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Fetterman: Oz Team Thinks It's "Funny To Mock A Stroke Survivor"; CNN: Trump Delays 2024 Announcement Amid Political, Legal Troubles; Last Soviet Leader Gorbachev Ended Cold War And Won Nobel Prize. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 31, 2022 - 12:30   ET



DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: But Oz is now distancing himself from those comments in a way that I've never seen a candidate do. Now, will that matter? We don't know. Will Fetterman ever accept the debate proposal? Now, Oz is saying that he's -- that the Fetterman campaign has said no to a second debate later in September as well. You know, the question is, does this matter to voters? Are there bigger issues cost of living, gas prices, inflation, abortion? Are there other issues that will matter more to Pennsylvania voters? I think there certainly are. But, you know, there's a chance that Oz could make this stick.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. So I want to come back to the questions, the debate question and the related question about Fetterman's health prognosis. But you mentioned the point, Dr. Oz is the candidate. He may be new to politics, but he's the candidate. He's the CEO of the campaign team. This is him on the radio yesterday, Dan is right, his staff has mocked Fetterman saying at one point, I don't think he's ever had a vegetable, trying to suggest that he's responsible for his own stroke. Dr. Oz says, that's not me.


DR. MEHMET OZ (R-PA), SENATE NOMINEE: I've been pretty clear. As a physician, I had tremendous empathy for what John Fetterman is going through. The campaign's been saying lots of things, both of them, my position is I can only speak to what I'm saying is that John Fetterman should be allowed to recover fully, and I will support his ability, as someone who's going through a difficult time to get ready.


KING: The part that's missing there, if that's what Dr. Oz truly believed, and I hope it is, if that -- the part that's missing is and I'm telling everybody on my team right now, right now take it. He's the CEO of the campaign. You can't say, oh, I don't know what my team said.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, they put out a press release yesterday I think, that very -- well had very mocking language about the about Fetterman and his recovery. I think it's a offer to pay for any extra medical staff that he needed. I mean, that that's not an offhand comment. That was a press release that was sent out. And the Fetterman campaign really has turned this. I mean, returned a legitimate issue about his health into something that's actually, you know, potentially a positive for John Fetterman.

He had this ad that he posted on Twitter just earlier today, in front of a crowd saying who here has had a health issue, a health challenge? People raise their hand? And really, I mean, this is something that Dr. Oz. I mean, this is politics could be used for to his advantage that has really, because he has been non empathetic is potentially a problematic for him.

KING: Right. So --

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Just to add to that, there has been recent polling that shows that most voters overwhelmingly don't really care about Fetterman stroke. The issue that they said they do care about is Dr. Oz's long term residency in New Jersey actually came up as one of the issues that mattered. So, you know, as much as there's been this discussion about debates and his stroke, it might not actually matter to voters in Pennsylvania.

KING: And so if you watch the campaign you're waiting to see will there be debates, you're waiting to see if Fetterman has a more active campaign schedule. He is starting to get back out there more now. So this like many campaigns plays out on T.V. Let's start here. Here's a Republican ad saying John Fetterman soft on crime.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fetterman says he's trying to get as many criminals out of prison as he can over the pleas of the victim's family. Far left, John Fetterman is too far left. He's dangerously liberal on crime.


KING: So the Fetterman campaign response, and says, no, Dr. Oz is the problem.


LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Dr. Oz and his Gucci loafers is attacking me on crime. Public safety is why I ran for office when two of my students were murdered, I ran for mayor to stop the violence. I worked side by side with the police showed up at the crime scene. We did whatever it took to fund our police.


KING: We know from presidential politics, we know from past close races in Pennsylvania, it's an incredibly complicated state. You have the more liberal suburbs in the Philadelphia area. You got the center of the state, which is very conservative, the western part of state which has sort of a mix of everything. This will be a key laboratory in this. We're seeing it in other campaigns as well, the crime debate. YASMEEN ABUTALEB, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. And I think you see a lot of Democrats, particularly those in tough states, not overwhelmingly liberal states really trying to distinguish themselves from the defund the police slogan that was incredibly damaging to a lot of Democrats just a year or two ago, trying to show that they are pro law enforcement even saw President Biden doing that yesterday in Pennsylvania, you know, was overwhelmingly a pretty pro law enforcement argument. He was making an actually trying to say Republicans were against law enforcement.

So I think issues like this are going to be much more important in a state like Pennsylvania and sort of trying to find the right balance without alienating many of the more liberal voters you need while winning, you know, these crucial sort of swing districts are ones that maybe what more for Trump is going to be -- is a challenge in this state.

KING: You mentioned finding the right balance. You have a fascinating story today in The Daily Beast, where your reporters found this Dr. Oz comment about abortion where he says I do believe life starts at conception. It's still murder, if you were to terminate a child, whether their heart's beating or not. In many races, we have seen Democrats try to seize on the Dobbs decision and the abortion issue which they believe helps them. Do Democrats believe it does in Pennsylvania, which is complicated may help you in the Philadelphia suburbs, maybe not as much in the middle conservative part of the state.

