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Inside Politics

Historic Launch For SpaceX Rocket To ISS; Walker Denies Abortion Accusation Again: "It's A Lie"; Herschel Walker Dodges Questions About Son's Criticism; Politico: Walker Campaign Knew Of Abortion Allegation Months Ago; Residents, Business Owners Allowed To Access Sanibel Island Today; Secret Recording Of Oath Keepers: "Going To Be A Fight"; Secret Recording Of Oath Keepers On Weapons To Bring To D.C. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 05, 2022 - 12:00   ET



MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, John. This is Anna Kikina. And she is the first cosmonaut as you point out to fly on an American SpaceX rocket in 20 years, and she is also the first to fly since the tensions were introduced as a result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

And then you've got the commander of this flight, which is Nicole Mann. She is the first female commander of a SpaceX flight. She's also the first Native American woman to fly in space. On top of that she's a colonel in the Marine Corps. She's the test pilot. She is also a mechanical engineer and she's a mother. So, she has many, many attributes that make her the perfect commander for this particular mission.

And they get set for what will be a liftoff right about 40 seconds from now. The capsule, which is the Dragon capsule on top of the Falcon 9 rocket system. And we'll just listen in.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: And a reminder as we listen in here. This is the use of NASA now partly commercial space partners to carry astronauts and in this case, the cosmonaut as well to the actual space station. Let's watch.

(Video Playing)

KING: Martin Savidge, as we watched this takeoff, it's majestic. I could watch this over and over again forever a bit of a space geek. Just walk through again, the importance of this mission. And again, the commander, a Native American woman, that's a pretty remarkable historic day. A cosmonaut first time on a SpaceX flight and the first time on American aircraft in 20 years, an important mission and just remarkable pictures here.

SAVIDGE: It is because, of course, the commitment of the United States and Russia despite the tensions that have been introduced into the space program, they need each other. And as a result, the reintegration now of having Russians flying Americans (crosstalk) this an important message. And then, of course, for Nicole Mann, you know, one of the interesting things, John, astronauts are allowed to bring personal items with them. And commander Mann was asked what was it that she was bringing, and she said, among personal items, she'll have a gift that her mother gave her years ago. It's a dream catcher. And of course, there is the immediate connection to the culture she represents, but also to the fact that dreams come true. And we're looking at proof of that right now.

KING: As a remarkable store. Martin Savidge, grateful for that insightful reporting a dream catcher flying with this historic commander into space today as we watch the pictures there. The dragon crew rocket taking off. We will keep our eyes on this mission as it plays out. Martin Savidge, thanks for getting us started here.

Now, let's shift back to where we normally are at noon to Inside Politics. And today national Republicans standing behind their man, their candidate in Georgia, choosing to overlook this. A shock story that claims Herschel Walker paid for a woman's abortion back in 2009.

Republicans want you to see this as a late campaign democratic smear. But many Georgia Republicans according to Politico also knew about these accusations. Months ago, and chose to ignore them, believing it would pass by. The campaign could get to election day without it becoming public.

This morning, more evidence. Walker strategy is to deny, deny, deny. The Republican nominee for Senate in Georgia back on Fox again calling The Daily Beast report, a lie. Now casting doubt that it's his signature on a get-well card the woman shared with The Daily Beast reporter who broke this story.



HERSCHEL WALKER, (R) GEORGIA SENATE NOMINEE: That's what I said, I was saying that looks like my secrets. First of all, never just put an age on anything, I never have. And I said, you know, I'm going to things I've signed, but I've never signed anything, but just the age. And I said, that's why I said whoever you're doing this, as you know it's not true, it's a lie.



KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, Margaret Talev of Axios, Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Cleve Wootson of The Washington Post. The candidate says it's a lie. The question is in a very competitive, ALEC senator election that could determine the balance of power in the United States Senate inside five weeks now to election day. What do we know about the impact?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Well, we know very little, you know, we've looked a lot about at the political impact how fellow Republicans, how the groups that have the money in the manpower on the ground are responding. And we know most of them are coalescing around Herschel Walker, but we know less about how regular voters in Georgia.

You know, this is still fresh, you know, it's feels like it's consumed a lot of the political world. But, you know, it's going to take some days for this to sink in with regular people and for them to make up their minds.

