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GOP Sen. Johnson Won't Commit To Accepting Election Results; Georgia: Walker, Warnock Rally Voters As Early Voting Ends; Justice Dept. Mulling Special Counsel To Oversee Trump Investigations. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 04, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We will see if just seeing him maybe turn somebody, you know, in the suburbs away. Is that a joke from the President? Or is he believed that that making that case, which is whether he's going to be impeached or members of his cabinet? Certainly in the House, we're going to hear talk about that. Does that motivate Democratic voters?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it could motivate Democratic voters. I mean, when I was just talking to some recently this week, they mentioned democracy a lot. This is a part of that conversation, right? Some Republicans have said they want to impeach President Biden, that they also want to impeach members of his cabinet. And so that is definitely something that could become a reality if they win the house.

Now, whether or not he's convicted, if the Senate flips, is another question, because the Senate tends to not always follow the House's lead.

KING: That's your understatement.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. But one thing also on President Biden is closing message is that we heard his democracy speech this week. And I think we cannot talk about it enough that one of the questions he posed to voters was, you should be asking anyone you might vote for if they are going to concede and accept the election results. And that is a big question is whether or not a lot of these Republican candidates are going to accept the results or not, or immediately challenged them if it looks like they're losing.

KING: Another key point. And so in a state Donald Trump narrowly won in 2016, and then narrowly lost in 2020, would be Wisconsin. The Republican Senator Ron Johnson is up for re-election came to power as a tea party businessman. Now he's very in line with the Trumpy message, including Senator Johnson, if you lose on Tuesday, in the vote count shows you have lost will you concede?


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI), SENATE CANDIDATE: I sure hope I can. But I can't predict what the Democrats might have planned, it sure seems like there's an awful lot of, in the past a lot of attempt on the part of Democrats to make it easier to cheat.


KING: It's little rich from a guy who was trying to convince Mike Pence, to accept the false slate of electors from the state of Wisconsin and who worked after the election, at least was in touch with the people who were trying to steal the election.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I mean rich or on brand, right? Like if basically, this is part of the conspiracy patois, then but all you have to say, yes, exactly. That's also required no evidence. And you also have to say, even if you don't quite agree, who among us has not been concerned about elections from the other side? I do feel like that's kind of the bar of entry at this point.

KING: It's a key point you make because Republicans used to motivate their base by saying we will cut your taxes or we will add more cops. It was smaller government. It was the traditional Republican message. Now it's that they use this to motivate their voters that the Democrats are cheating, when there's zero evidence of that.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: But that message backfired so badly in 2020 at the end, because the whole idea that the election was false idea that the election was stolen made Republicans in the runoff in the Georgia Senate race say well then why am I going to go vote? If it's not even fair, why am I going to go vote? And guess who won? The Democrats.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right, but it's, it doesn't look like it may backfire this time. I mean, Kari lake in Arizona, the gubernatorial race, Republican governor candidate, she is repeating all of these lies, whether it's election denialism, you know, there's Jim Marchant, who's running for Secretary of State in Nevada, a Republican, who talks about Democrats and the government being controlled by a secret cabal. And there's pulling out this morning that shows that, like some 53 percent of Republican voters think that the government is controlled by a secret cabal. This is this is language that is becoming more and more entrenched within the Republican Party and is how they are trying to win election.

KING: It's in the bloodstream, and we're going to be dealing with it for generations to come without a doubt.


Up next, more politics, Oprah Winfrey, remember, she made Dr. Oz a T.V. celebrity, but she says Pennsylvania voters should elect John Fetterman to the Senate.


KING: Oprah now joining Democrats as they enter this final midterm campaign weekend hoping to preserve their Senate Majority. Remember, it was Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, who gave Dr. Mehmet Oz his T.V. breakthrough. But she says the Democrat John Fetterman is her choice in the Pennsylvania Senate race. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OPRAH WINFREY, AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST: If I lived in Pennsylvania, I would have already cast my vote for John Fetterman for many reasons.


