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Inside Politics

Today: Suspect In Attack On Pelosi's Husband To Be Charged; RNC Chair: "Unfair" To Link Pelosi Attack To Republican Rhetoric; Scott Dodges Question About GOP Election Deniers; Competitive VA Races Could Help Determine Control Of House; Reps Luria, Spanberger, Wexton Fending Off GOP Challengers In VA; VA Dems Ads: GOP Has "Extreme" Views On Abortion, Jan 6; VA GOP Candidates Say Economy, Parents Rights Are Top Issues; GA Gov Debate: Kemp, Abrams Clash On Abortion, Crime & Economy. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 31, 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. The brutal beating, conspiracy fodder and Republican denial. Paul Pelosi is still in the hospital, this day his attack. Now the subject of ridiculous internet theories and most Republicans bob and weave when you ask them, if their election and January 6 lies are fueling our toxic political climate.

Plus, eight days until your midterm verdict, posts look at three embattled House Democrats in Virginia. And a new batch of polls show that tight, well that's an understatement, when it comes to the fight to control the Senate. And a big question, is the supreme court about to wipe out affirmative action in higher education.

Up first for us, the vicious attack on Paul Pelosi. This hour, the husband of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still hospitalized, recovering from surgery on his arm and to his spell. Today charges for David DePape, the man who police say brutalized Mr. Pelosi with a hammer, with a hammer, after breaking into his home. Police brand this as an intentional attack, a targeted attack. Sources telling CNN, the assailant was equipped with zip ties and duct tape.

The San Francisco District Attorney spent Sunday trying to quash a torrent of misinformation, most of it on the internet. Conspiracy theories about the attack have spawned across all corners of the internet pushed by the far-right fringe, by some elected Republicans and by Donald Trump Jr. And Twitter's new billionaire owner, Elon Musk, that Twitter billionaire owner tweeting and then deleting, a link to a baseless story about the assault.

Let's go straight to San Francisco now, CNN's Veronica Miracle with the latest. Veronica, what do we know?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, we are anticipating a press conference with the San Francisco district attorney's office sometime today, where we are expecting the suspect David DePape to be charged with multiple felonies, including attempted homicide assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse.

And in addition to that, law enforcement sources told CNN that there could be a federal charge leveled against David DePape. And that would be specifically in relation to the assaults, kidnapping or murder of a family member of certain federal officials. And if that does come down, it could be as early as this week according to that source.

Now the details that we're learning about this investigation are disturbing. The San Francisco district attorney's office telling us that DePape went upstairs into the bedroom where Pelosi was sleeping. Sources tell us, he tried to tie Pelosi up and was shouting. Where is Nancy? We understand that Pelosi still recovering in the hospital from those very serious injuries.

But sources tell us he is expected to make a full recovery. And Speaker Pelosi, we did see her yesterday very briefly. She came out of her house and was whisked away by a motorcade, but she has expressed to her colleagues how traumatizing this has been for her family. John?

KING: Veronica Miracle live for us in San Francisco with the latest. Veronica, thank you. We will stay in touch throughout the day and in the days ahead. Bringing the conversation in the room with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Manu Raju, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and Punchbowl Heather Caygle.

I want to get to some of the internet conspiracy theories in a moment. But first, the Speaker of the House. This is a week we would normally, election is one week from tomorrow. See her out busy, helping House Democrats. We did see some video of her back at home just yesterday. What is the impact on her?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's a great question. Because there's also questions about where, what's going to happen to her after the elections and what will happen if the Democrats don't keep the House. But she has been so busy this election cycle, traveling across the country, raising tons of money for House Democrats.

Yes, she's always been a target of Republican attack ads. But she's been essential to that effort to try to raise money, appear with some of these key members along the stump to try to get them across the finish line. She's obviously not able to do that. Now she's been dealing with this very serious situation at home. What impact does that have on come? Tuesday, we'll see, but she's already raised a ton of money, that money is already in play.

KING: And what we are seeing sadly, is just the continued meanness in American politics. Cold blooded meanness. I don't know what else to call it. Elon Musk, who just - a billionaire who just took over a very important platform of communication in the United States. Retweeting a link to an organization that is known for spreading false and reckless fake news, doesn't take much investigation to know what that is.


And if son of the former president United States Donald Trump Jr. posting an internet meme, mocking the attack. You see it right there. I'm not going to read the details of it or try to get into it. Is decency just as decency dead?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes. I mean it's a great question. I checked in with some top Democrats this morning in the House and leadership aides, and frankly, they're miffed that it has taken this turn, even with the state of politics now and where things normally are. I mean, this is the Speaker of the House. They a lot of Republicans work closely with her or have worked under her. This is her husband of almost 60 years.

