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Book: Top Official Wondered What Putin Had On Trump; Source: House Dems Convince Key Progressive To Vote "Present"; Dem Strategist: "Never Seen Anything Like" Surge In Women Voters. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 22, 2022 - 12:30   ET



SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Going back to the beginning of Trump's career in politics, it was a racist conspiracy theory about Barack Obama that, you know, gave him a national platform and that he used to advance his candidacy for president. So it's very consistent with Trump. And I think the story that we're trying to tell in the divider is really a story of Trump, gravitating to the extremes again and again and again. The four years it was about him hiring and shedding a series of staff and chiefs of staff and national security advisors, always looking for those who would not only enable him but to facilitate the most extreme possible version. And so now, nearly two years after he left office, right, we have that even more, it's not Donald Trump as he was in 2017. It's the new even more out there, Donald Trump that we have.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's important to note as well, that even if the former president isn't going to reveal his intention, when he shares things like this, even if there is a lack of clarity on what that symbol, what the intention of people at that rally was when they put that symbol up. When I talked to law enforcement officials and Homeland Security officials, they say the ramifications are very clear. I mean, this is what causes concern amongst Homeland Security officials when they talk about political rhetoric fueling into and motivating those that seek to also potentially commit violence as well. So this is causing concern among national security officials.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And he has been told that many times that you may not mean it, but that is how it is taken.


KING: And so therefore, you shouldn't do it. So let's walk through some of these excerpts in the context of that. One, the general details of this report at the time, but it's just fascinating, Dan Coats, the former Indiana Senator comes into the Trump administration. Trump has the meeting in Helsinki, where he essentially says he agrees with Putin about election interference. Coats would tell others that Helsinki had been such an extraordinary event, it had forever changed his view of the allegations about Trump and Russia. I could never come to a conclusion. It raised the question in everybody's mind, what does Putin have on him that causes him to do something that undermines his credibility?

Dan Coats mainstream conservative, Dan Quayle is former chief of staff out of Indiana again, somebody who comes into Trump's orbit trying to do the right thing, serve his country who says, whoa.

PETER BAKER, CO-AUTHOR, "THE DIVIDER: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE, 2017- 2021": Yes, and think about the implications of what he's grappling with here. Is the President of the United States compromised in some way by the Russians? Now there's no evidence, in the sense of Robert Mueller didn't come up with any kind of evidence to say what that might be. But it says something that that intelligence chief of the country appointed by President Trump wonders himself and doesn't feel like he knows the answer. It feels like this is an open question to him, and he has access to all information in the world that we don't.

So I think that's a route of telling moment. But the interesting thing about Putin kind of add one more, sorry, it may be kind of a one way street. We always wonder, why was Trump so admiring and affectionate toward Putin, but there's this great story we tell him that we learned from some of his aides. We've learned all this after he left office just so people understand that. When he met with Putin at the Osaka Summit, he's sitting there doing this Trump braggadocio thing, you know, the polls love me so much, they're going to name a Ford after me, the Israelis love me so much they're going to name a settlement after me, and Putin has his number.

He understands the narcissism here. He looks at Trump and says, well, maybe they should just name all of Israel after you, Donald. And it's just like a real moment where you get the sense that this is a one way street here.

KING: A one way street. And so the point we've played Trump earlier in the program, saying if I think a document is declassified, therefore it's declassified outside of the norms, you could trace it back again, a key moment in the book here spring of 2018, Trump instructed Don McGahn, his White House Counsel, to direct Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, to prosecute Clinton and Comey. And if the attorney general refused, said he would do it himself as president, McGahn had to explain that the President had no such power. Then he said about compiling an extraordinary memo explaining to Trump how inappropriate it was to use the criminal justice system as a political weapon as if the United States was a dictatorship.

GLASSER: The through line here, John, is so clear on Donald Trump from the day he entered into office was about not only abusing institutions, but really turning them into instruments of his personal power. He did not recognize the boundaries that were set up, the constraints and checks inside our system, in many cases, as that example suggests, he did not really even understand the checks.

In fact, when he first came into office in 2017, he literally said to one of his aides, that he didn't know that it was Congress that had the power to declare war under the Constitution. You know, he knew nothing about most things is what a very senior official in that White House said to us. But on this specific point about the justice system, again, you see the through line that's early on in the presidency in 2020 right before the election, he's openly saying to Bill Barr, where are all the arrests? He want to arrest Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, he was all about politicizing these institutions.

KING: Cease voting machines, get the Pentagon involved, and more, Susan and Peter, thank you, Zolan as always as well.


Today, the House is set to vote -- set to vote on a critical policing and public safety bill but the numbers shaky, Democrats trying to run up the votes, that's next.


KING: Today there's a fascinating back and forth underway right now on Capitol Hill. House Democrats now plan to move forward with votes on some police funding bills that after initial worries this morning that they would not have enough votes to pass them. Several progressives had publicly threatened to not support the measure despite a private warning to Democrats about a midterm election weakness on the crime issue. Let's get up to Capitol Hill in CNN's Manu Raju. Manu, tell us more.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is all about midterm politics because a number of these Democrats who are in the swing districts have saw what happened in 2020 when Republicans went after them on the issue of defunding the police, attacking them, even though they didn't support defunding the police they got hit by it. A lot of them didn't respond to it.