I think the question in Georgia is, particularly with white women in suburban Atlanta, ex urban Atlanta. Those are the voters we know that can sway a race in a state like Georgia, and that are the swing voters in a state like Georgia. Does this turn them off? And I think it'll take a few days for us to really be able to gauge that.

KING: It's a fascinating question, because you look at Georgia on this map of key Senate races, and it is blue at the moment. The Republicans have a strategy to turn it back red, used to be a reliably a red state, Democrats take it in 2020. The question is, what is the impact? So, you make a key point, you look in the Atlanta suburbs, number one, that's how Joe Biden won Georgia, big turnout in the suburbs there.

We also look though, in some of those rural conservative areas, do evangelical voters say, I can't do this, I just can't do it. And maybe they vote Republican for governor, and maybe they don't vote Democrat, but maybe they just pass over the Senate race. If that happens, and even a, you know, a modest but significant enough number that can make a difference in a close race.

CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I spent some time, you know, covering Walker in Georgia, just a couple of weeks ago, out in those very suburbs. And what you have a lot of people saying is, you know, two years ago, they rejected Donald Trump over drama, over the splenetic nature of his tweets and his words and all that stuff.

These are folks that are just kind of tired of drama. You know, so if you take out the people on the extreme left, you take out the people on the extreme right, those people in the middle who just want, you know, inflation to go down and don't want the nation to go too far to the left, like, do they want all the drama that Herschel Walker is bringing? That's a really big question yes to answer.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGER EDITOR, AXIOS: I think without a doubt, if the kind of movement conservatives in the institutions were to pull their support away, Susan B. Anthony List, PAC's affiliated with Mitch McConnell or Rick Scott, all the leadership stuff, right? If they were to pull up stakes and say, never mind, we're out, it would sink the race. They have obviously made the decision to stay in.

But the race is close enough, according to polling that the question is, will that matter. And my colleague, Emma Hurt, who is based in Atlanta was on the ground for the last couple of days at rallies and events, listening to conservative radio, watching commentators talking to folks. What she is hearing at the less national level, at the more institutional local level, are voters and kind of leaders saying, we still want a reason to vote for Herschel Walker. But we need a better explanation than the one we're getting. We need more waivable deniers than what we're getting not ones that are like, I don't usually sign my initials stuff.

You know, but just know and it is hard to give a know when your son is saying, you can't be believed when the signatures match so closely, and when there have been so many other instances where something was sort of denied or put in a corner and then was proved to be true anyhow. And I think that is the collision of all these conflicts.

KING: And that's what makes it very complicated. Some voters might just decide, OK, Herschel Walker is very pro-life in the campaign. He says he supports a ban on abortion, no exceptions. There are some voters who might say, well, this is hypocrisy. There are others who might just say, I don't know about the specifics here.

But to the point about the son, 23-year-old conservative influencer on social media, saying he can't take this anymore. You say to speak up because he says his father is a liar. Herschel Walker also asked about that today.


BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He saw that and says, you're lying, Herschel. What do you say about your son? Is he telling the truth?

WALKER: Well, I love my son unconditionally, and that's the way I've always been.

KILMEADE: Do you know why he's saying this?

WALKER: Well, the damage he's doing, he's letting people know that the left will do whatever they can to win his seat.

KILMEADE: He said, I stayed silent as the atrocities committed against my mom was downplayed. I stayed silent when he came out that my father Herschel Walker had all these random kids across the country, none of whom he raised. What do you say to that?


WALKER: Well, what I say to that is just what I said, I love him unconditionally.


KING: He does not respond in any way to the substance of what his son says, which is quite horrific about father abandoning his family. And he says that this is his sub helping the left here. There is zero evidence that this is by the left. We'll continue to track the reporting, but there's zero evidence of that. And to reinforce that, again, political reporting and a number of conservative activists in Georgia saying that this has been talked about four months, right, talked about for months. This is a Republican strategist and your piece in The Washington Post.

We could have had Gary Black and other potential Republican candidate. I warned everyone. I knew this was a dumb idea. So, the idea that this is a late campaign smear does not match up with the conversations that have been going on in Georgia for months.

MITCHELL: No, it doesn't match up. And you know, also for him to say this is the left. Again, his son is a conservative activist. His son recently moved to Florida so he can further help Ron DeSantis, you know, win reelection, like his son has no, you know, loyalties to the left. And quite frankly, no reason to attack his father, other than what it looks like is really believing what he's saying.

