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Trump: I'm Looking At Pardons For January 6 Insurrectionists; CNN: Republicans Frustrated With Peter Thiel's Refusal To Fund His Hand-Picked Senate Candidates; Today: Former Trump WH Lawyers Appear Before 1/6 Grand Jury. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 02, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: What I was talking about during the January 6th hearing is that Liz Cheney's teams trying to shake Republicans, Trump Republicans out of their spell, the President Biden seem to be doing the same thing, because it's just a fact. If you look at election deniers running for office, as Republicans, often in many states just for Secretary State, the people who count the votes, the President trying to address that last night saying that you cannot support a party that does not support basic math, counting votes.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I refused to accept the results of a free election. And they're working right now, as I speak in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself.


KING: I guess the question is, I mean, that is a giant issue. And again, whether you're Democrat, Republican or independent at home, you can go state by state and look at what some of these candidates have said about who should decide elections or if you don't like election results, the legislature can reconsider what the voters said. My question is in the context of the midterm campaign, Mr. President believe, that sways votes?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: I think that that is certainly the goal. But also there's something to be said about speaking to your base voters. I think that also was the point of last night. I spoke to a progressive source, chief of staff of, a Progressive House member, and he tells me it was an important speech at a critical time. So there are some in the Democratic Party that are like finally, he is finally making this appeal that and putting democracy on the ballot.

And I think that many are saying it's about time that he has come out forcefully and made this message. And I think in the coming weeks, we're going to see a lot of Democrats lead with this that Republicans are MAGA Republicans are a threat to democracy. KING: One thing smart campaign Democrats and smart campaign Republicans agree on is that the more Trump is out there, the more harmful it is to Republicans. Did Donald Trump except debate yesterday, knowing the speech was coming from the President. Donald Trump, remember, people stormed the Capitol, people were killed when the Capitol was stormed, that was an attack on the United States government. Donald Trump says yesterday reelect me and --


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I met with and I'm financially supporting people that are incredible. And they were my office actually two days ago. It's very much on my mind. It's a disgrace what they've done to them. I will look very, very favorably about full pardons. If I decide to run, and if I win, I will be looking very, very strongly about pardons.


KING: We have no evidence he's financially supporting. If you haven't Mr. Former President, please send it in. We'd be happy to share it with our viewers. We have no evidence he's doing that, but to this idea that he will gladly consider pardons for people who are being prosecuted for attacking the United States government. Is he doing Joe Biden a favor by elevating himself at that moment?

CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You know, you got to wonder if part of the calculus from the White House part of the calculus from Biden is that Trump will continue to talk, right, and that he will continue to say exactly what Joe Biden is sort of warning about like that democracy is on the ballot that he's going to continue support. He didn't just offer to, you know, give these people pardons. He said, I'll give them apologies as well. So I think that factors into Biden's message, look, this is still happening. And it continues to center Trump, which, you know, rings a bell for Democrats.

KING: It's a giant speech for the president deciding to take this tone for the rest of the midterm campaign just shy of two months. He's not new here, Evan, in the sense that he's been around he knew that, you know, Ronald Reagan -- every President except for George W. Bush in the first midterm every president since Ronald Reagan lost seats in the House lost seats in the House, lost seats in the House, lost seats in the House, lost his seats in the House, lost his seats in the House including Biden right now is at 44 percent approval. Obama, he served as vice president was 44 percent approval.

He can't lose 63 sight seats anymore. The lines aren't drawn that way anymore. But is this speech, part of Joe Biden's effort, what do I need to say? How do we need to focus to defy history?

EVAN OSNOS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: Joe Biden is talking to the people, not just the 81 million people who voted for him, Democrats, independents, disaffected Republicans, but others out there who listen to somebody like Donald Trump saying he's going to pardon January 6th insurrectionist. And say that's not normal. I don't want to be a part of that. Those are the people who we might be able to appeal today.

KING: It's an interesting speech. We will watch as it plays out.