KING: Our reporters back at the table to discuss. She's obviously influential millions of Americans follow her, a lot of Pennsylvanians have already voted because of early voting. In a close race, I guess every voice matters. And that's a pretty important voice.

BASH: Yes, because it's not just that she's for Fetterman. It's that she's against Dr. Oz.

KING: She knows him.

BASH: She created him. I mean, she, the reason Dr. Oz is Dr. Oz is because Oprah put him on the map. And that endorsement is much more of an opposition announcement that of Oz, I think than a, I love John Fetterman.

CORNISH: Yes, I will be struck down by the gods for saying this. But I don't want us to confuse like political engagement with brand maintenance. And Oprah has been very cautious about criticizing Oz when he first came out and when people have complained about for instance, his positions on Coronavirus. She said nothing or she said it's up to the Pennsylvania residents to decide. So this is about, you know, maintaining the relationship she has with her brand, and also focusing on white independent women in the Philly suburbs. OK, this is a huge part of the Oprah audience kind of white independent suburban women. And that is the right messenger for the moment.

KING: It's a great point. And the question is, if people out there would say, well, you know, why should Oprah influence my vote if they didn't vote anyone votes in a close race, right, if it was even a small people --

CORNISH: Yes, it's not for everyone's vote.

KING: Yes, in a close race. But look at the new Maris poll out there. This is one of the races, you know, again, this is a tough climate for Democrats it turned increasingly tough in recent days and weeks. Fetterman 51, Oz 45. You're -- so you're just outside the margin of error there. You know, Democrats want to pick this one up because it has a Republican incumbent who's not running. They want it because they may lose Nevada, they may lose somewhere else. This is sort of in the chess game.


BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, this is a really big one for both parties, but particularly Democrats for the reasons you laid out. And we're seeing that this weekend. They are going to be dueling rallies between former President Trump, current President Biden, Obama is going to be there as well as the candidates for the Democratic candidates, Josh Shapiro and John Fetterman for Senate. So this is something that I think we're going to hear from them what we've heard in the past few days, which is Obama and Biden both talking about democracy, talking about the threats to it, really trying to say that this is what's at stake in this election cycle even more so than past election cycles in addition to a course trying to rally the base around abortion, which we've heard the President tried to refocus on at times in the closing week.

CORNISH: Abortion and you feel less weak on economics, because it's the crew today candidate, right? Like you don't have to have that battle about like, oh, the economy, et cetera, because that's not the again, the best messenger for that for Republicans.

KING: If you're watching at home, you're a little late to this campaign and you don't get the crew today candidate, pick up your phone, do the search it's worth it.

CORNISH: Add me on Twitter.

KING: It's worth another big race. And one of the reasons Democrats very much want to pick up that Pennsylvania seat is they're worried about losing a couple. One of them is in Georgia where the candidates, we talked to earlier in the show about the anxiety over the economy, the affordability, working families, who will best represent you in Washington, that's the big debate.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA), SENATE CANDIDATE: Georgia deserves a United States senator who understands the struggles of ordinary people and who will stand on their side. And I promise you, if you will stand with me for the next five days. I stand for you for the next six years.

HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA), SENATE CANDIDATE: It is time for us to get people in Washington to do the right thing. And as my offensive linemen, they used to tell me sometimes, Herschel, follow me. I take you to the promised land. So I'm going to tell all you vote for me. We all get to the promised land.


KING: One of the more fascinating races and a lot of people early on said, you know, Herschel Walker, a flawed candidate, he's had character controversies. He's in a dead heat with an incumbent Democratic United States senator.