And just the fact that more Republicans aren't coming out and condemning it, some are even retweeting, some of these conspiracy theories and deleting them. I mean, I think long term what I heard this morning was, what does this mean for governing next year in a Republican House? How do we work with folks like this?

KING: I want you to listen here. This is the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, who says that when we ask questions of Republicans, like do you think maybe continuing to lie about the 2020 election is a mistake? Do you think the fringe Republicans who say the COVID pandemic wasn't real, or it was grossly exaggerated? I think that's a mistake. Again, look at the social media postings of the suspect in this alleged attack. Look at other attacks. The chairwoman of the Republican Party says, unfair question.


RONNA MCDANIEL, RNC CHAIR: I think that's unfair. I think this is a deranged individual. You can't say people saying, let's fire Pelosi or let's take back the House, is saying go do violence. It's just unfair.


KING: There's nobody saying, saying let's fire Pelosi or let's take back the House is unfair. That's totally fair game in American politics. But to do what Donald Trump Jr. did in reaction is disgusting. And the fact that there are so many leading Republicans who still say, the election was stolen, you keep repeating lies, and somebody out there who is imbalanced may act on them.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Without question, and the hammer and the Halloween costume thing from Donald Trump Jr., it's beyond the pale in every respect, like let's not even talk about it anymore. It's just, it's vile. This has been building for a very long time. So, the chair of the RNC to say, you know, about fire Pelosi, that's not what this is about. As you said, this is about election denialism.

What has happened over the last two years has seeped into the minds and the thoughts of some unstable people, which there always have been. But the difference of this now, candidates for public office for Secretary of State who govern elections, and people who want to be our leaders are now saying this, it has suddenly become a mainstream thought to deny the election.

So, I think you raise a good point Heather about governing. This election is almost over. And the reality is, as we'll talk about through the show, the House of Representatives, Republicans are in a very strong position to regain control of the House. History would suggest that will happen. The math would basically suggest happens if it does happen. What does this mean for government? Yes. I mean, it just means absolute, you know, a chaos in one respect, but it's just - it's almost an unrecognizable place from just a few years ago, Speaker Bannon and others.

RAJU: Absolutely. You know, as Heather and I see it almost every single day in the House side of the Capitol, the relations there are already at an all-time low. Post January 6, they are - it's just - there's absolute a lot of hatred towards the other side of the aisle. That was never really the case before. Yes, there was a lot of hard feelings or big battles, but they would potentially come together at some points. It is much different now.

And we're seeing this in the aftermath of the reaction to the Pelosi news. Some had a hard time even condemning the violence. Some Republicans suggested this as both sides were at fault, not linking it to the problems that we - to the rhetoric and the like. And having a hard time is still going at, you know, defending Nancy Pelosi or saying anything wrong because they've been attacking us for so long. And it's because of how bad these relations have been frayed in recent years.

KING: And you mentioned we're in this world now, where if you ask Republicans these questions about election lies, about COVID conspiracy theories, about just they say there's a what about ism that's taking place, including Senator Rick Scott, senator from Florida, former governor of Florida runs the senatorial campaign committee. He is trying to help elect senators to take the Senate majority, was asked about this yesterday by CNN's Dana Bash.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should Republicans do more to reject conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric?

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): I think what we have to do is One, we have to condemn the violence. And then we have to do everything we can to get people - make sure people feel comfortable about these elections. Dana, I think what's important is everybody do everything we can to make these elections fair. We've got Hillary Clinton saying the '24 elections could be stolen. We've got Stacey Abrams, and she didn't she didn't lose. You know, so my job is, do everything I can to get people to feel comfortable. These elections are fair.


KING: That's where you get into the both sides argument or what about is of, yes, Hillary Clinton has said she worries about the 2024 election. It's a fair point to say should Stacey Abrams had been clear about the 2018 election. You could debate that in Georgia. You have a rematch gubernatorial election.

[12:10:00] But if you want to say that those things are wrong, let's say they are misdemeanors are down here compared to saying the January 6 defendants are being persecuted. Playing QAnon on themes at your Trump rally, saying Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump. There's not a comparison here and yet that's what you get.

CAYGLE: Yes. Because the fact of the matter is, a lot of these Republicans are uncomfortable with the extreme that you mentioned of the QAnon at the rally, and saying these people were persecuted, things like that. But they also do not want to repel their base and not have them come out and vote. And so, they're trying to maintain this very delicate balance. But what we end up having is this, what about isn't that doesn't even make sense. And these people feel like they can't come out and say, yes, this elderly 82-year-old man was attacked with a hammer and a skull was broken in half. And that's wrong and that shouldn't happen.