And as a result, Democrats blame that in part for costing them seats in last election cycle. And this time, they've wanted to change their strategy, go on the offensive, and also legislatively, do that as well. And for months, these moderate members primarily from these swing districts have been pushing for the leadership to put together some package of police funding bills in order to get this through, in order to combat some of those attacks. But they voiced resistance from some of the progressive members of the caucus who want some more accountability measures on police in the aftermath of episodes of police violence, and they have struggled for months and months to try to put something together.

Finally, yesterday, it appeared that they had a deal. But then this morning, things did not look so well. The leadership put off the votes for several hours because of opposition from several progressive Democrats that are only a few afford to lose a handful of votes, more than a handful said that they would vote against it. And I'm told that they have convinced at least one progressive Democrat Ayanna Pressley to vote present on this issue. So they could have enough votes to barely get this through sometime this afternoon.

So John, even though this is unlikely to become law, this shows how the Democrats view the way the midterm elections are taking shape and ammunition they want to take to the campaign trail as we head into the final weeks here.

KING: Remarkable. Manu Raju live for us on the Hill. Manu appreciate you walking us through that drama. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our reporting. So Manu just made the key point, it's not going to become law, at least not before the elections. But the Democrats, some Democrats want to go home to run an ad, right saying I just voted to increase police funding.

BAKER: And then the reason this is interesting is that at the White House, they view this as a sign of their increasing momentum for the fall, their point of view would be that if they didn't think they're going to win the House, if they thought they didn't have a chance, they going to get blown out, which is everybody thought a couple months ago, they would they wouldn't bother to do this, they would keep fighting progresses versus moderates. And they would ever come together.

The fact that the progressives were wanting to work with the miners (ph) to find something that they can vote on, meant that they are increasingly confident they actually could keep the House and therefore they want to be able to set themselves up to do that.

KING: Forgive those vulnerable Democrats something to go home and talk about it. If you look at, just look at the ad spending in the last 30 days, 21.3 million on 82 unique ads among Republicans inflation has gone down. Republicans are spending more money on crime now than they are inflation.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Yes, no, this has been an issue that has caused anxiety throughout the White House, really throughout the Biden presidency. And they've taken steps to try and give members of Congress, Democrats something to go home with. And it's not just this today. I mean, when the President last spring comes out and encourages localities as well to take COVID stimulus funds and invest it in police departments to keep cops on the payroll.

The President has made that speech multiple times when he has come out at the State of the Union address and made a point as well to say I'm a funder of police. The answer is to fund the police, not to defund the police. This issue of rising crime and Republican attacks over it really have been a point of concern in the highest ranks at the White House.

KING: And yet there are some very smart Democrats who think look, Republicans have an advantage on this issue. It's been a steady and consistent advantage. Let's not go over there. Let's not play on their terrain. If we to do or talk about this, we're just playing on their train. Stan Greenberg, veteran Democratic pollster said this in a memo yesterday after conducting a big battleground poll, two-thirds believing the country on the wrong track and a big majority disapproving Biden, it's easy for Democrats to get it wrong. Engaging on the crime issue, for example, hurts Democrats. We get a reduced vote margin after we joined the debate on funding and defunding the police. That's a fascinating point. He says, you know, that you might be vulnerable on this, but talking about it's not going to solve it. GLASSER: Well, you know, I think that Greenberg has a point, what Democrats think is a winning issue for them is Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, MAGA, Trump, right? You know, this is what they want to talk about. They have had a remarkable sort of turnaround right now. They're leading in most of the generic polls, Biden to proving still underwater, but even he has seen a modest restoration in that. But, you know, you know, the battleground map better than I do, John. And the bottom line is that Republicans need to win a much smaller percentage of those battleground House seats in order to take control of the House. The math is still on the Republican side when it comes to the House.

And so talking about issues like crime and immigration, you know, might not be a good idea in the sense that it puts the conversation on territory that Republicans want it to be on.

KING: We'll see the votes today. And we'll see what changes again inside 50 days now. It's fascinating to the point the map district by district you get a different answer.


Up next for us, that June Supreme Court decision erasing Roe v. Wade. Well, we know it stirred a spike in women registering to vote. Will that change the November midterms or other issues now like crime, more pressing?


KING: You think back a bit we saw immediate proof the June Supreme Court decision erasing the federal guarantee of abortion rights was triggering a dramatic political reaction. Remember, Kansas voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have opened the door to more abortion restrictions there. And then there was a spike in voter registration in Kansas but also elsewhere among women and in the suburbs.

Now though, there is some evidence other issues may be more pressing with voter. Here's one example, online searches related to crime and immigration are raising, searches for abortion are following -- falling, excuse me, that's according to an Axios analysis of Google Trends.


Here to share his insights, someone who studies this quite closely, the CEO of the Democratic data firm, TargetSmart, Tom Bonier. To that question, I want to go through some of your findings in a moment. But July and August, you saw the Kansas referendum. You saw this voter registration spike. The important thing is to standing that into September and October, do you see that that continued registration, or immigration, crime taking more precedent?

