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IRS Becomes New GOP Boogeyman Ahead Of Midterms; House GOP Leaders Advise Candidates To Focus On Issues, Not Trump; "Rising Hate: Anti-Semitism In America" Airs Sunday At 9PM ET. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 19, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Republicans say don't believe it. Their evidence includes a now deleted job posting that said agents must be, quote, willing to use deadly force if necessary. That posting has been revised. It now says agents must be legally allowed to carry a firearm still, the Republican attacks are constant.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): Biden and Pelosi are currently weaponizing the IRS with 87,000 new armed IRS agents that are readily available to use deadly force.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): They are arming up the IRS like they're preparing to take Volusia.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Those IRS agents are designed to come after you. They're not designed to come after the billionaires and the big corporations.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Eighty-seven thousand new IRS agents to go after you and audit you.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us. Again, the Treasury Department says that is ludicrous. They say they're hiring 87,000 new agents but they 50,000 are expected to retire the next five years. So they say number one, they need more staff. And number two, this will just keep the static for the 50,000. They say they have 10 million cases backlog, overhaul technology, improve taxpayer customer service, but those changes -- the hirings haven't taken place yet, the changes haven't taken place yet. So in some ways, it's kind of T-ball for Republicans. And back to your point, Republican fear suspicion about the quote unquote, deep state or anything Washington.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I remember getting a fundraising tax to my phone that was saying like, first there's the raid on Trump, then the IRS, and then they're coming for your guns. I mean, it's just kind of refrigerator magnets of fear. And you put all the words together and then say send money here. And I think that that's something people really need to be aware of. This is not a policy discussion about the IRS, right? This is again, positioning a government agency as the big bad. And I don't think that's so far out of line from -- for a party that has always believed in small government.

KING: And a party that looked midterm elections are mostly. Again, we'll see if this one breaks the rules, right? We had high turnout in 2018 in addition to the presidential campaign, but it's about turning out your base. And if you look at this polling of the IRS approval rating, you can see the IRS approval rating among everybody is down from 2019. But it's especially down among Republicans and independents. But, you know, if you're Republicans, that's -- you're trying to gin up your base, right? Here come Biden to the Democrats, now they're going to audit you to Audie's point, they're coming for your guns.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right. And, you know, it's for the people at home to take a beat, and to really get some reputable news sources to understand what's really happening. So that some of this misinformation in the political talking points, they understand the counterpoint, you know, there's nothing changing within the mission of the IRS. So if you've ever been on hold for an hour, if you've ever had paperwork that took forever to be processed, then you may want the IRS to get some more money so that they could be more efficient.

If you believe that corporations and wealthy individuals should not be able to take advantage of tax loopholes and pay, you know, a lesser percentage in taxes than middle income people, then you might want the IRS to have a little bit more money to do its mission.

KING: The challenge is, you know, Janet Yellen, the Treasury Secretary, has had to put out these statements, essentially saying no, no, no, absolutely no, that's not what we're doing here. But in a political environment, it's often said it's a cliche, but sometimes true. If you're explaining you're losing.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, I mean, and I think that's true here. And I think it's clear that Democrats gave Republicans a cudgel with which to use to gin up their base. I think, the flip side of it and, you know, the challenge from political perspective for Democrats will be to cast in a different light. I mean, they're there to say, we're doing this because corporations like the oil companies, which they are very quick to point to as boogeyman basically, are out there to get you and so we're out there to get them. We're not out. You know, I think the challenge is getting people to believe you, right, at stuff.

KING: Believe you about the IRS, which many people are somewhat suspicious, right, campaigns are interesting.


Up next, the Trump factor, some brand new CNN reporting on how House Republicans are navigating, sometimes difficult question, how much is too much Trump on the campaign trail.


KING: Don't be distracted by Trump, that's the finding of some new CNN reporting about Republican strategy ahead of the midterms. House Republican leaders are advising their candidates focused on the issues like inflation, not the former president who is in the news quite a bit lately. CNN's Melanie Zanona is with us to join our other reporters with this reporting. So anyway, Republicans want to talk about inflation and when talking about the party in power, but Trump is suddenly everywhere again. And for some House Republicans especially that's irresistible.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, I think we're probably don't want to be competing with the Trump show. For the most part, they want the midterms to be focused on Biden and referendum on the party in power, not on Donald Trump. But on the other hand, you do see how the FBI search, for example, has rallied the Republican base and even some of Trump's critics have felt the need to defend him and it has been an effective fundraising tool.

And so for some Republicans, they're sort of caught in the middle here of how much do we lean into Trump? How much do we talk about him? You know, obviously, in the primary, it's a strategy that has been used effectively, but in the general election, it's a little bit of a different story. And so that's why you're seeing Tom Emmer, the head of the House GOP campaign arm, he is privately counseling Republicans in battleground districts to not get distracted and to talk about the issues. But that is increasingly difficult to do, especially with Trump, all in the news, all these investigations that he might announce or run for president.

