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Soon: Biden Touts Infrastructure Law In Pittsburgh; Biden Fundraises For Fetterman In PA; Biden Spotlights Policy Wins Ahead Of Midterms; Sanders To Blitz Battleground States In Final Midterm Weeks; British Prime Minster Liz Truss Resigns; More Than 4.8M Early Voters Cast Across 36 States; Texas Sending Voting "Inspectors" To Dem- Leaning Harris County. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 20, 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 day with us. A global shake up, the British prime minister quits after just six weeks on the job. It's the shortest tenure in history. Trust leaves after a stunning series of setbacks, most related to her controversial plan to fight inflation and sluggish economic growth.


LIZ TRUSS, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party. There will be a leadership election to be completed within the next week.


KING: Plus, President Biden makes a road trip to Pittsburgh with just 19 days left in the midterm campaign. Inflation is also driving American politics right now, and it is hurting the president and his party. And some exclusive CNN reporting. Donald Trump's legal team is considering, offering the FBI a chance to search Mar-a-Lago again. Plus, a judge handling a separate case, says the former president signed a court document with bogus election fraud claims, after his lawyer made clear it would not be truthful.

We begin the hour though with the president of the United States back on the road. He is again headed to Pennsylvania, first of Pittsburgh to highlight how his infrastructure law is helping the country build back. Then to Philadelphia for a closed-door fundraiser with the Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman. This trip highlights the president's midterm challenge. Another trip to Pennsylvania is a reminder, the president is simply not welcomed by many Democrats in tough races across the country.

And the president is skipping traditional campaign rallies, choosing instead to mostly holds more low-key events focused on administration policy with. Asked why he's not out on the campaign trail nor the president of the system this morning, he is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Fetterman is going to share with you today, Pennsylvania. There haven't been that many candidates campaigning with you.

PRES. JOE BIDEN, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: That's not true. We've got 50 cops get down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And they're going to be even more?



KING: Let's get straight to CNN's MJ Lee. She is live in Pittsburgh for us. MJ, what are we looking to hear from the president?

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you will recall that it was back in January that the president was supposed to visit Pittsburgh, and literally hours before he left Washington, a bridge collapse right here behind me where I'm standing because it was in poor condition. But fortunately, nobody was killed at the time.

But the timing of the collapse was really incredibly coincidental. Because the purpose of that visit back in January was for the president to talk about the state of the nation's infrastructure and talk about how he wanted to use the money from the infrastructure, bipartisan infrastructure law to rebuild precisely things like bridges.

Now, officials say that the bridge that is being rebuilt behind me should be completed around December. And that while it isn't funding that comes directly from that law that went into this bridge, it's money that went to this state that ended up aid being able to sort of expedite that process.

So, what we should expect to see today is the president using this as the backdrop to talk about one of his biggest accomplishments, and of course, I should note he is going to be joined by some local elected officials. And one person that we're keeping a close eye on, of course, is Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. The president will be participating in another event with him later today in Philadelphia.

And I think this day just really captures how the White House has been deploying the president as we get closer to the midterms. As you noted, he's not necessarily doing these big rallies, specifically with candidates, but he's doing more events where he is talking about the Democratic agenda. And even though there are some Democratic candidates who are not necessarily wanting to appear physically alongside him, we are seeing them also running on his agenda. So that's precisely what we're going to be seeing today.

KING: MJ Lee, kicking us off live in Pittsburgh away in the president. MJ, thanks so much. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Laura Barron-Lopez at the PBS NewsHour, and Michael Scherer of The Washington Post. As MJ just noted, the president this week, every day focusing on issues that are important to the Democratic base, important they believe to swing voters and trying to convince moderates to come over but doing it a different way.

Tuesday, the big abortion event here in Washington D.C., saying he would push to codify Roe v. Wade, if you keep the Democrats in charge of Congress, gas prices on Wednesday, infrastructure today, it'll be student loans in Delaware tomorrow. It is a decision by this White House to have more low-key policy events. I guess we learned in 19 days whether it's the right approach.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And then very much a departure from what we've seen from Donald Trump in the past, Barack Obama in the past as well, but very much in keeping with Biden's brand, right? I mean, he was never a big rally guy in covering him when he ran in 2020 very small, intimate events with people. So, it makes sense that they're doing this.


You know, ultimately, they want to try to break through in the news cycle, both on national news and, you know, the night news, but also in local news as well. In touch those voters and remind those voters, are particularly base voters that they are trying to get things done, whether it's around student loans, whether it's around abortion, whether it's around gas prices and infrastructure, they feel like this is a good strategy. Like you said, we'll see if it pays off.