BASH: And just that comment alone, I think is so indicative of the entire message, which is reading between the lines. Yes, I'm famous. And maybe I have lots of flaws. But forget about me. Look at the bigger picture. Look at from his perspective, the promised land, and the perspective of the voters he's trying to reach is ending Democratic control in the Senate, and I am the path to get there.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I think that on the Herschel Walker-Warnock race, you know, again, I just, we haven't really dived into abortion that much. But I think that that is also going to be key there, there in Pennsylvania, because I think that the same way we've talked about polls, not always pulling Republican voters or Trump voters very well. Dana, we talked about this recently. I think that the polling women who potentially are going to be voting Democratic based on abortion, I'm not sure that polls are picking that up as well.

KING: This is -- the exit polls will be fascinating because there's this tug of war, right? You're dealing with inflation, but you care about, you know, the Dobbs decision or the abortion issue. What do you make paramount if you have candidates or different positions there. Also out in Nevada, the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents Catherine Cortez Masto. And again, that issue comes up for her she's running against the Republican Adam Laxalt.


SEN. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO (D-NV), SENATE CANDIDATE: We know we can't trust Laxalt when it comes to a woman's right to choose. This is a man who called Roe versus Wade a joke.

ADAM LAXALT (R-NV), SENATE CANDIDATE: She's a reliable vote for the Joe Biden agenda, 100 percent of the time, she supported his economic agenda that has destroyed Las Vegas, crushed small businesses, and made life unaffordable for all of you.


KING: Textbook right there. Laxalt running your traditional midterm campaign message, be mad at the President, be mad at this Democratic incumbent. She's trying to take that Dobbs decision and say there's a lot at stake --

CORNISH: I'll just say quickly, that context matters and where you -- what state you're in, and the state of play around abortion does greatly affect your race. And that's something we have to keep an eye on next week. And also Nevada in particular has really struggled with the economy. They have not rebounded as well as other parts of the country. And so again, you're hearing a message that resonates specifically for the audience that it's intended for it.

KING: Right. Just not much more than a year ago, 28 percent unemployment has come back quite a bit, but that leaves a bruise. That definitely leaves a bruise.

Join Dana this Sunday on State of the Union, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, she'll be joined exclusively for an important conversation with the Republican National Committee Chairwoman, that's Ronna McDaniel.


And next, a CNN exclusive, the Justice Department is considering if it might need a special counsel to oversee the major federal investigations involving Donald Trump, because he's about to run for president again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Critical CNN reporting now on very important behind the scenes deliberations inside the Biden Justice Department. Sources say officials are planning on picking up the pace of the two sprawling investigations into the former President Donald Trump once the midterms finish. That includes potential indictments, a flurry of new hires to prosecute or at least investigate cases and an experienced brain trust to help shepherd Trump related decisions. One giant question how to manage all this if Trump declares the 2024 presidential run? One possible solution that has been discussed our team has told at the highest levels of the Justice Department is bringing in a special counsel to oversee both ongoing Trump investigations.

Joining our conversation, CNN's Paula Reid and the former federal prosecutor Carrie Cordero. So walk us in this theoretical conversation that you have to have at the highest level is now very real our team, our colleagues are reporting Donald Trump could announce as early as 10 days from now. Special Counsel, did they view that as the only option to give them some political protection or are there others?


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, based on our reporting, these discussions centered around how do you make sure that the Biden Justice Department is not accused of going after a political rival, really the chief political rival, especially as Trump inches closer to a 2024 run. But I'm going to push back on that a little bit.

First of all, a special counsel is not independent by design, they report to the Attorney General, and we saw with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Trump-Russia connections and the John Durham investigation into the origins of the Russia probe. Special counsels are not immune from political attacks. I actually asked the Attorney General about a possible Special Counsel back in March. And of course, not surprisingly, Merrick Garland gave a kind of non- committal answer.

What he would seem to be trying to say is, we're not afraid of highly political cases. So what has changed between March and now? We all knew Trump was likely to run, that can't be it. What I have seen in reporting over the past seven years, and these highly political investigations, Hillary Clinton's e-mails, Russia, sometimes people who are not politicians, like Merrick Garland, they come to the Justice Department, and they underestimate just how politically fraught these situations are. But again, it doesn't appear this special counsel will solve all the problems that they have.