KUCINICH: It hasn't been as much of an issue in this race yet, but that also, you've seen a lot more Democrats starting to use it and I think the other issue with what Dr. Oz says there, is he's been on the other side of this issue as well in the past when, you know, he was less of a candidate and more of a celebrity.


But, you know, tell only time will tell if this becomes central. I'm sure as the closest -- as if this race gets as -- gets closer, you'll probably see it raising up a little bit more.

MERICA: It also is an issue I think that the Fetterman campaign can use to further their, you know, what they're looking to do is kind of other eyes, Dr. Oz, this guy from New Jersey. I mean, in that ad, the two words that stuck out were Gucci loafers. I mean, this is someone who has taken positions that are out of step with where Republicans are now as early as, you know, as recently as 2009. He was kind of a lot in the Roe decision to the 19, excuse me, lot in the Roe decision.

I mean, that all fits into this, you know, talking point that Oz is one person at one time and another person another time and Fetterman has certainly been kind of pushing that throughout the campaign.

KING: One of the many fascinating races and perhaps incredibly consequential because of the Senate math.

Up next for us, some brand new CNN reporting on why Donald Trump is now rethinking his 2024 campaign rollout.



KING: I want to share some brand new CNN reporting now on Donald Trump's timeline for announcing his 2024 plans. The former president is said to be hitting the pause button after weeks of floating the idea he would announce his candidacy before the 2022 midterm vote. CNN's Gabby Orr and Kristen Holmes and that story you see right there talk to multiple sources who say Trump is now taking a slower approach. He's mounting legal worries, one reason, the struggles of some of his handpick 2022 candidates is another.

Gabby and Kristen are with us live now. And so let's start with what changed the thinking and the idea that if we roll the tape back just a few days, Trump was telling people maybe as soon as a week or two.

GABBY ORR, CNN REPORTER: Right, he's been playing with this timeline for quite a while now. You know, first it was the Fourth of July weekend, then it was supposed to be this coming Labor Day weekend. And now it seems that he's heeding the advice of allies who want him to wait until after the midterms. And there's really two reasons that he's become more receptive to that argument.

Number one, he has a lot of candidates, handpicked Senate candidates who are struggling in their races right now. And he doesn't want to be blamed further, if they end up losing those races in November, if he jumps in now and becomes a distraction for Republicans who want to talk about inflation. They want to talk about gas prices, those types of issues.

The second is just the incredible leap weight of the legal battle that he's facing right now, you know, both with this presidential records matter, but also the Georgia and Fulton County investigations. He's under a lot of pressure to straighten out these issues, or at least get an adequate and appropriate defense team in place to help him navigate that. And they want him to start doing that before he dives into 2024 primary.

KING: Right. Another interesting piece of the reporting is, you know, you could say OK, Mr. President, you know, you got a lot of legal issues to deal with. OK, Mr. President waits, the elections play out. But part of the reporting is that people are telling him, sir, you can wait, trying to convince him. You're actually in a stronger position now, you don't need to get out ahead of Ron DeSantis. You don't need to get out ahead of anybody else.

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's a renewed sense of political confidence, not so much legal confidence. But there is a political confidence there. Remember, part of this idea to announce before November was to clear the field, his allies, and he himself to some extent believe that was done for him through this FBI search. Looking at the people who rallied behind him, many of them were people who were likely going to be his 2024 challengers, including Ron DeSantis. And that is something that Trump himself has pointed to, the fact that DeSantis said that this was compared to banana republic tactics. So they are feeling this renewed sense of confidence. It's not just clearing the field, but it's also what they're hearing from Republicans and supporters. They are very aware that Trump could be a damaged candidate, that he was someone who was coming at this with a lot of baggage.

What they have heard from Republicans, really across the country, is that they're rallying behind Trump, even if they were saying in e- mails and tweets and calls, that we were going to vote for someone else. We were interested in another candidate. But now because of this, we're going to back you.

KING: Well, how much of that forgive me because Donald Trump lives in Fantasyland sometimes just forgive me. But how much of that is what they truly believe and how much of that is what they're saying to him? Just to get him to back off, because most Republicans who have campaign experience, understand that the more he raises his head, the more harm to them.

ORR: Well, we know it's a huge liability if he gets into this, and he's been told as much by some of his closest allies, you know, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy included. So he is getting that sort of input from his close allies as well.

KING: Including, a growing number of Trump confidence of shared concerns, a pre midterm announced that will be weaponized by Democrats. He's going to listen. We think he's going to listen.

HOLMES: We think that right now. He's going to listen, anything can change, it could change tomorrow. But right now he's listening and part of that is because he does feel good that Republicans are rallying around him.

KING: We'll keep an eye on it. Thank you both for coming in with that new reporting.


Up next for us, the death of Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin's very, very different take on Russia and military aggression.