RAJU: I mean, look, missing from Rick Scott's analysis was the fact that Donald Trump for the past two and a half years has been saying, the election was stolen over and over again, that's been his entire mantra past the November 2020 elections for two years or so. So, if you're going to criticize what Hillary Clinton said about 2024, perhaps make a point of the fact that Donald Trump has been making this the centerpiece of everything you've been saying.

ZELENY: The only way this will stop is if, sensible Republicans get control of their party back and the media channels that amplify this sort of make a decision here, we don't see that happening. I don't predict that, but that is the only way this will change. And it's going to get worse.

KING: Most likely is that's a sad way to end this discussion, but it's probably the correct and factual way. Up next for us. Back to the campaign, Virginia's midterm message. A year ago, remember Republicans statewide sweep embolden the GOP about his 2022 prospects. Now, with a week left in this year's campaign, three embattled House Democrats in Virginia fighting to keep their seats.




KING: Remember this just one year ago, Republican Glenn Youngkin winning statewide, defeating the former governor, the former Democratic Party national chairman, Terry McAuliffe in the 2021 Virginia governor's race. That is what in bold and it was a Republican statewide sweep. And it emboldened Republicans that 2022 would be a good midterm year for them.

So, let's fast forward to the map. Let's look at the House right now. We have 78 competitive House districts. You see here, that 75, three are new districts drawn up after the census. 53 seats, Democrats are on defense. 22, it is Republicans, including three right here in that same Commonwealth of Virginia. Three House Democrats back on their heels as we enter into the final week. Republicans need a net gain of five. They could get three of those five right here in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Look at this seat here. This is 2020 election, Jennifer Wexton, just won. She won pretty comfortably in 2020. Now you come forward. Now, she's running against Hung Cao. He's a military veteran running in this district in Northern Virginia. Pull out the map a little bit, come down to the district just beneath it. Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic incumbent running against Yesli Vega. I want to go back in time just to show you in a presidential year. Abigail Spanberger won this seat, but just barely look how close it was.

And then the third district come back to the House now and come down on the map is down here, in the southeast corner of the state. You have Elaine Luria, the Democratic . You might remember her, she's on the January 6 committee running against Jen Kiggans. Let's go back in time. This is now, you go back two years ago of comfortable five-point victory there for Elaine Luria, but all three of these Virginia House Democrats, if you pop out look at him.

In the southeast, more to the central, in the northern Washington, Virginia suburbs right there, all three in competitive races. A brand- new ad today from Elaine Luria in this district, playing up her role on January 6 committee, saying democracy is on the ballot.


REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): And of standing up for what's right, means losing an election. So be it. If you're looking for someone who'll just say anything, just to win, I'm not your candidate. If you support insurrectionists, or call our military week, I'm not your candidate. You attack the FBI and defend Donald Trump, I'm not your candidate. And if you believe the 2020 election was stolen, definitely not your candidate.


KING: Our great reporters back around the table with us. Heather Caygle, that's a pretty provocative Adaline. Luria, looking straight as the candidate laying out the reasons, why she might not be the candidate of some voters. That's a little upside down. Why?

CAYGLE: Well, because normally, one Democrats, especially in vulnerable districts don't want to mention Trump. They don't want to alienate those voters in case some of them who are uncomfortable with January 6, but maybe previously voted for him would come their way. This ad was fascinating to me because she has leaned into this a little bit.

Yes, she's on the committee investigating it. But she's more been - she's run ads saying, I'm not a Biden Democrat. I've stood up to Biden. I support our military. Vote for me. I'm kind of the anti- Democrat that you think. And if she is really, really leaning into this, you know, January 6 was wrong. If you voted for Trump, I'm not your candidate that was so fascinating to me. I had people reach out to me this morning. She's one of the top five most endangered House Democrats. A lot of them have seen polling. They think she's probably going to lose. And they see this as a way for her to do the right thing on her way out and position herself for something else in the future.

RAJU: What will be interesting. Also post this election if it does not go the Democrats way. And it looks like, Republicans have a very strong chance of course, of taking back the House to look back about their messaging and how they dealt with these issues about democracy, about Trump, about January 6, because as Heather was saying, a lot of these Democrats steer clear of these - discussed these topics is not until this late hour, just in the eve of the election year, we were seeing people like Elaine Luria really lean in and embrace this kind of message. Question will be, when we Monday morning quarterback, is it this election, should they have done that sooner?

KING: It's interesting, you say that, because Jennifer Wexton and Abigail Spanberger, the other two House Democrats in Virginia. In addition to Luria, they're not on the committee like Luria, but their districts are closer to Washington D.C. And in their recent ads, they do touch on this. Listen?



KING: The use of the word extreme, both on abortion rights and in supporting of those who stormed the Capitol. Interesting in a state that many Democrats thought had turned blue. Glenn Youngkin wins, Republicans win statewide. Now you'd have to say, it's at a minimum purple.