TOM BONIER, TARGETSMART CEO: So that's the key question for this election cycle. Given this unprecedented spike in women registering to vote, does that turn into voter turnout, there are some early signs we're looking at, believe it or not, people are requesting ballots in some key states like Georgia, Pennsylvania, these are limited data sets. But at this point, we are seeing women requesting mail ballots at a higher rate than they did at this point in 2020. So that's an early sign that it could be happening, but still a lot of time left to answer that question.

KING: So walk us through as, you know, even some of your Democratic friends think that you're a tad overly optimistic about this. They do. So here's -- this is what your analysis of just Pennsylvania, new registrants after the Dobbs decision, a lot of -- 35 percent of them are in the urban area, 41 percent in the suburban area, 24 percent in the rural. If you just look at voting patterns, if you're a Democrat, you look at that you say good, more -- that's a preponderance of our voters. Is that what's happening?

BONIER: That's right, when you look at where they're coming from, but not just that who they are Pennsylvania is a state where you can register by party. We're looking at the gender the new registrants since Dobbs are overwhelmingly women, but not just women, more than half of those women who have registered to vote since the Dobbs decision are under the age of 25. They're very young. They're engaging young voters, which is a problem for Republicans.

Young voters generally don't vote in these midterm elections, but they're very engaged. The women who are registering to vote since Dobbs are four to one Democrat. Democrat, Republican looking at the party registration. So that's significant as well.

KING: Four to one Democrats. I just want to put up this is Kansas, this is Kansas and you see the timeline, the Dobbs decision leaked, remember, it leaked and you see spiking a little bit then the Dobbs decision released. You see that dramatic increase in voter registration. Again, if you're a Democrat, or if you're abortion rights supporters, that is heartwarming. However, the back to the question, do you see evidence that not just requesting ballots, but that is registration still rising or has that peaked?

BONIER: The voter registration went to incredibly high numbers in Kansas between Dobbs in that Kansas vote, women were 70 percent of the registration, that was a peak that you're not going to see sustained but what you are seeing, perhaps more importantly, is that the numbers are ahead of where they were at this point in 2018 or 2020. So yes, the numbers have likely hit a spike at that immediate period after Dobbs, but they're still sustaining a level that's much higher than you would expect to see in a midterm election.

KING: And so you talk about this, theoretically, then you talk about it. OK, let's look at a map in the state of Arizona, in the state of North Carolina, State of Ohio, State of Pennsylvania, State of Wisconsin, they all have in common Senate races, pretty important Senate races, many of them have governors and Secretary of States races as well, we have seen a women registration advantage, more women registering than anybody else. We've all seen a Democratic registration advantage, again, that data there that we're talking about in those cases, is a couple months old, or a couple of several weeks old anyway. The question is when do you know, when do you see as you're looking every day and every week at the new registration data, how do you know if this is enough to change, essentially change the outcome of those races?

BONIER: We won't know in reality until after the votes are cast, which I think is a disappointing answer for a lot of people who are following this so closely. But we'll have better clues and cues as we get closer. Again, the early vote data can be helpful. It's not going to tell us everything because in the end, it's an algebraic equation where we don't know the other side who's going to vote on Election Day. We saw in 2000, where Democrats got big vote in the early vote. And then Republicans came out and even bigger numbers on Election Day in some of these key House races, especially where they pick them up. So we're going to get a better sense of if this engagement is continuing. But we won't know for sure until Election Day.

KING: And to that point, do you see engagement on the other side that Dobbs happens, they see the reaction among Democrats think we need to work on registration as well. Do you see a counteroffer, if you will?

BONIER: Well, this this was an election year that was going to be in Republicans favor anyhow, as a midterm election as the party out of power. Historically, on average, for the last 50 years, the party of power has won the popular vote for the House by about five points. Republicans aren't there, but they have a lot of structural advantages at this point. And so this wave can perhaps slow that down. It could counter it, it could leave Democrats back in control of the House, holding on to the House. But that's a tough, that's a tough job.

KING: As you learn more, keep in touch. We'll continue the conversation as we go. Tom, thanks so much.


Up next for us, after months of public attention, the wife of the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas agrees to sit down and answer questions from the January 6th Committee.


KING: Topping our political radar today, Ginni Thomas will sit with the January 6th Committee for an interview in the coming weeks. She of course is the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The committee wants to ask her about her role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Some brand new CNN reporting on Earth's controversial to be polite remarks from a Republican congressional nominee in Michigan backed by Donald Trump, Michigan's John Gibbs once praised an effort to repeal women's right to vote, in part because women were less likely to think quote, logically, he made those helmets in the early 2000s. A spokesperson for his campaign now tells CNN Gibbs believes women should have the right to vote.


A new CNN poll of polls show Democrats with a narrow edge over Republicans on the question of who do you plan to vote for, for Congress this year? Democrats 46 percent, Republicans 43. Plus President Biden's job approval rating now at 43 percent. That is low but improving. He hit a low of 36 percent in August.

Thanks for your time tonight inside politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.