KING: So if we just show you the math, I mean, most people believe Republicans will take the House because the democratic President's first midterm. And you see it's pretty narrow, 220 Democrats, 211 Republicans, four vacancies, Republicans need to flip just a handful of seats. And they get it. But there are nine Republicans who are incumbents running in districts Joe Biden won. For them, it's just like we always talked about the Democrats in Trump districts. Well you have Republicans in Biden districts and that's where it gets iffy.


Don Bacon from Nebraska says this, our focus should be on 2022. If it's 2024, it hurts us. We need to be focused on winning this November. And I think anything that takes your eyes off of that, it could cost us a couple of victories. Anything that takes your eyes off of that, well, it's hard, especially again, for House Republicans, if Donald Trump keeps popping up. The base looks to him and some of these candidates do as well.

HUNT: And this is why Republicans behind the scenes have been begging the President and his -- the former president and his aides not to announce a real election bid before the midterms, because the reality is there are Republicans who will not become members of Congress in the fall if this election is all about Donald Trump. If they can keep it all about Joe Biden, they're much more likely to get into office. You know, I think I still would be very surprised if the House doesn't flip. And we don't have a Republican majority there next year. But, you know, things are pretty unpredictable at this particular moment.

KING: And you see Democrats trying to take advantage of this. Republicans have often greatly exaggerated the number of Democrats who say defund the police. And Democrats are now saying, oh, Marjorie Taylor Greene says defund the FBI. So this is what happens. Welcome to politics.

MITCHELL: Yes. And not only she's saying defund the FBI, she's selling shirts and hats and making money off of the slogan. So, you know, for Democrats, they've been able to definitely turn the tables when it comes to who's backing law enforcement right now. But again, Democrats want President Trump front and center. They want it -- they want it to get off of Joe Biden, because of those questions about whether Joe Biden should remain the head of the party create dicey situations for Democrats, so they'd rather not have to talk about that either.

KING: And yet, Democrats are having the very same conversation, Democratic strategist, how much, how much because, you know, voters out --

CORNISH: How much to embrace.

KING: How much do you talk about Trump? How much how much do you talk about Trump, Republicans, how much do you talk about Trump that might depend on where your district is, and who they voted for, for President last time? Democrats have the same thing where Trump's backup many Democrats say thank you. Thank you, remind people about your potential legal issues and all of that. But Democrats too, if you're just talking about Trump, are you being relevant to the people at home?

CORNISH: I mean, the entire way you frame the question proves the problem, right? And I don't think I've ever in the last couple of years, since Trump really properly came on the scene, have seen people effectively wrenched away a media cycle from him from -- in his own party. I mean, it's just not really possible. And the base is not all that interested. So this is kind of evergreen advice, like I was reading and sort of feeling like, they say this, like every two years, like don't talk about Trump so much.

But the fact is, if you don't want -- it's a do no harm situation, don't criticize him. That's your problem. But if you don't want to talk about him, and you want to allied some of those things while still embracing the key tenants of the party as it stands, which is the party of Trump, you can do that too.

ZANONA: Yes. And that is the strategy that Republican candidates have used. I talked to a number of them for this piece. And one of them said, I only talk about Trump, when I'm asked another told me, I don't say his name ever. I do talk about the policies of his that I like, and so it is threading that needle of not embracing the president, the former president himself but embracing some of his policies. KING: But at the top of that list is Kevin McCarthy who wants to be speaker, that means he needs, you know, Don Bacon to get reelected but also means he needs to stay on Trump's good side.

ZANONA: Right. And that's the balancing act for McCarthy. He needs Trump to become speaker. He needs him to help fundraise. He needs him to help turn out the base in the elections. But he knows that it could be a potential weight around some of these crucial candidates and battlegrounds districts.

HUNT: You know what? None of it, none of it might play in his favor, no matter no matter what happens. Trump might turn on him no matter what, yes.

KING: Donald Trump loyal to somebody. Quickly, do you have the same conversation among House races, the House strategist than you do among Republicans, you know, you heard Mitch McConnell himself say I'm not so sure anymore? What about the House?

HUNT: In terms of --

KING: Are they as confident they're going to get it now as they weren't even three, four, five, six weeks ago.

HUNT: I think that they are more nervous, and I'm sure Melanie's reporting underscores this too, they are more nervous than they were before. They're more concerned about making sure they are, you know, they don't -- not in a cash disadvantage that, you know, the candidates aren't making mistakes. Because the reality is the House is much more dictated by the overall environment as opposed to --

CORNISH: That you're not hearing terms like shellacking, right? I think a few months ago when people were saying Biden wasn't having a good time of it, the language was much more sort of dire. And I think that has --

HUNT: Yes, now it's like let's not screw this up guys

KING: Well, I think we got 80 days spent a lot of time in Democratic seats that Trump carried for president and in Republican seats to Biden, current president, you spend just in those districts you'll learn a lot.


Up next, very sober story, anti-Semitism is on the rise. CNN's Dana Bash is here to preview a new documentary that explores some new dynamics in an ages old problem.


