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Fetterman Using Closed Captioning To Help Auditory Processing; McConnell Talks Trump, High-Stakes Midterms In New Interview. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 12, 2022 - 12:30   ET



ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: A couple of interesting points there. One repeating again, that Putin has committed war crimes. Two, also saying that there is openness to meeting with him, but on an issue that directly involves the U.S. and Russia, that being the detainment of Brittney Griner. And then he went on to say, as well, that, look, our focus right now is when it comes to the invasion of Ukraine involving Ukraine in any talks with Putin or anyone else. He emphasized that as well.

But the Brittney Griner issue that is interesting as obviously the White House has been facing pressure as well at times to message more about this, to talk more about this as well, and to take some action on her release.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: On her release and Paul Whelan as well as, Paul Whelan to get to speak to his family yesterday from the Russian prison. One other issue, Saudi Arabia, the President went to Saudi Arabia. He was hoping Saudi Arabia would keep oil flowing. He also says that wasn't the main reason for the trip. But Saudi Arabia and Russia have now agreed to cut production that impacts you and the price of gas. The President says this.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think it's fine for the U.S. to rethink its relationship with Saudi Arabia?

BIDEN: Yes. And by the way, let's get straight why I went, I didn't go to went about oil. I went about making sure that we made sure that we weren't going to walk away from the Middle East. There's going to be some consequences for what they've done with Russia.


KING: Defensive about the trip there is classic Joe Biden. The consequences part is a fascinating question. Cut off arms sales. Do what else?

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Right. Well, I mean, that's the challenge, right? Because any one of those actions that we take has a lot of ripple effects across the region and there are a lot of other interests that are kind of pushing and pulling our attention in different directions, which is why this is such a thorny problem.

But I mean, to go back to, I mean, I thought it was very interesting that he went straight to defending himself on the Saudi trip, because I don't think certainly people on the Hill do not think that the only reason that he did not go to Saudi Arabia because of oil, right? I mean, they think that was a big part of the trip. And they see it frankly as a lost opportunity.

KING: Right. And Republicans are casting it as a sign they will listen to him, therefore a weakness thing. The challenge there, you say we're not going to sell arms to Saudi Arabia or give arms to Saudi Arabia, then they go to Russia to China to buy them so it's not as black and white as you think on these issues.

Up next, Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman sits down for his first in person interview since he had a stroke.


LT. GOV. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA), SENATE CANDIDATE: I always thought I was pretty empathetic -- emphatic, I think I was very, excuse me, empathetic, you know, that's an example of stroke.




KING: A rare one on one interview with a Democrat who wants to be Pennsylvania's next senator. John Fetterman currently the Lieutenant Governor used closed captioning to help his auditory processing during a remarkable interview with NBC News. Fetterman says he does not believe the stroke he suffered and May will in any way undermine his ability to serve in the Senate. But he also acknowledged the lingering effects.


FETTERMAN: It changes everything. Everything about it is changed. Especially early after the stroke, the ability to really understand what exactly what I'm being heard is, but it gets much, much better where I take in a lot. But to be precise, I use captioning. So that's really the major -- that's the major challenge.


KING: CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us for more. Sanjay, we are lucky, so lucky to have you. You're a brain surgeon, you understand this space better than just about anybody out there watching. Explain what you saw, when you watch that interview? The questions or the answers it gave you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's really interesting, because you really get insight into how a stroke can affect a particular part of the brain. And how people can recover from that as well, I'm just showing you here and again, this is really interesting. But this is a brain model. Left side of the brain is typically where people have speech sort of reside in their brains. And speech means your ability to speak and write but also to understand spoken and written words, it's all referred to as speech.

What you see is, he seems to have difficulty hearing spoken word and processing that. So as a result, that's located here in this part of the brain. But back here is where you have your visual part of your brain. He seems to be able to read the words, understand them, and then response. So he's sort of compensating, if you will, needing this, you know, in the closed captioning versus hearing it. But he responds quickly. And I think that was really important.

Sometimes he might mash up a word or two, his -- that's how he described it. But what I think is so important, John, is that when we think about strokes, a lot of times people comingle, what is a functional deficit, auditory hearing processing problem with cognition. He does not appear to have a problem with cognition. You know, he's responding quickly. He supposedly took a couple of tests where he performed well on those tests. We haven't seen the results of that. We haven't seen any of these medical records.

But overall, you could hear his fluency of speech and things like that, so not to commingle cognition with functional deficit that people do recover from in the form of this stroke.

KING: So in terms of his ability to serve in the United States Senate, can he understand a tough national security issue before he cast the vote? Can he understand the complexity of our major healthcare bill if he had to cast a vote? Could he understand the major complexities of a tax bill if he have to conduct a vote? Can he read it as opposed to getting a briefing from the staff, is that kind of the issue here?

GUPTA: I think so. I think that it. He does not appear to have a problem with understanding comprehension. It is a processing issue that seems to be the case. And again, this is based on looking at these interviews. We have not seen his medical records, but that's really what it does look like a processing issue versus a comprehension issue. So yes, it might need to be presented differently, you know, written down versus spoken. But you could recover in terms of actually being able to improve auditory processing as well. He's five months out from his stroke.