Up next for us, the power, money and influence question among the Republican ranks is concerned grow right now about a letdown in some races in the midterms and a lack of money for those candidates.


KING: Republicans worried about their prospects in critical Senate races this fall are complaining publicly now about what you might call a rich people problem or a rich person problem, to be more specific billionaire sometimes mega donor, Peter Thiel, pumped millions into Super PACs to help Ohio's J.D. Vance and Arizona's Blake Masters win Senate primaries. But new CNN reporting today includes this, Thiel has not stepped up with additional cash for the general campaign. And Vance and Masters have struggled to raise money on their own, while both have been massively outraged by their Democratic rivals.

In that great article, Republican lobbyists, Liam Donovan adds, this is a Thiel problem that has a Thiel solution. Anybody that emerged from these primaries with 30 percent was going to need help. The difference here is there's a patron that has the capacity to help. CNN's Michael Warren as part of this reporting, and he joins our conversation. It's whining and complaining, but it's whining and complaining about something that's very important candidates who need money. If Peter Thiel was so eager to help them in the primaries, what's the problem with money in the general?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Well, that's what a lot of what Washington Republicans are asking and they're sort of almost begging him, either publicly or privately to answer that question. I think it's important to emphasize the numbers and how much help these two candidates really need. If you compare the money raised in Ohio J.D. Vance, the Republican has raised just $3.5 million since the end of June. His Democratic opponent, Tim Ryan $22 million, it's even worse than Arizona where Blake Masters, the Republicans has raised $5 million.


Incumbent Mark Kelly, the senator, Democratic senator from Arizona, $54 million. The fundraising isn't there. So where is the money going to come from? It's going to come from Super PACs from big donors. And that's really the problem here and the frustration that a lot of Republicans say, you got these people over the line, you got Donald Trump to endorse them. These were competitive primaries, they're your guys, Peter Thiel's responses, really, it's your party. It's your majority, isn't it your job to help them get over the loop.

KING: And you hear the resentment. If you read this report and other conversations around town among Republicans right now, that's important. It's Republicans are having this internal fight as we get closer to the election day in a year that's supposed to be a big Republican year. That tells you something. But Stephen Law is the president of Senate Leadership Fund, which works for Mitch McConnell. Here's what he says in this great article. We're leaving the door wide open in Arizona but we want to move additional resources to other offensive opportunities that have become increasingly competitive, as well as an unexpected expense in Ohio. That's the rusty knife, that's the rusty knife there. The unexpected expense in Ohio, meaning Peter Thiel is not bailing out his candidate anymore. We got to go spend money.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And this is the issue they've been having where these people got the Trump boost in the primaries now, it's are they going to, is that going to translate to votes in the general election, and they're really having trouble with the fundraising here. And it's become this remarkable disagreement between the Republican Senate campaign chair or campaign chief with Mitch McConnell over whether or not over the way they're talking about these candidates, because McConnell has been pretty blunt, saying, you know, maybe they're not the strongest candidates that we thought they were. And the J.D. Vance in Ohio, it's become an unexpectedly tough race. It should be a lot for them, given how much Trump won in Ohio by. And now it's become this issue and there's this remarkable feud playing out between them publicly.

KING: Right. Again, it's supposed to be a Republican year. But you have a Republican circular firing squad, if you will. Steven Law there, voicing frustration at Peter Thiel. Peter Thiel saying this one's up to you. You mentioned Rick Scott. He's a United States Senator. But he's also the chairman of the Republican Committee to raise money for Senate candidates. This is a swipe at Mitch McConnell, his leader.

If you want to trash talk our candidates to help the Democrats pipe down. That's not what leaders do. When you complain and lament that we have bad candidates, what you're really saying is that you have contempt for the voters who chose them. Rick Scott serves under Mitch McConnell in the Senate. Rick Scott wants to be president, which is what a lot of his Senate colleagues are not happy about. But, again, this family feud, we spent a lot of time talking about this. And Democrats when they're trying to pass their agenda now close to election, it's Republicans.

