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Inside Politics

Biden Admin Strikes Deal To Avert Crippling Rail Strike; FL Gov Sends Two Planes Of Migrants To Martha's Vineyard; GOP Govs Make Midterm Immigration Point By Busing, Flying Migrants; Ex-Chief Of Staff Meadows Complies With DOJ Subpoena In Jan 6 Probe; DOJ Probing Felony Conspiracy, Obstruction In Jan. 6th Case; Election Denying Candidate Wins NH GOP Senate Primary; 35 Senate Seats Up For Grabs In 2022. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 15, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your very, very busy news day with us. A crisis canceled, the Biden White House strikes a deal to keep trains running and to stave off a supply chain nightmare. Plus, a pair of midterm immigration stunts. Florida's governor flies two plane loads of migrants from Martha's Vineyard, while Texas drops off buses packed with migrants in front of the vice president's house.

And a dictator summit, China's Xi Jinping and Russia's Vladimir Putin meet in Uzbekistan, the huddled comes at a very tough moment for Putin. Ukraine is dramatically turning the tide in the war and retaking the territory.

Up first though, 20 hours that matter a whole lot, a very lot to your life. The Biden White House now has a deal in place to avert a major rail strike. The 20 hours of marathon negotiations included a call from President Biden who reportedly sided with union rail workers on one of their key demands.

Amtrak now scrambling to get back on the rails trains that had canceled as it anticipated, strike the president last hour holding a rose garden event to savor the moment. He says this deal stops a giant supply chain breakdown, that would have meant shortages of key goods and price spikes on everything from gas to groceries, and more.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everything, every good that you need seems to end on a rail getting delivered to where it needs to go. Today is a win. I mean it sincerely, a win for America.


KING: Let's get straight to the White House, our chief correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, walk us through how this happened and what it means? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it's not only a big win for President Biden, it's also a big relief for the White House who feared what the severe economic consequences were going to look like, had they not come to an agreement. Had this strike actually gone into place when they reached to that deadline on midnight on Friday.

And so, that is why you saw such an intensive effort by the Biden administration to make sure that that did not happen. And that really culminated in those hours long talks that happened to the labor department, stretching into the early hours of this morning.

The union representatives had showed up at about 9am to the labor department, meeting there with those railroad carriers and the representatives from there. And it was about the 12-hour mark last night 9pm or so when President Biden himself called in to say that just, they could not have this strike, that it would be too damaging to the U.S. economy, which of course has already suffered several blows in the last several years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it was about 2:30 this morning, we are told that they reached a verbal agreement, and they spent the next several hours hashing out, finalizing that of what it would actually look like where it culminated in the White House announcing early this morning that they did have a deal and they have come to an agreement.

And what this had been over was unions now winning the right to go to medical appointments without penalty from their businesses, and also the companies getting the factor of that they have to take unpaid leave in order to go to those medical appointments. That is what had been the sticking point here.

But this had been really a delicate dance for President Biden who obviously is very pro-union. He talks about it often when he's on the road, but also making sure that they did not have this strike that they were worried can cause really severe economic blowback, John?

KING: Kaitlan Collins, for us live in a big day at the White House. Kaitlan, thank you. The president today, as Kaitlan notes spotlighting his work to avert a big crisis. Republicans making a midterm choice to highlight another crisis that they say is the president's fault. The Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, veering two planeloads of migrants from Martha's Vineyard, off island it's part of Massachusetts.

CNN's Miguel Marquez is there for us now live. Miguel, a surprise on the island. What is the fallout today?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a very big surprise. And what is happening right now, this is the church where all 50 of them are being assisted, getting their basic needs met right now. I met one woman who was on that plane. She says, yesterday morning, they were in San Antonio. She, her husband and their child, and they were promised help. They were said they could get on a plane. They were promised help. She, her family and 47 others got onto two planes in San Antonio. And they ended up here in Martha's Vineyard. I want to bring in Dylan Fernandes, the state representative here. Dylan, you've been chatting with folks. How are they doing now and what needs are being met?

DYLAN FERNANDES, (D) MASSACHUSETTS STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Sure. Well, everyone's needs are being met right now. We have to move whoever who is coming through here. Everyone's needs the second they got off the plane are met. This island community sprang together. Everyone got the beds they needed, the food, the water, the shelter, the medical care. Right now, we have areas set up, triage areas for people connecting with Spanish speaking immigration attorneys. We have a playroom for the children that have set up. There are kids here.


MARQUEZ: So, seven families I understand, four children between the ages of three and eight. The woman I spoke to earlier, said that her case, her next appointment is in San Antonio in a month or so on a refugee status because she's playing refugee status, her and her family. How is this going to work? This is more complicated than just getting them to the mainland and getting them to some sort of shelter in Massachusetts or elsewhere?