KING: Inevitably, you compare the current president to what does his predecessor do, right? And you mentioned, he's not a big rally guy anyway, but so you go back in history. Barack Obama, when he was president in his first midterm, October 2010, 16 campaign rallies. Donald Trump, his first midterm in October 2018, 26 campaign rallies, Biden, no big rallies.

Let me be a contrarian for a second, Michael. Obama lost 63 seats. I think it was in that first midterm. Trump lost 40 plus in his first midterm. Maybe there's a strategic brilliance here, partly of a joke, but maybe not.

MICHAEL SCHERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. And especially, if you run side by side pictures of Trump and Obama doing rallies, and pictures of Biden doing rallies, he's just not as good at them. He comes off as awkward and a little stodgy. I think what he has done is he started to use his office in a way the Democrats were asking for a year, what is the message out of the White House? What are the Democrats about?

You've seen big executive actions on marijuana, pushing for a rescheduling of marijuana, he's on student loan announcement, he repeated announcements about releasing the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. So, he's trying to almost every day have a message that he cares. He's doing something the problem he has is the biggest problem in the country right now is inflation. And that's a problem for the Federal Reserve, not for him. And he can't really do much about it right now. He can talk and say he's working on drug prices and working on bridges and working on, you know, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but he can't really solve the underlying problem.

KING: About the big one. And Democrats say, they're going to surprise us. We're going to talk later in the program, early voting is way up. Democrats believe that helps them. They say they're going to turn out their voters. So, they're going to surprise us in the midterm year. Let's leave our minds open to that. We live in an age of volatility, we'll see. But if you look at the fundamentals, Laura. In recent days, the campaign, the polling data and other data is settled in a way that does make it look like a more traditional midterm, where the party in power gets whacked by the voters.

If you look, this the new CNBC poll out today. Inflation, Republicans have a 15-point advantage. On taxes, Republicans have an 11-point advantage. On jobs, Republicans have an 11-point advantage. Healthcare, the Democrats have a big edge there. That's the issue they wrote back in 2018 and again in 2020. But the challenge for the president is those numbers, they have settled. And a lot of Democrats are saying you see the essentially gravity taking hold, and it looks to them all of a sudden, like a more normal midterm.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: It does. I mean, the House look very much looks like it's going to be in Republican hands. The Senate, though, still is a toss-up. I mean, the races are narrowing, which is what tends to happen, the closer you get to election day, but it doesn't mean that those Democrats are out of it yet. I mean, some of them are still leading in quite a few of those races. I mean, we could very well end up with another 50-50 Senate, you know, or 51-50. I mean, it's going to be tight.

One thing about the president, though, is that he's really trying to, as you mentioned, focus on quite a bit of what he's doing in a way that I think he thinks his President Obama did not do, which is that, you know, the Biden administration has constantly argued. President Obama didn't - we didn't sell ACA the way we should have.

So, I'm trying to go out there and actually talk about what I've done, talk about the inflation Reduction Act, even though they haven't been hit on the fact that it isn't necessarily helping people's pocketbooks in the immediate term. It has more effects coming next year and the year after that. So, that's something that the president is clearly trying to be out there more on.

On abortion, I just think we don't know how big of an impact is going to potentially have. So many people voter registration is up, voter registration among young voters is up. And based on, you know, studies and polling it would seem that they would vote more for pro-abortion rights then against it.

KING: As a key point again, we should leave our mind open to surprises. I was near where the president is going to be today. About a week or so ago in the Pittsburgh suburbs, a lot of older Republican voters there. If you go back eight or 10 years who voted for Biden in 2020, they're not sure, they're wrestling with the abortion issue because you mentioned inflation.

He's going to be later in the Philadelphia suburbs. We'll see what happens there. The Fetterman-Oz race is obviously, one of the competitive Senate races. But Michael's point about there's not much the president can do about inflation. There's also not much president can do about gas prices, which is part of the inflation dynamic in America.

A year ago, it was $3.36 a gallon, a month ago it was $3.68, a week ago $3.91. That was the damage to the president starts trending up as you get close to the election. Today it's down a little bit there. He's releasing more from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. Again, he's releasing about what one day's worth. Right now, they say they might do more, but it's not so much the what, as to you made the point the psychology. The voters see the president trying, at least trying to deal with the issues that are hitting them in the head right now.


SCHERER: Well, the thing we know about midterm elections, especially the first midterm election after president is elected, is that they are highly dependent on the environment. And if you look at even President Biden's approval rating and you map it against gas prices, he bottomed out in mid-June in terms of his national approval rating. That's when gas prices peaked, all through the late summer.