KING: Right. As someone who's been in the building, maybe not facing this question. Do we indict a former president? Or who do we have handle settling the question or at least making the big recommendation on whether we indict a former president, two investigations, one about stealing the election, you know, obstructing the government as it tried to have the transition to power. The other about the sensitive documents taken to Mar-a-Lago, classified records, that some of which still may be missing, if you believe the Justice Department, and there's no reason not to. How do you handle this? CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, these are these are really big investigations. These are investigations that I don't think are going to wrap up anytime soon. And so they really, the Justice Department really has to be looking over the next year or two, national security cases, even though the Mar-a-Lago documents case might seem like it's straightforward, National Security investigations, they just take time, no matter what dealing with classified information is hard.

This decision is totally within Attorney General Garland's discretion whether or not to do it. He has to make the judgment does he think that the appearance of conflict with an election over the horizon demands that he appoint the Special Counsel, he has to decide whether it's in the public interest, that's a very general and vague standard by which to make a decision.

And then he has to think about would the appointment of a special counsel delay the investigations in some way. You have to get the appointment, you know, somebody that would be acceptable, somebody who has the reputation and the actual experience to do it. And then they have to hire a staff and they have to get a budget and they have to get space to work. So there is a delay aspect that he also has to take into account.

KING: And as those conversations continue, you do see beneath that and maybe to help with the recommendations where we go from here. In your reporting and reporting of your colleagues, they're bringing in some big names and more experienced hands, top justice officials have looked to an old guard of former Southern District of New York prosecutors, bringing into the investigations Kansas City-based federal prosecutor and national security expert David Raskin, as well as David Rody, a prosecutor-turned-defense lawyer who previously specializes in gang and conspiracy cases has worked extensively. So they're bringing in, they're trying to find an A team. And then then you go from there.

REID: Yes. And there's also a lot of burnout. There's a lot of work at the Justice Department. It's not just the investigations into Trump. You have all the prosecutions related to January 6th. You also have an investigation into the president's son, and at least two high profile members of Congress. Nobody would want to be Merrick Garland right now. And so they're bringing in extra resources to help all the people who work there at the Justice Department.

KING: And if you're there, and you're meeting with Merrick Garland today, you see the reporting Trump might announce as early as 10 days from now, November 14th, he's, you know, that's not all politics, too. He gets this from a legal environment, he wants to be able to say witch hunt, witch hunt, witch hunt, witch hunt.

CORDERO: Well, and so the from the Attorney General's perspective, that's why I think our -- your reporting indicates that they have to be planning for this scenario. And they really have to think through an advance. They can't be waiting for the former president to make whatever decision he's going to make. They're going to make a decision that's in the best interest of the cases, best interest of the country, and that maintain the integrity of the Justice Department.

KING: It's a fascinating moment than a giant test. Appreciate the insights and the great reporting. Thank you.


Ahead for us, the leader of the Oath Keeper says, he's against violence, as he takes the stand in his own and his colleagues' historic seditious conspiracy trial.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, Stewart Rhodes taking the stand in his own defense. The Oath Keepers founder testifying in federal court for more than two hours deflecting accusations he wanted to spark a bloody revolution to keep Donald Trump in power. Rhodes, a Yale Law School educated self-described libertarian is facing seditious conspiracy charges to be back on the stand Monday.

In Milwaukee, election officials have been fired for allegedly requesting military ballots for fake voters and then sending those ballots to a Republican state lawmaker. The absentee ballots were sent to the chairwoman of the state's committee on elections. She has been an outspoken critic of how the votes were counted there in 2020. And she believes the worker who sent them was trying to make a point about how easy it is to request military ballots in Wisconsin.


This quick programming note on election night, join us here at CNN for special coverage, we start Tuesday November 8th, that's Election Day at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, learn what's happening in your state and around the country.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. Have a fantastic weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.