FERNANDES: Yes. So, that's what there, our immigration attorneys here are working on right now. They're working on the people who have the most immediate appointments first, working on - working with them to either reschedule or find a way to make that happen. And it's an ongoing situation right now. There's a lot of people here, but our attorneys are working quickly on it.

MARQUEZ: The airport said that they had about 20 minutes notice that these planes were arriving. It's a public airport. They cannot turn away planes, if more come, it is not clear that any more coming. But what is your sense of it? Do you think this is it that they have made their point?

FERNANDES: You know, the point here is, is that we're going to, and we've seen this here today, as an island community, we're going to come together and support whoever shows up here. And we're going to make sure that people have the food, water and shelter that they need.

You know, Ron DeSantis and Republicans might want to play political games with people's lives. I believe that's incredibly inhumane to be using women and children and families as a political pawn. You're going to now talk about on Tucker Carlson and pretend to be tough on immigration. What is real tough, what is really bold, is the people coming here together today on island to support these families. We're going to continue to do it.

MARQUEZ: Look, I covered these family separation policy under the Trump administration, which was incredibly difficult to see those families torn apart. I mean, do you see this as a continuation of this in that realm?

FERNANDES: Absolutely. I mean, there's no low that these people will go. They will keep going lower and lower. And they're willing to use humans, children, women, families as political pawns for their own game. It is depraved. It is evil. It is wrong. But what makes America great is what we see here today, which is an island community, and a state in Massachusetts is coming together to support the people here.

MARQUEZ: Sir, thank you very much. John, I sent it back to you. The emergency management for the state of Massachusetts is coming here as well, to help coordinate a lot of the care for these people from today and forward. Back to you.

KING: Miguel, before I let you go. I don't know your physical restraints there. But if you could just walk around, to the degree you can walk around a little bit just to give us the scope. I have been to Martha's Vineyard many times. I know where you are. But just so our viewers can understand what's being done here.

MARQUEZ: Yes. So, this is the churches across the street from what you're looking at now. This is the parish house where everybody is being cared for. There's a room where the kids are. They were playing volleyball or soccer back there a little while ago. Most of them are volunteers. Some of them are immigrants who arrived here yesterday. And they are setting up basically tables to receive goods. They have tons of volunteers to bring people in, so that they can help out with everything going forward.

There is another church in town, all of them are being held at this one location right now or being held at this one location right now. There was another church in town that have more arrived. They are making arrangements for that. So, you know, they won't be deterred. The sense of pulling together and helping these people is real here. It is helpful that this is after the high summer season.

So, there are sort of fewer people here. And but it's also a town that goes, you know, to 20,000 people in the wintertime and over 100,000 people during the summer. So, you know, they are doing what they can right now, but you can see the level of organization here, and it's just a one. I think that they are really stepping up to fill the void. John?

KING: Miguel Marquez, I appreciate your hustle, your crews' hustle as well. And whatever your views at home on the immigration issue remarkable just to see the decency and the compassion of these people coming together to help the fellow human being. Miguel, thank you.

Let's discuss these two important stories. The president's announcement today and this immigration story. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, Jackie Kucinich to The Daily Beast, Toluse Olorunnipa of The Washington Post, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times.

Let's start with the president. Where both of these stories are connected in the sense that we are 50 plus days out, 54 days out for a midterm election. Had this rail strike gone through the economic disruption or would have been a blow to the country? And of course, the president, democrat or republican the president in charge at that moment. It does come. You heard the president, today saying crisis averted are trying to make the sense - to make the case that his team has a competent team that the labor secretary. Other officials got involved, they prevented from happening. It also happens coincidence or not at a time. This is an AP-NORC poll where the president's approval rating is starting to trend up. It's the trajectory, that's still historically low. You'd rather be higher than 45 percent, by 45 percent beats 39 percent.


TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. He is trying to continue some of the momentum that we've seen over the summer with legislative wins, with a number of things passing through Congress, with some of the things that they're doing with executive authorities, student loan debt and whatnot.

And the economy still seems to be something that he is trying to get improved numbers on, because there are still a number of Americans who believe that inflation is too high, that the president's handling of the economy has not been strong enough. So, this, you know, crisis has been averted with the labor strike that has been, you know, put off, at least for now.

It allows the president to come and say, I was on the side of labor. He's been doing events all week, going to Boston, going to Detroit and standing up with labor and standing up with people and unions. Even on the South Lawn of the White House, having someone in the union introduce him.