There was sort of this rosy moment appearing for Democrats that did very well in the New York special election. Gas prices were going down, and then you've seen that reverse, and there's just not much you can do about it.

KING: And quickly, I want to get this in before we move out. A lot of people will see Bernie Sanders is going to 19 events in eight states. And a lot of people in this town say, aha, Bernie Sanders 2024. Just stop it, you know, stop it. We'll see what after the midterms, but this is critical, actually, in the sense that you need to turn out every piece of your coalition. Sanders is going out there, trying to turn up progressive and liberal voters who might be for whatever reason demoralized or just thinking maybe I'll set this one up.

HENDERSON: Yes, that's right. And he does well, with younger voters, right? In Democrats, fortunes are going to depend on whether or not young voters show up, they turned up in record numbers in 2018, saying in 2020, essentially, they have typically not really shown up in the way that older voters show up in midterms (crosstalk).

Yes. No, I think that's right. But we don't know if they're going to go back to sort of the pre-2018 numbers, so we'll see. Bernie Sanders is out there. Barack Obama also will be out there. Democrats are hoping they can rally those young voters.

KING: Watch, we'll see back to this a bit later. Up next for us though, the U.K. in new political turmoil. Today, the Prime Minister Liz Truss resigning after just 44 days on the job.



KING: Simply stunning political news out of the U.K. today. The Prime Minister Liz Truss announcing her resignation after just six weeks on the job. Her tenure was rocky from the beginning. And her controversial plan to tame inflation and spur economic growth caused a crisis of confidence.


PM. TRUSS: I recognize though, given this situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party. I have therefore spoken to His Majesty the King to notify him that I am resigning as leader of the Conservative Party.


KING: That announcement unprecedented, making trust the shortest serving prime minister in British history. Let's get straight now to CNN's Scott McLean. He's live outside of 10 Downing Street for us. Scott, tell us more.

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, it seems like Liz Truss's term as prime minister was doomed to fail right from the get- go. When she announced a series of economic measures in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis that included tax breaks for corporations and some of the wealthiest people in this country, that did not go over well with her parliamentary colleagues, didn't go well overwhelmed with the market, and most importantly, wasn't exactly embraced by the British public just struggling to get by.

And no matter how much she tried to scrape and claw to get out of the hole that she had dug for herself. Nothing was good enough, not rolling back part of those plans, not firing or chancellor, not ultimately rolling back, almost all of those plans nothing it seemed was going to work.

And so yesterday, John, or today, I should say, Liz Truss was obviously reading the political tea leaves and realizing that, even if she could survive a challenge from within her own party to her leadership, it didn't look like she was going to be able to govern very effectively, given the fact that her personal popularity and also her party's popularity were in the tank.

If an election were to be held today, Labour the opposition party would wipe the floor with the conservatives. And that is why Labour is calling for a general election, saying that the conservatives no longer have a mandate to govern. What we do know for certain is that the conservatives will choose a new leader by the end of next week.

The question now is who might that be? Someone like Penny Mordaunt or Rishi Sunak, who came third and second, respectively in the race or perhaps even Boris Johnson. Some of his close allies, say that suspect that he may, and I emphasize may also be throwing his hat in the ring, which would be remarkable considering he was booted from office by pressure of his own colleagues some six weeks ago. John?

KING: He used the word remarkable. Scott McLean, sometimes remarkable moments bring us to other remarkable moments. Scott McLean, grateful for the live reporting outside 10 Downing. Let's bring the conversation in the room. Joining our conversation is Mary Jordan. She's the former London bureau chief for The Washington Post. Let's start where Scott left off, the return of Boris Johnson. A real possibility?

MARY JORDAN, FORMER LONDON BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Oh, he's campaigning for it already. You know, it really made him crazy that he wasn't there when the queen died, and the world's eyes were on England. And he thought it was unfair. And he's been telling people that he wished he hadn't resigned. Now, he could make a lot of money and just go off and sail the sunset, but that's not Boris.

But the bookies and there's always bookies in England and everything, the big money is on Rishi Sunak. He went to Oxford. He went to Stanford. He was a Chancellor of the Exchequer. It's all about the economy now. The pound has sunk against the dollar. And he's got some bona-fides in finance. And some people think that this 42-year-old the son of Indian immigrants, could be the next prime minister, but Boris will give him a run for his money.

KING: And we'll watch that play out over the next several days. It is stunning. You mentioned Boris Johnson, you know, sad and he couldn't be there. At this moment, sad moment, but remarkable moment in U.K. history when the queen died. Liz Truss was and out of that moment, she met the queen. That's how she became prime minister after that blessing. And then she laid clear that she would be a leader with a mandate.