Typically, people will have recovery, you know, sort of six months to 18 months, they can even continue to recover. So whatever deficits he has now in terms of his ability to auditory process may improve as well. I don't want to minimize how significant an event this was, it was sounds like a significant event. They had a pull a blood clot out of one of the blood vessels in his brain. But people do recover from these as well. And it looks like he's -- that's exactly what he's doing.

KING: We are more than lucky to have you for your context and experience. Dr. Gupta, thank you very much. Let's bring the conversation back in to the reporters around the table. Number one, Fetterman watching the processing of this interview today, trying to tweet to shape the conversation, he says recovering from a stroke and public isn't easy. But in January, I'm going to be much better and Dr. Oz will still be a fraud. That clearly they woke up this morning, they're watching the media attention on this issue. And they, you know, he decided that essentially the stress there, it isn't easy. Everybody is watching me while I recover from this horrific challenge.

KANNO-YOUNGS: No, absolutely trying to almost, and he mentioned it yesterday, also trying to appeal to the empathy of voters here too, when it comes to his recovery. But what also should be noted here, and the takeaway is, when you have a void of information, and you don't fill it as the candidate and that's running, other people will, other people will. There's a reason that this is at the top of the news.

Obviously, it was a crucial event as well. And you know, his health was at stake. But, you know, also the interviewer mentioned yesterday, multiple times, you know, it's been six months since you saw a letter from his doctors, you know, he has -- he was quite defensive as well about releasing his health records. There's a void of information.

KING: So let's listen to that part. Because it would be, I think, a better conversation for the Fetterman campaign, if Dr. Gupta were here, and he had been to a briefing with the doctors, or at least they had sent him all the records and a brain surgeon gets to look at them and come on and say, I have looked at them in A, B, C, and D and go through it. Instead, as you know, Mr. Fetterman is a bit defensive.


DASHA BURNS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We've asked for your medical records, we've asked to have a conversation with someone from your medical team to interview your physician. You've declined those requests. Why?

FETTERMAN: Well, I feel like we have been very transparent in a lot of different ways when our doctor has already given a letter saying that I'm able to serve and to be running.

BURNS: Don't voters deserve to know your status now?

FETTERMAN: Being on in front of thousands and thousands of people and having interviews and getting around all across Pennsylvania, that gives everybody and the voters decide, you know, if they think that it's really the issue.


HUNT: I mean, it look there are -- it raises a lot of questions. I think the risk is that it makes it seem like they're hiding something, right, that if something came out in these records, it would be a political problem, and therefore they would prefer that the public not see them. I mean, that is kind of the central challenge. And, you know, this is I think, where the way that he is conducting his campaign, you know, is going to affect the outcome of the election. And this is something that the Oz team has been able to really take advantage of.

Now that said, just to go back to what we were talking about a second ago, you know, I went through a brain event myself, and I cannot imagine having to have had recovering -- to recover from that in public on everyone's television screens, it is definitely challenging. And it really takes pretty close to 100 percent of your energy. So this is somebody who's doing two very hard things at the same time. And it really is up to voters to decide, hey, are we OK with that?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. I think they're asking a lot of -- they're basically asking Pennsylvania voters to trust us, like look at me on the campaign trail, look at look -- trust the doctor's letter that we gave to you in June. And I think in a particular, I mean in a very partisan environment, that's fine for most for many voters in Pennsylvania, definitely Democratic voters.

But I still think they're, I mean, obviously, voters are owed full transparency. And I think when he does appear a little bit defensive about the lack of actual records being made public. I think that's a tough challenge for them.

KING: It is a tougher challenge. I appreciate your candor and your courage as well.


Up next for us, another CNN exclusive, the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell addresses Donald Trump's racist comments about his wife, and he flatly says Trump's efforts to oust him as the Republican leader will fail.


KING: Now to an exclusive and a very telling CNN interview with the most powerful Republican in Washington. The Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declining to respond directly to Donald Trump's recent racist attack on McConnell's wife. But Leader McConnell defiant in his take on Trump's effort to oust him from that leadership post. The 80- year-old Kentucky Republican is just a year shy of becoming the Senate's longest serving party leader. And he says plainly this quote, I have the votes. I'm confident I'll be reelected to another two year term.

Our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju conducted this interview and he joins our conversation. That's a very polite McConnellesque way of saying Donald Trump go away I have the votes despite everything you say at the rallies, despite everything you post on social media, I'm going to win.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Because he knows his conference better than pretty much anybody else. And the members of this conference, while some of them are influenced heavily by Donald Trump, a lot of them ignore the noise from the former president. And it is very clear McConnell has been lining up the votes, locking down the votes and he will have surpassed a significant achievement. He will become the longest serving party leader of any party in America history come next year when he does ultimately achieve the votes.


