, does that make it likely Donald Trump as too?

CORDERO: I think it makes it possible, you know, and there may be other individuals who are involved in too. There is several other lawyers who have been subpoenaed in the Georgia case that were in the president's circle. So, I think the story from this piece is that the lawyers, all of the lawyers who were involved in supporting the former president's effort to overturn the election are not going to be exempt from criminal investigation and prosecution simply because they were lawyers.

KING: Carrie Cordero, as always, thanks so much.

CORDERO: Thanks, John.

KING: Up next for us. Mike Pence tests the New Hampshire mood, and he makes some news. His take, important take on the Mar-a-Lago search. And on whether he's willing to testify before the January 6 committee.




KING: This morning, an answer certain to echo around Donald Trump's orbit. The former Vice President Mike Pence in New Hampshire, not saying yes, but also very much not saying no to a big January 6 committee question.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they were to call you at the committee to come and testify, would you be agreeable?

MIKE PENCE, UNITED STATES FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: If there was an invitation to participate, I would consider it. But you've heard me mentioned the constitution a few times this morning. On the constitution, we have three co-equal branches of government. And any invitation to be directed to me, I would have to reflect on the unique role that I was serving as vice president. Be unprecedented in history for vice president to be summoned to testify on Capitol Hill. But as I said, I don't want to prejudge. If there's ever any formal invitation rendered to us, we'd give a due consideration.


KING: Is that a newly cooperative show? Heads are shaking. Or it's just, I'm being polite, but you got my chief of staff. You got my chief counsel. You got my national security adviser. We're good here. Is that what that is?

BASH: Yes. Yes. That's a very long, very careful way to say, no thanks. KING: No. thanks.

BASH: The whole end of his answer about the constitution. We're told that that is - the part of that answer to look and listen to. There is no change in his stance. There's he does not feel the need to testify at this time according to somebody close to him.

CHALIAN: It's also classic Mike Pence by the way. A lot of words to actually say nothing.