WOOTSON: Yes. Republicans in disarray, right? We said Democrats in disarray over and over again. And I do think that there, it represents a fundamental question among the top tiers of the party about the quality of these candidates and whether that trickles down, whether these folks will be able to hold on to do well against a Democratic Party and Biden who's doing better than they were just a couple of months ago.

WARREN: We should we should underscore though in the example of Ohio, every Republican I talked to says they expect J.D. Vance to win. The issue here is about the finite amount of resources and the Republican Party and the Super PACs moving this money into Ohio really sort of limits the number of races where they can compete in on the Super PAC level. That's really what's going on here. So we shouldn't lead people to think that Ohio can't be a win for Republicans. It's about the money.

MCKEND: It's also a different midterm environment, though, right? Republicans, you know, thought that they might be able to sail to victory. But now Roe is on the ballot, essentially, in many of these states, we're having conversations about personal freedom, and that could maybe appeal to more center right Republicans in Ohio. So they just have to compete in a different way. And Democrats, they have to take this opening as well.

KING: So you both make a great point. You come at it from different perspectives, which is in a normal midterm year, a normal year because Ohio has Republican DNA, nominate a candidate, you're probably going to win. The question is, is this a normal year? Our colleague, Manu Raju, who was just out in Ohio, talked to the veteran conservative talk radio host Bill Cunningham, who knows the state pretty well, who says he thinks J.D. Vance essentially thought give me the Republican nomination, I win. He's not working hard enough.


BILL CUNNINGHAM, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST IN CINCINNATI: He's been spoken to by at least one U.S. senator and at least one governor he respects to kick him in the ass.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Given how this state has trended Republican in recent cycles. Do you think that he's taking it for granted?

CUNNINGHAM: Yes. He thinks the R is going to pull him over the line. And he's probably right.


KING: Even Bill Cunningham thinks he's probably right. But that's what we don't know. That's what we don't know in this very volatile year we have seen. A couple of months ago, it looks like a big Republican year. Now Democrats have trend things trending their way. Some of them are still bad, but they're much better. We don't know.

WARREN: But you know, it's again, it's about what does the map look like? You know, we talked to people who say that, if it's -- if this money is going to Vance, it's not going to Blake Masters. This is a key Senate seat that Republicans want to win back let alone some of these reached seats that a year, you know, 18 months ago Republicans were saying maybe we could win in Washington State, maybe we could win in Colorado, maybe they do sort of in a quirky way do that. But it's the limiting of the money and sort of its constraining Republican Super PAC money where they are saying, this should be the candidates who are raising this money. There's a lot of questions, a lot of fingers being pointed, of course, to the candidates as well. And it's not just these two, we know that Dr. Oz, Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, also having fundraising.


COLLINS: Well, And just to note on that, you know, Dr. Oz, Blake Masters or Herschel Walker, these people, J.D. Vance, the ones who have been endorsed by Trump. You know, Trump was also critical of Mitch McConnell for making those comments about realistic comments. Mitch McConnell is kind of just saying what everyone else was saying about the prospect of these candidates but the fact that he said it on the record, Trump is complaining.

WARREN: And people are also asking where's Trump's --

KING: I was just going to say, I was just going to say that Trump, he complaint all he wants, he's sitting on a boatload of dimes, and he could help if he wanted to, but he tends to save his money for himself.

Up next, we go live to the courthouse, two top Trump White House insiders testifying before a federal grand jury, the January 6th grand Jury.