Now, we talked a little bit more about his future, he would not commit to staying leader beyond that the next two years. He said, I'm not going to go there. He also, there's been a bunch of speculation that he might actually resign his Senate seat before the end of this term agenda in 2027. He said he is absolutely not going to do that. He's going to serve out his full term. But will he run for reelection? That point, he said, it's only the second year of my current term. I'm not even thinking about that yet. And already there's jockeying behind the scenes for that day, should he step aside?

KING: And it's interesting because he puts the other senators above maybe his personal pride in the sense that Donald Trump just launched a horrific racist attack on his wife, the former cabinet member, Elaine Chao. McConnell, I don't know what they say about this at the kitchen table. McConnell decided he just wouldn't go there when you try to get him.

I don't have anything to say about that. The only time I've responded to the President, I've -- since I've left office when he gave me my favorite nickname, Old Crow, which I consider it a compliment and after all, it was Henry Clay's favorite bourbon. He deflects even on one that, you know, hits close to home, a direct racist smear of his wife because he's thinking, I don't want to affect the midterm election climate. And I just rather ignore Trump, to your point not fight with him.

KANNO-YOUNGS: This tracks with what we've heard from McConnell, really since January 6th, trying to get Trump out of the news and rather redirect focus to the economy, some of the challenges that are facing Democrats, some of the challenges facing the White House here. This was in line with that even a personal direct sort of attack against one's family still trying to be sure that Donald Trump is not in the news. I don't know if that has been successful, though, when you look at recent months, and in the weeks ahead.

KING: And here's another piece, Trump versus Cheney, essentially asking Leader McConnell, which Republican Party would you prefer Liz Cheney, or Donald Trump? I don't have a litmus test. I'm for people that get the Republican nomination and for winning, because if we win, we get to decide what the agenda is, and they don't. Again, raw politics there. But we also know I'm sorry, on truth serum, I think when -- if you add Trump to that, if you have Trump then he does have a litmus test.

HUNT: Yes, he does. But it's also about winning, I think. And one of his biggest problems with Donald Trump is that Donald Trump has lost the Republicans elections. He lost his own election. He lost in McConnell's view two Senate seats in Georgia. And I think that's honestly I mean, yes, personally, they're big -- I'm not sure that could be different, more different than they are at these two people, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. But if Trump -- as long as Trump was like helping them win and helping McConnell do stuff he wants to do, he was totally fine with it. It was when those two interests diverge that it became a problem.

RAJU: It's also unclear exactly how the Trump -- these Trump back candidates will ultimately do come November. If it weren't for Trump, J.D. Vance would not have gotten the nomination in Ohio. And he has been lackluster in fundraising. And Mitch McConnell has to step in with his Super PAC. They're spending $30 million in the final weeks of the campaign to prop up J.D. Vance to get him through. And that has caused them to make decisions to move resources from different states around the country. So Trump's decisions have an impact on what McConnell is doing.

KING: They have an impact, they also give him nightmares of cycles past where he thought he was in position to be the majority leader and the Republicans reposition against big gains. And then they look at the map and they say, oh, we nominated, who, where. Here's what he said, it was clearly a challenge in 2010 and 2012 with Sharron Angle, Christine O'Donnell, Todd Akin, and Richard Mourdock. Whether it's a challenge, whether it's a fatal big problem this year, we'll find out. We find out four weeks from yesterday. But that's a -- that's the Mitch McConnell headache of I thought we were going to win and we nominated people who could not.

KIM: Right. Those are the nightmares of Mitch McConnell's past that are haunting him. I do think you point out one reason why he may not have a problem getting reelected at least as Republican leader and perhaps the majority leader is because even these Trump backed candidates who might have been willing to shut him, his Super PAC is rescuing them right now. So they will have a little bit of debt to pay to Mitch McConnell.

KING: If they win. They will have a choice to make. Fascinating interview, thanks for coming in.


Up next for us, Black Adam for President, right now Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is rolling out a new movie but he says he's thinking about running for president down the road of it.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today this answer from the President of the United States in an exclusive CNN interview when asked about his son, Hunter, who is under investigation by the Biden Justice Department.


BIDEN: I'm proud of my son. This is a kid who got -- out a kid, he's a grown man. And he got hooked on like many families that had happened, hooked on drugs. This thing about a gun, I didn't know anything about it. But turns out that when he made an application to purchase a gun, what happened was, he stayed, I guess, yes, I get asked, I don't guess, you get asked the question, are you on drugs? You use drugs? He said no. And he wrote about saying no in his book. So I have big confidence in my son. I love him. And he's on the straight arrow and he has been for a couple of years now. And I'm just so proud of him.


KING: Half of voters now say they're more motivated to cast ballots this year than in previous elections and abortion is a key issue, the key issue driving that enthusiasm. That's according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The numbers are up seven points from July when people were polled just a few weeks after of course the big Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Could we in the future have a president "The Rock" in an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, the actor, former wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson leaving open the door for a future presidential run.


DWAYNE "THE ROCK" JOHNSON, ACTOR: I have seriously considered it, you have to. Just really grounded and humbled by the interest on both sides but the number one job and my number one title that I love right now is Daddy.



KING: Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you for our special January 6th coverage tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.