KING: Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union has died at the age of 91. Gorbachev hoped to liberalize the Soviet bloc. Instead, his reforms led to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. He's remembered for working alongside President Ronald Reagan on dramatic nuclear arms reductions. In 2012, he admitted to CNN's Christiane Amanpour, he was just not sure how Russians would ultimately judge him.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: To many people around the world, you are a hero, a once in a generation actor who ended the Cold War. How would you like your people to remember you?

MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE SOVIET UNION (through translator): History is a fickle lady and you can expect surprises from history, but I do know that I did what I did and that I can be proud of what I did.


KING: CNN contributor, a former CNN Moscow bureau chief Jill Dougherty is here with us. History is a fickle lady but he talks about how proud he was. It is rare that you have one person who so dramatically changed the world.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. You know, the end of the Cold War, basically, we, you know, we can owe it to him, and of course, to the other side. And I would say the end of the Soviet Union, which is crucially important, too, although that's not exactly what he set out to do. And that is why he's criticized today in Russia.

KING: Right. And so let's look at it in the context of today. Vladimir Putin, the current Russian leader is at war in Ukraine. That was one of the countries once part of the Soviet bloc that collapsed. If you look at this map, I'm not going to name them all but you go around this loop in here. Those blue countries are NATO members. They include Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, the former Czech Republic, the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia. Vladimir Putin believes they are part of Mother Russia. How does he view Gorbachev?

DOUGHERTY: I think that he probably views Gorbachev as a weak leader, who was unduly influenced by the West, and who basically lost the, you know, part of the former Soviet Union to the west. And he has said recently, he has been referring to himself as kind of, you know, Peter the Great, bringing them back, bringing the Russians who were left behind back to Russia. And it's really, I think, a very serious etiology that's emerging from Putin.

KING: Right. This map happened if we could put it back on the screen, this map happened and all this blue happened, because Mikhail Gorbachev, you made the key point, he wanted to reform the Soviet bloc. He did not want to lose the Soviet bloc, but he would not use force when he saw the Democratic movements and the government's breaking away. Vladimir Putin has a very different view. And you're watching it play out right now in Ukraine, where you have, again, a war that lasted way longer than Vladimir Putin wanted it to. But he wants to put the pieces back together, no?

DOUGHERTY: Right. Yes, pretty much. I think that, you know, there's -- this mentality that they lost something that Russia lost something. And, again, they were weak. And so Putin's idea is we are strong. And we're going to take it back. And the West doesn't deserve it. It's Russia. There are really kind of little brothers of Russia. And they should be back in Russia. I don't think it means, you know, the Baltics are gone. There's some other countries that he'd probably say, well, OK, they're part of the West. But essentially, you know, what really sticks in his craw is if they wanted to go and Gorbachev let them go.

KING: Let them go, interesting way to put it. Jill Dougherty, grateful you're here on this important day.

Up next for us, President Biden just calling the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi as residents there fighting desperately to get clean water.



KING: Topping our Political Radar today, President Biden just speaking to the mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, that of course about the urgent situation surrounding access to clean water. Earlier today the President approved an emergency declaration for the state flooding worsened long standing problems with Jackson's main water system which then failed, leaving the city without enough water to fight fires or flush toilets. CNN's Amara Walker is live for us on the ground in Jackson, what is the latest?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, we are in the parking lot of a Walmart where the Salvation Army is distributing two cases per family of drinking water. And I can tell you if you just look at some of the faces of these people, they are so grateful and so relieved to receive a basic human need. And if you just see how long this line stretches, it stretches all around this very large Walmart parking lot.

You know, I just spoke with a 69-year-old woman, you actually just saw her in that red SUV. She just received her cases of water. And she was telling me, you know, she was distraught really saying that she's got a lot of ailments she's dealing with. She needs to take her medications. She doesn't have any running water. So she's been staying with her son. But she said that these cases of water will obviously help her in the interim.

Look, it's day three, that Jackson, Mississippi has not had reliable running water. The mayor says though this is the good news he is optimistic that the water will be restored to the residents drinking water within the week. But he is also cautioning that this is a very extremely challenging situation to fix a very aged water treatment system that has been neglected for many, many decades.

Right now though, we do know according to the mayor's office that a new pump has arrived. And they are currently working on installing that right now at this water treatment facility. And the governor saying that this will allow for the output of 4 million gallons of drinking water, John.

KING: Certainly hope those repairs are at least temporarily effective. Amara Walker grateful you're live on the scene watching this story unfold for us.

Moving on to other news now, Texas has spent more than get this $12 million. The bus migrants to New York and D.C. since the end of April, CNN obtained those numbers from a state government spreadsheet showing payments to a charter bus company in the past 24 hours alone nearly 100 migrants arrived in here in D.C. from Texas. New numbers also show the state of Arizona has spent around three and a half million dollars to bring migrants to the nation's capitol. Since May, 43 buses have come to D.C. about three departing Arizona each week.

The FDA just today authorizing brand new booster shots tailored to protect against the Omicron variant. These are the first updated COVID vaccines to get emergency use authorization in the United States both Moderna and Pfizer getting the green light earlier today, still this is important, the CDC must sign off before those shots can be administered.


Thanks for your time today on INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.