KING: Next month, President Biden plans to host a White House summit aimed at addressing hate filled violence. We all know that we see too much of it these days, a spike in white nationalism, hate crimes against Asian Americans soaring during the coronavirus pandemic and a rise in anti-Semitism across the United States. Many of the violent anti-Semitic attacks come from far right groups. But there is a concerning discourse emerging on the left, it's becoming more prevalent on college campuses in her new documentary, Rising Hate: Anti-Semitism in America, CNN's Dana Bash visited a college student who was the victim of anti-Semitism from her peers. Listen.



DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In 2021, Cassie Blotner says she was kicked out of a group called New Paltz, Accountability or NPA, a group she co-founded for survivors of sexual assault. Why? Because she shared a post on Instagram about being a Zionist.

CASSIE BLOTNER, SUNY NEW PALTZ STUDENT: I said that Jews are an indigenous to Israel and that you can't colonize the land of what you're indigenous to.

BASH (on camera): What happened after that post?

BLOTNER: One of the founding members of NPA said so you don't think Palestinians are being oppressed, but I have no animosity towards Palestinians.

Another member sent this horrible text to me in the NPA group chat, accusing me of being an oppressor. He told me that because I'm a Zionist that I condone violence against Palestinians, and just made all these uncalled for assumptions.

BASH: They accused you of causing sexual violence against others?

BLOTNER: They did. So they told me that because I'm a Zionist, that that means I'm an oppressor. And that means that I am not against all forms of oppression, which means that I'm not against sexual violence.


KING: Dana Bash joins us now. So Dana, being anti-Zionist isn't always the same as anti-Semitic. Take us through what you learned on the college campuses here.

BASH: Well, first, let me just say this was by far the most complicated part of our special just to be candid, because there's so much nuance in this particular topic, being against the policies of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitic, because Deborah Lipstadt, who's the ambassador, who deals with anti-Semitism says, you want to hear the biggest criticism of the Israeli government, go sit in a cafe in Jerusalem and listen to Jewish citizens there talk about it. But it can devolve into prejudice without the right conversations taking place.

In this special I talked to a progressive rabbi who runs a group called Trua. And she tries to teach other progressive groups about language so that it doesn't if you're saying that you're against the policies of Israel, it doesn't become anti-Semitic. And then she asked the next question, if you're -- if you don't like somebody because they're a quote, Zionist, well, what do you mean by you're a Zionist? What, what does that mean to you?

And the other thing is, because Jews, the Jewish religion isn't just a religion, it's a peoplehood. The Jewish people are connected to Israel. And that's something that is just a fact. The other thing that gets lost in the division is that most Jews, on campuses, and in the progressive world, are for Palestinian human rights. But it's hard to actually hear that when there's so much passion and frankly, anger on this issue.

KING: That's one piece, you say, the most complicated piece, step back, what else did you learn as you went through this, especially in the context of the numbers which tell you this is causing problem?

BASH: Exactly. The reason that's the reason we did it, it's so pervasive. And, you know, could have taken a look at this on a global scale. But because it's so big, and because it's such a problem in the U.S., we just focus on America, and the numbers say at all. It's from the ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, the numbers started to decline until 2015. And they started to go up. We talked to the deputy FBI director who said, if you look at all religious groups, this is the biggest Jews have the most attacks against them. And it's the internet. It is permissiveness, by national leaders. And all of that combined has made it a very big problem.

KING: One of the lessons you learn from the experts, you also learned, I want to show a headline from an essay you wrote on CNN And you're going to see me getting a little choked up here, this is what happens. But we are lucky to have an amazing young son, who taught you a lot.

BASH: He asked for a, you know, this, he asked for a, Star of David last December, and I kind of blew him off because I didn't know if he really meant it. And I was not sure if I wanted him to be wearing a Jewish star around his neck. And I was ashamed to even think that. But it's because I know what you know what adults know, which is what I just described, the numbers are going up. I knew about the attacks on synagogues, and the kind of prejudice that's out there.

But he said, no, I want to I want to show my identity and my friends at school were crosses and they're proud of it. I'm proud of mine two. And now that I've done this hour I learned from Deborah Lipstadt from a man named Jeff Cohen, who was the victim, who was a hostage, taken hostage in a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. He wears his keep his Kippah, his skullcap in public because part of the antidote to this is normalizing the fact that we are all Jews, and we aren't the conspiracy theory tropes that have been out there for thousands of years.


KING: I'm proud of it. I'm proud of it. He's a great kid. I urge you to read that piece. I also urge you to watch Dana's new CNN special report Rising Hate: Anti-Semitism in America at Sunday night 9:00 p.m. Eastern. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Topping our Political Radar today November's G20 summit could serve as a global showdown between the United States, China, and Russia. Indonesia's President telling Bloomberg in an interview he's received assurances from both President Xi and Putin they plan on being in Bali for that big international gathering.


The soccer star Megan Rapinoe reportedly asking President Biden directly about the release of Brittney Griner from Russian custody. POLITICO reporting Rapinoe raised her concerns with the President when he called her to let her know she should be -- would be receiving the Medal of Freedom. Griner of course recently sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for smuggling.

Thanks for your time on Inside Politics. Hope you have a decent fun weekend. Alex Marquardt picks up our coverage right now.