And again, this is dirt threw out the primary in Georgia. Gary Black and those who said, we could support someone who can be conservative, but who won't have the baggage of Herschel Walker. Unfortunately, the money and the powers that be kind of and Donald Trump, quite frankly, coalesced around Herschel Walker, and he had no competition despite all the concerns people have had since day one, essentially.

KING: So, here is something to keep an eye on. I just want to put on the screen. These are the Republican commitments. Margaret made the point Republicans right now standing by Walker, including with their money. The Senate leadership fund, which is a pack affiliated with Mitch McConnell has committed between October and election day $22 million. You see there in spending.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has committed, but you know, said they were committed to buying time through election day five for 1 million. Let's check back in a week. Let's check back in two weeks and check back in three weeks. That's the way you will know if they decide to stay, and they will do that based on what they see in the data (crosstalk).

TALEV: And we know what the stakes are, the stakes are so high. It is control. It is which party controls the Senate, and without Georgia all bets are on Pennsylvania and that's a big bet to make.

KING: And again, to the point about the specifics of what he said, he's now invited handwriting analysts' experts to come in and look at all the things he's autographed in that card. You can get in trouble, so if your denial, denial and stick with it, we'll see how it plays out.

For us up next. As the president makes his way to hurricane ravaged southwest Florida, CNN getting a firsthand look, a first look. Residents beginning now allowed to tour their homes and businesses on devastated Sanibel Island.



KING: Our first chance today to go back home and hope their houses are still there. That's the situation we're watching play out right now on Sanibel Island in southwest Florida. Some Floridians now returning for the first time since Hurricane Ian devastated their state and their communities. Leyla Santiago just got there and his live for us. Leyla, walk us through what you're seeing.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we arrived this morning because residents were allowed to come in for the first time since Hurricane Ian if they had passes to get in. So, we came with one of the business owners here as well to see for the first time. And I got to tell you, as soon as we got off the boat, you could see power lines down, roads filled with debris.

And of course, as soon as we were able to talk to any of the residents that made it onto those first boats, like we did on to Sanibel Island, their stories are just heartbreaking. I mean, I spoke to one family who came in with hard hats because they didn't know if they were going to be able to have a sound structure to go in search to see what they could salvage from their home.

The woman came in with a list of things she was looking for. The home where I am right now, just minutes ago, John, the property manager went inside. And I heard him as he called the homeowner to say, there was nothing salvageable here. And I could hear the pain in the homeowners' voice when he just said, oh, wow.

So today on Sanibel Island, that is what you're going to see and hear property owners for the first time coming in to find out what's left after Hurricane Ian just demolished this island. Just yesterday, we were on the causeway, the bridge that collapsed. So, access is an issue here. And that's why today for these residents, these contractors, we've even spoken to contractors who have come in getting eyes on the ground here, seeing how they can rebuild is such a big deal.

I will say, we spoke to one couple who was surprised as soon as I asked, how were you doing? They started crying. And when I asked why the tears because certainly that is understandable for these families. They actually said that it was kind of tears of relief because they thought it was going to be worse. But they had survivor's guilt because all of their neighbors had had their homes destroyed.

So, many folks waiting for what Governor DeSantis announced which is a temporary fix to that causeway, that bridge, so that they can have access to supplies and helping people get in and out. In the meantime, it is just a massive assessment of damage for residents getting their first time since Ian onto this island, John?

KING: Leyla Santiago, live report for us from Sanibel Island. Sad reporting, but critical reporting, as you watch these families had to figure out what's next. Leyla, thank you. And we should note, the president United States on his way right now to Florida. We'll be back to the story a bit later in the program. Now to a big story here in Washington. Oath Keepers militia members on trial for their alleged roles in the January 6 attack, are now hearing their own words played in court as prosecution evidence. The government has a recording of a November 2020 planning meeting. This hear, the voice of the Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.



STEWART RHODES, OATH KEEPERS LEADER / NOV 2020 (voiceover): You got to be willing to go to DC and street fight Antifa. And you got to get them and street fight. Let the fight come. Let Antifa go, if they go kinetic on us, then we'll go kinetic back on them. I'm willing to sacrifice myself for that. We're not getting out of this without a fight. There is going to be a fight.