KING: Today is a very significant day in the federal investigation into the January 6th Capitol attack and Donald Trump's efforts to block the peaceful transfer of power. Former Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and his top deputy Patrick Philbin, you see them there, they're appearing in front of a federal grand jury. Both were in key White House meetings dating from Election Day through the Biden inauguration. And we know from congressional testimony, Cipollone and Philbin were both not happy with the President's conduct on January 6th, and in the days after. Our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez is outside the courthouse in D.C. Evan, what do we know?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we saw Pat Cipollone come in this morning, he left around lunchtime. And Pat Philbin, his deputy arrived just a short while ago into the courthouse. They're appearing before the grand jury that meets on Fridays. This is the grand jury that is looking at the possible crimes beyond the rioters, beyond the people who attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, you know, they're looking at the conduct of the former president, people around him who are trying to organize these fake electors whose goal their scheme was to try to find a way to keep Donald Trump in office even though he had lost the election.

And so what we know is that there have been weeks and weeks of discussions between Cipollone and Philbin, their legal team and the Justice Department over exactly what kind of questions they were going to be able to answer, because they claim that they're protected by executive privilege, some of their questions -- some of these answers that they have would be protected by the former president's claim of executive privilege. It's not clear exactly how they ironed out those differences. But it is something that would be happening right here before this grand jury in the courthouse behind me, John.

KING: Evan Perez outside the courthouse in this big day. Thanks, Evan. Let's bring in, in the room, our legal analyst Carrie Cordero back with us. So help me with that. They represent the White House. They represent the institution, not Donald Trump. But so what is privileged and what is not in the importance of they were in, again, this is not just about January 6th, they were there when he wanted to declare victory on election night. They were there up to the inauguration. They were there when he was trying to pressure the Pentagon when he's trying to seize voting machines. How much can they tell the grand jury? And how much can they say I can't talk about that?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So right. So this grand jury is looking at obstruction and conspiracy to obstruct the actual certification of the election by Congress. So that is, you know, one of the areas that this grand jury is focused on. And what Pat Philbin and Cipollone knew was everything that was going on behind the scenes in order to potentially whether there were White House folks who were involved in that and the conversations.

What they will be able to testify to is things that are evidence of crimes, they are going to avoid providing information about specific advice that they gave to the former president because they are in their former White House Counsel capacity, going to want to protect that executive privilege. But what the way that I think Cipollone approaches in his January 6th testimony is that he talked about, well, this was my impression of things. So he doesn't necessarily have to relay the specific conversation. Here's the advice I gave the former president, but he can say this is the impression that I had of what was going on.

KING: But if the prosecutor has done a good job, can they do I'm going to call it a bank shot. That's not a legal term. But don't tell me what you told Donald Trump. Tell me what you told Carrie after the meeting. Can you get him -- make him talk about conversations with a non-privileged person to still get the same information?

CORDERO: Well, discussions that would have fallen into the category of providing advice to the former president would be off limits, but certainly conversations he had with other people, impressions that he formed of his own volition. So what his thoughts were at the time is really where he's probably going to be the most comfortable. And then the other piece is with respect to any potential claims of attorney- client privilege. Attorney-client privilege isn't a protection against not revealing information to the grand jury about crimes that occurred so we've not going to be able to hide behind that.

KING: So is this a fair question, don't tell me if you told Donald Trump that's a crime, but tell me if you think doing that would be a crime?

CORDERO: Well, they can give them a factual scenario and he can describe what his impression and what his assessment would be of that.

KING: That's fascinating moment. Carrie, appreciate it so much.


Up next, call your pharmacy. The new booster shots, specifically targeting the Omicron sub variant are approved and available as early as today. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Topping our political radar today, new COVID boosters are already in some pharmacies today. The CDC authorized the updated vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna yesterday. They're built to fight the newest strains of Omicron sub variant. Pfizer's vaccine is approved for people aged 12 or older, the Moderna shots for people 18 and up.

CNN has learned the White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy expected to step down in the next week or so. McCarthy has been in her post since Biden took office. She was expected to leave after a year on the job but stayed on to help get that historic climate deal across the finish line. She will be replaced by her deputy.


We have the first Atlantic hurricane of the season. Danielle was upgraded to hurricane status today with sustained winds of 75 miles an hour. Danielle expected to head for the Northeast early next week.

Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. Hope you have a peaceful weekend. We'll see you Monday. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.