So, he wants to be able to show that even as he says over and over again, that laborers and unions built the middle class that he's standing with them, and then he's fighting for them, even as they fight for a stronger deal.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, having a labor secretary that is also a union person has also been beneficial for the Biden administration. They've inverted - they've had pretty good luck with labor. And that isn't part of, you know, having Marty Walsh there. But you know, it is hard to when you're reading. How this could have backed up supply chain? What was going on the ports? This really could have been hugely problematic to the nascent recovery that is still going on.

KING: There is no question you take a blow any president would take a blow if it happened. The question is, do you get a benefit from the fact that you helped avert it? That's the question.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Right. That's always the counterfactual, right? It's great to avert a crisis. But will people remember in eight more weeks when it's the midterms and they're voting that, you know, this actually was on the brink of happening, could really have messed up their lives in a lot of ways and not just freight and supply chain, but also passenger rail potentially. Or will they have forgotten about it because the crisis was averted. And if they do hold, you know, there won't be a strike. KING: And on this immigration story, you see the powerful pictures. Miguel Marquez is there. There are also some migrants dropped off in front, I drove past them today. Again, whatever your views on immigration, compassionate people bringing food, water, ice, and some snacks to migrants dropped off here in Washington across the street from the Naval Observatory, where the vice president lives. Whatever your views, just thank God, they're a nice compassionate people to help these families, out a lot of children in the crowd there.

The question is, Republican governors say, they're doing this to get attention, because Joe Biden and his administration have failed on the border. There's also no question. This is Kari Lake, the Republican nominee for governor in Arizona. Republicans think this helps them come November.


KARI LAKE, (R) ARIZONA GOVERNOR NOMINEE: You know, I actually, I get a kick out of it, watching these liberal mayors just, you know, throw their hands up and say we can't handle it, because it's life every day for us in these border states. However, I'm not a fan of the Tucker. I mean, we're just taking people here illegally, who shouldn't be here. We're moving them further inland.


KING: She's not a fan of the policy of moving them further inland. But she says that, you know, too bad - essentially, and the other half of that is too bad. We deal with it at the border, maybe you should have to deal with it.

HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: Right. I mean, there's no question that, as we said in the opening the show, this is a stunt that is designed to generate attention to this issue. And let's be honest, it's been successful. We're talking about it on this show. We're all writing about it now. We are now focused on immigration and the dysfunction in the immigration system, which does exist, and that is what Republicans want to happen.

But the other thing is that, you know, they're trying to call attention to an issue that needs a solution and that they are getting the president has failed to solve. They're also not making any effort to solve these problems. It's great that the people in here in Washington and Martha's Vineyard are stepping up to help those human beings who have arrived in with real need, who have asylum claims and refugee claims that need to be handled.

But as you heard in that report, this is not making the problems in the immigration system any better. Those people still have appointments to go to Texas, to go figure out, are they going to come into this country illegally. Or are they not going to be able to? And those issues are still outstanding. And so, yes, they've succeeded in focusing a spotlight on this very difficult issue for the president. But we're no closer to a solution, and they're not even pretending really to want a solution. KING: And I suspect that after the election, we won't be any closer. This issue has been the quicksand of American politics for a very long time now. Up next for us. A CNN exclusive, the Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows complies with the Justice Department subpoena in the investigation of the former president's effort to stay in power.



KING: For important, CNN exclusive now. Sources telling us the former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has complied with a subpoena from the Justice Department's investigation into January 6. This makes him the highest-ranking Trump official, known to have responded to a subpoena in that federal investigation without touches nearly every aspect of the former president's effort to overturn his 2020 election loss. Meadows of course, is a critical witness to key moments from election day to January 6, all the way through the Biden inauguration.

With me now to discuss, our CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez, and Elliot Williams, our senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor. Evan, you're part of the reporting team on this exclusive. Obviously, he was the White House chief of staff that in and of itself tells you, he's the gatekeeper to the president. He has eyes on just about everything in the West Wing. The significance of this.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right. He is a front seat witness to everything. And obviously, the FBI would want everything that he has in his possession. What for now, what he has turned over is everything he provided to the January 6 committee. And there was a limitation to that, in his view, there are things that are privileged. And so, when it comes to a congressional subpoena, he felt, and in the end, he won that, right? Where the Justice Department did not enforce the January 6 committee's subpoena. He was not prosecuted for defying that.


But now we're talking about a criminal subpoena. And so, that changes the dynamic a little bit. We expect that this is not going to be the end of this that the Justice Department is going to come back and they're going to want to get to some of the items that he has not turned over to the committee. And they might have to litigate this.

They're doing this also, by the way with former aides to the vice president, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, and of course, Pat Cipollone and Pat Philbin, who are White House counsels. They also are going to be - they want to try to get to some of the things that they have not been able to answer because of this claim of executive privilege.