KING: Rhodes and four of his top lieutenants are on trial for seditious conspiracy. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Sara Sidner, and the former federal prosecutor Shan Wu. Important context, the FBI witness who was on the stand as they played his testimony acknowledged, this was not a conversation about January 6, but the prosecution believes it's important because it gets to the mindset, is that the idea?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And what the prosecution has been trying to prove, is that the planning to try and stop the peaceful transfer of power from President Trump to president elect at the time Joe Biden was started around November. And so, they're playing these because what you hear in this, is the idea that violence might be used. The idea that they are willing to be violent to stop this from happening. And that's just a small portion.

I will tell you, what you just played the part about Antifa, that goes to the defense. They're saying, well, they, you know, they're talking about Antifa. They're not talking about the peaceful transfer of power. They're there talking about something else. But as you go on to listen to what is being said on this call. There is a lot of information, and you hear Rhodes time, and again, talking about stopping what he sees as a fraudulent election, stopping that transfer of power.

KING: How risky is it, though, to Sara's point, this conversation is about another day. They're trying to build the case. This is who these people are? And then they have other evidence that gets them to the Capitol on January 6. But is it risky? To give a defense attorney the idea to say the prosecution wants you to focus on that, that's not about January 6, they themselves admit.

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I'm sure you weren't a defense counsel, and apparently, it can be risky. And when you give a lot of specifics, it gives the defense a hook to work with. The problem here for this defense is just the overwhelming volume of the evidence. The jury is going to look at this big picture. And there's a huge weight of evidence against those folks. And even though they may have distinct defenses, each of them. Nonetheless, the overwhelming amount of it is going to show you we're talking about this, you're planning something.

KING: Let's listen to a little bit more of the Stewart Rhodes' audio played in court because there are a number of fascinating wrinkles here. We'll get to on the other side.


RHODES (voiceover): I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in. but that QRF will be awaiting the president's order, OK? That's our official position. And the reason why we have to do it that way is because that gives you legal cover. Don't make it easy for them to pop you with a conspiracy charge.


KING: To the attorney first there, it's very clear. They understand that what they're doing is if not in the gray area crossed the line of the law, and Stewart Rhodes essentially trying to keep them on the right side if they're right?

WU: Yes. I mean, actually, those are good uses for the defense because it sounds like, they're trying to adhere to some standard and then could argue maybe they got it wrong. Or in 2020 hindsight, they did the wrong thing. But they weren't there to start something, they were there waiting for Trump to invoke the insurrection act or waiting for something to happen. So that clearly is what they're trying to they're going to use that for their defense.

KING: Another piece of it as you jump in Sara, as Kelly Meggs, and other one of the defendants, a key lieutenant of Stewart Rhodes, essentially laying out, what's legal and what's not legal in terms of carrying a weapon.


KELLY MEGGS, OATH KEEPERS MEMBER / NOV 2020: Pepper spray is legal. Tasers are legal. And stun guns are legal. And it doesn't hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it.


KING: As mindset testimony, that's pretty damning, doesn't hurt to have a lead pipe with a flag on it.

SIDNER: Right. And some people did have long sticks with flags on them that they used as weapons against the police and others trying to push into the Senate. Kelly Meggs has said a lot of things that we heard, one of which is as this is happening, as the election is starting and you're seeing the returns come in. And his wife and him are having this conversation. His wife, by the way is also charged just not in this particular trial.

But there's this exchange where he says, you know what, I'm going to go on a killing spree, Pelosi first. And his wife says shut the F up, you're getting me very stressed. So, you hear a lot of this. And the jury hears a lot of this, and they are hearing this violent ideation over and over and over again from him and others. And it really does speak to mindset.

However, the defense in this case is saying, hold on a second, you can say a lot of things. There's a First Amendment right to say something, you know, outrageous or bombastic. It doesn't mean they carried that out, they made that true.

KING: Fascinating in the early stages of this trial. The prosecution's challenge is to connect the dots before, so the defense can't drive through that opening, if you will. Thank you both for coming up. Next for us. Republicans claiming momentum now in two key Senate races. In both Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, crime is the issue moving the numbers.



KING: More now and what you saw if you are with us at the top of the hour, right there that momentous rocket launcher, spacecraft carrying a history making international crew took off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. CNN's Martin Savidge is back with us. Martin, we watched the early parts of the launch. The mission to success so far. Tell our viewers why this is so, A, important, and B, historic.

SAVIDGE: Well, there are 30 minutes into this flight. And you're right, there are four astronauts that are on board. Two are international and two are American.