PM. TRUSS: We gather at a vital time for the United Kingdom. These are stormy days. Together, we've mourned the death of Queen Elizabeth II, the rock on which modern Britain was built. We're now in a new era under King Charles III. We're dealing with the global economic crisis, caused by COVID and by Putin's appalling war in Ukraine. In these tough times, we need to step up. I'm determined to get Britain moving, to get us through the Tempest, and to put us on a stronger footing as a nation.



KING: 44 days later, it is a resignation. Was it personal missteps, was it just, we seen turmoil in Italy, we see turmoil here in the United States and our politics because of slow growth - global growth, and the inflation problem, a combination all of the above?

JORDAN: Yes. And the Ukraine war. I think in Europe, we don't quite get it here, how bad it is over there. People are talking about having to wear two sweaters because they can't afford the heat. The energy prices have gone crazy over there. And she made a big blunder right out of block. You know, she started cutting taxes with no funding. And when the bond markets and the economists and the investors are all kind of raising a fire alarm, it kind of went down from there. Also, you know, she was never elected by people, right?

The last time there was an election, Boris Johnson won an outright general election. Obviously, their system is very different from ours. But the law says that you have to have one every five years. And she was just - Boris was ousted, his own party turned on him and he was gone. And then it was like the party faithful that picked this woman and all of a sudden, like people in Scotland and Wales are going what, who is this woman? What is she doing? And it just never got traction.

I mean, people are saying, you know, I saw Anthony Scaramucci, who famously lasted only a few days in the White House is saying, you know, hey, she did better than I did. As far as Scaramucci, but it's the last time something like this happened was 200 years ago, you know, when somebody died in office in England.

KING: A remarkable moment. Grateful you're here for your important insights. I will stay on top of that story in the days ahead. I want to show you some live pictures right now. This is in Pittsburgh. That's the Democratic Senate candidate to the right of the screen there, John Fetterman. There are among those greeting the president of the United States.

The president will hold an infrastructure event in the Pittsburgh area. Then it's on to the other side of the state for the fundraiser. You see on the screen there in Philadelphia, there is Fetterman and his wife, Gisele. Other Democrats meeting the president as he campaigns today in Pittsburgh. We'll be right back.




KING: Some new numbers today on early voting across America, nearly 5 million ballots, nearly 5 million ballots have already been cast, that's across 36 states. Early in person voting starting this morning in North Carolina. In battleground Georgia, record turnout so far. Also today, some new developments that raise the specter of voter intimidation and interference.

In Texas, early voting starts next week. And there's new tension today between the Republican state government and the Democrats who oversee the state's most populous county. The secretary of state announcing last night, it is sending inspectors to Harris County to conduct random election checks.

Harris County officials see it as another example of Republicans searching for a problem that they say simply doesn't exist. And it stirs doubts. They say Republicans are stirring doubts about election integrity, absent any facts. And in Arizona, a report of intimidation. One voter their reports being followed, while trying to deposit their vote at an early voting drop box in Maricopa County. Our reporters are back at the table to discuss. Number one, there are - remember, one of the reasons this Texas development stir so many questions is because a number of states did pass new election laws to add restrictions, to make it less easy or reduce the options available to you to vote this year than we're available in 2020, which has a lot of Democrats voting rights advocate, saying what are you trying to do here? So, when the Texas secretary of state says, we're sending election monitors to Harris County to watch, it says what?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, again, you know, this just seems to match a lot of other things that are happening in other states. In terms of Harris County is a very diverse county in Texas, with a number of people of color that are voters. And so, again, it may send a chilling signal to the county, which is that we're being watched the same way, you know, Fulton County has been filling that in Georgia, which is a predominantly black county, that they're being watched as they try to make sure that as many people who are eligible to vote, vote.

You know, this is also happening as a number of Trump allies are going around the country and candidates that are running, saying that, you know, if they get put into power, that they get to control this entire election system apparatus, and they can ensure that Trump wins again.

You know, one thing that's also stunning about election offices right now that extremist experts have been saying, and that I spoke to recently is that a number of election offices, because they're so concerned about the lies that have been spread about the election system, that they are now, you know, going through active shooter trainings that they are now, you know, equipping their offices with bulletproof glass because of what happened last year.

KING: And so, again, you see people in Georgia today saying, when Georgia passed its law which has new restrictions, a lot of people said that's voter suppression. Republicans arrow pointing to record early turnout, and saying see, people get to vote. Now is that people finding their way through the new rules because they are determined to participate no matter what? We'll know a lot more about this in 20 days.

But the suspicions are raised because of unsubstantiated fraud allegations that Republicans started in 2020 that they continue to this day, they have no evidence for them.