KING: And Elliot, I know you're of the view that they do have some claim. The question is, do they try to overclaim or where's the sweet spot, if you will, because these are sensitive jobs inside the White House. You have direct conversations with the president that are traditionally covered by some privilege. But help it help deal with that issue, and also, the significance of Meadows.

This is a text right after the election from the former Energy Secretary, Rick Perry. We have the data driven program that can clearly show where the fraud was committed. This is the silver bullet. That's bogus. There was no such fraud committed, but that that's right after the election. All the way up to January 6, where he's getting all this incoming, you know, asking him to do something.

Get the president's attention from his predecessors, Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, Mark, he needs to stop this. Congressman Tim, his president needs to stop this asap. Reince Priebus, another former White House chief of staff, tell them to go home. Meadows had eyes on just about everything. So again, the significance and where does he have privilege and where does he not?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: So, going back to Richard Nixon, in the 1970s, courts haven't looked very favorably on executive branch employees, claiming privilege with respect to criminal investigation. So, Meadows, and anyone else has an uphill battle here. Now look, John, exactly, as you said, these were senior White House employees engaging with the president on possibly White House visits, and they might have some claim to executive privilege.

But look, the kinds of text messages you identified there, that's not White House business. And at the end of the day, there were crimes committed, it doesn't, you know, it remains to be seen by whom and who you can charge with them. And that's - those likely aren't going to be the statements that are going to be protected. So, look, they may bring this to court, as we know from reporting a couple of months ago. The Justice Department is looking into and preparing to litigate this issue and they very well might.

KING: And what do we learn? Elliot, to you first, and then to Evan. What do we learn related to this as Jeffrey Clark, his attorney is filing a document with the D.C. bar that tells us more about, again, this federal investigation into the efforts to block the electoral college being certified to keep power even though you lost the election?

The document from Jeffrey Clark's lawyers, say the DOJ is investigating felony violations of false statements, conspiracy and obstruction. What do we learn from that to help us understand more at a time we know of more and more subpoenas going out to top Trump aides of exactly where the Justice Department is looking?

WILLIAMS: Yes. Look, there's a broader set of crimes than just seditious conspiracy or trespassing on Congress. These are crimes that are related to someone's conduct in a criminal investigation, obstruction of justice, which means that he was aware that there or someone was aware that there was investigate and investigation and they tried to block it, or false statements, which is a very commonly charged crime, where it's not perjury, per se, where you're giving testimony in court.

But if you give a false statement or sign a false declaration, and give it to a federal officer, that's a crime too. So, it's a broader set of crimes that he certainly faces exposure for, and other people around him certainly might as well.

PEREZ: All indications are, John, that this is - their close to this, at the end of this investigation. They are closer to bringing charges here, if that's what they end up doing, or at least making a decision on that.

KING: Or at least make a decision. Is Meadows a potential grand jury witness in addition to the document.

PEREZ: Oh, yes. Absolutely, absolutely. I think that's he's somebody that they would absolutely want to bring into the grand jury. Evan Perez, Elliot Williams, gentlemen, thank you both. Up next for us. The fight to control the Senate, not too long ago, Republicans were confident of seizing the majority. But the success of MAGA candidates in the primaries, well it's changing the map.



KING: Primary season officially ended this week. We are now on to the general election. And when Democrats look at this map, the battle for control of the Senate. They feel a lot more confident now than they did back when the primaries began in March. Back then, Republicans looked at this map and they said, maybe we can knock out the Democratic incumbent in New Hampshire. They thought for sure they could knock out the Democratic incumbent in Georgia in a non- presidential year.

Arizona was another place where they said non-presidential year, we can beat the Democratic incumbent there and Latinos shifted a bit to Trump in 2020. They thought we could knock out the Democratic incumbent in Nevada as well. That's how Republicans voted months ago.

Now though, Democrats are more confident. The Republicans admittedly nervous because this map has changed. For starters, a number of MAGA. Trumpy like candidates have emerged. So, Republicans are worried for example, about holding a seat they now have in Pennsylvania. The incumbent has retired. Democrat John Fetterman at the moment, a favorite over Dr. Mehmet Oz.

So, imagine if just that happened right there. Democrats would actually gain a seat there. The question is, can Republicans get it back? Well, again, they thought they could win in Nevada. Cortez Masto at the moment, narrowly favored in that race. A viewed as a toss-up by many, but you view that one, bring it there.

They thought in Arizona, Republicans thought they would have a candidate there, that Trump endorsed candidate Blake Masters. And election denier winning their, Democrats are more confident, again a tough race they can hold that. Now, you come over to Georgia. This is a state Republicans were most confident about the beginning of the year.