ZELENY: Without a doubt. And if you drive through Loudoun County, which is just outside Washington, which I was doing a couple of weekends ago, the signs for Hung Cao are everywhere. And this is some of the very terrain where the school board fights were happening that propelled the Glenn Youngkin into office. So, this race is joined. Unlike really, it's a different set of circumstances and environment that in other parts of the country, this is Washington's backyard.

So, I think that the - if they're successful, and we will see an election, I will all be watching the Commonwealth of Virginia, which closes early. If these three are successful than the via January 6 message in work, but I think Manu you make a good point. A Democrats other places have shied away from really talking about this too much. We'll see if that was a mistake or not.

But I think the Spanberger, and Luria, and Wexton are really three interesting case studies of, if Virginia is, you know, they're more educated voters, college educated voters and other things that will be interesting to watch if they can keep those seats blue. It's totally different electorate probably than the governor's race last year.

KING: Right. But you mentioned Youngkin on parental rights. Some people say, he overdid it, but it worked for him, especially in the Northern Virginia suburbs. All three of the Republican candidates made it appear - join appearance this morning on Fox. Listen? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEN KIGGANS, VA-02 HOUSE CANDIDATE: First and foremost, it will be the economy. How can we get grocery prices down and gas prices down.

YESLI VEGA, VA-07 HOUSE CANDIDATE: I stand with parents and where they're with their children. And unfortunately, today is our progressive liberal left party has lost touch with the voters when it comes to that issue.

HUNG CAO, VA-10 HOUSE CANDIDATE: The parents' rights is the biggest issue here in this district. Besides the economy, obviously the economy is forefront of everything.


KING: You see the two candidates at the end, there Vega and Cao, the ones closest to Washington D.C., closer to the suburban areas here. Essentially, you're saying this word for Youngkin, I'm going to try?

RAJU: Yes. I mean, because it is - I'm glad we're focusing on these races. Because it is - these are the three Democratic candidates who help Democrats take back the House post 2018.

KING: All won in the blue way. They understand the president's first midterm, that's Trump.

RAJU: Absolutely. And it also underscores the importance of - in most elections, in this one too, suburban voters, in these - some of these key districts. And what these Republicans obviously are trying to do is paint these Democrats outside, those more moderate educated voters who are going to be essential here in determining the election. So, if things don't go Democrats way, we may learn pretty early if Virginia turns red.

KING: Right. If they swing back, we'll learn from that as well. A lot of lessons we're going to understand. A week or so from now. Tuesday is a - week from tomorrow is election day. I suspect it's going to take a few days after that to have a full tally. And then we'll learn the lessons.

Up next for us. More from the campaign, Republicans optimistic. As we enter this closing week of the midterm campaign, some new CNN reporting on that ahead. But first, a final face off in Georgia's fascinating race for government.




KING: Look now at a battleground Georgia. The Republican Governor Brian Kemp facing off against his Democratic challenger, Stacey Abrams last night in their second and final debate. They clashed on everything from the economy, to crime, to abortion rights. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BRIAN KEMP, (R) GEORGIA GOV. CANDIDATE: I'm not going to count, you know, say yes or no to any specific piece of legislation would actually seeing exactly. What it's doing is not my desire to go move the needle any further on this issue.

STACEY ABRAMS, (D) GEORGIA GOV. CANDIDATE: Abortion is a medical choice. And as such, it should be that a woman has the ability to make a decision until viability and that decision about viability should not impact her life or her health. That is a decision that should be made between a doctor and the woman.


KING: Let's get straight live now to CNN's Eva McKend. Tell us more Eva about this last debate?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, John, the policy differences could not be more clear, not only on abortion, as you just referenced, but also on this issue of public safety. Governor Kemp working overtime to try to tie Stacey Abrams to the defund the police movement, something she firmly rejected. Meanwhile, Abrams argues that Kemp's positions on guns, the gun bill, he signed into law making Georgians less safe.


ABRAMS: Under his four years violent crime has gone up. Gun violence has gone up. Guns are the number one killer of our children.

GOV. KEMP: Ms. Abrams, that has said that she wants to defund the police. She wants to eliminate cash bail and have get out of jail free cards.

ABRAMS: I believe in public safety. I did not say and nor do I believe in defunding the police. He is lying again.


MCKEND: Economic issues also a major flashpoint as well. Governor Kemp has routinely argued that he would be the best steward to lead Georgians through inflation. But Abrams says that the economic policies that the governor has championed, has left some Georgians behind, has not included all Georgians. John?

KING: Eva McKend on the ground for us in Georgia. Eva, thank you so much again.