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CNN: U.S. Intel Says Missile That Landed In Poland Likely Fired From Ukraine; G20 Ends With "Most" Members Condemning Russia's War In Ukraine; NATO: Poland Incident "Likely" Caused By Ukraine Air Defense Missile; Russia Denies Involvement After Missile Kills Two In NATO Territory; Scott Challenging McConnell In Race For Senate GOP Leader; Happening Now: Senate GOP Meeting For Leadership Elections; Sens Johnson, Hawley, Braun Supporting Scott For Leader; Trump Launches Third White House Bid Amid GOP Midterm Losses. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired November 16, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. A very, very busy news day. Thanks for sharing your time with us. Any moment now, the Pentagon take on a tragic turn in Russia's war on Ukraine. A missile cross from the war zone into Poland, killing two. Early signs point to Ukraine firing that missile responding to a Russian attack. NATO's leader says, blame ultimately falls on Russia.
Plus, right now a Senate leadership showdown. Rick Scott says Mitch McConnell is to blame for the GOP midterm debacle and he mounts a challenge to the veteran Republican leader. And Donald Trump starts the next campaign. The former president's announcement speech veered from the truth quite a bit, and it painted a grim view of American life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: The citizens of our country have not yet realized the full extent and gravity of the pain our nation is going through. And the total effect of the suffering is just starting to take hold.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Back to politics later. But up first for us, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said to speak any moment at the Pentagon. The two are wrapping up a meeting with the Ukrainian defense contact group. Those talks with allies supporting Ukraine, our response to a wartime tragedy. A missile that crossed into Poland and killed two people.
It was a Russian made missile. But initial U.S. and NATO assessments are that it likely came from Ukraine's air defense system. Still, the NATO secretary general firm in saying Russia is the aggressor in this war, and so Russia bears ultimate responsibility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Let me be clear, this is not Ukraine's fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility, as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: CNN is covering the story worldwide. Our Jeremy Diamond standing by at the White House. But let's begin our coverage with Melissa Bell. She is at the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Melissa, major tests now for NATO after this tragic accident.
MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, especially since from when we heard it, we didn't know exactly what was going on. We understood fairly quickly, John, that this was a Russian made missile. Clearly had it been launched from Russia or by Russian forces, the implications would have been extremely grave because of the nature of the fundamental articles. At the very foundation of NATO, of course, an attack against one country is an attack against all, and it would have had very serious implications.
Hence those calming words that you heard from Jens Stoltenberg, the ambassadors of the 30 NATO alliance members met here earlier on. And at the end of that meeting very quickly, he gave that initial assessment, calling for calm and urging everyone to keep working together. Of course, the investigation has yet to conclude this is a preliminary conclusion.
Moscow is claiming that the investigation will find that this is a provocation from Ukrainians, and we will have to wait for the outcome of the investigation. For the time being though, the fact is that Article Four, Article Five, NATO treaties have not been invoked. And for the time being, it is all about trying to figure out exactly what happened.
In fact, that meeting that you mentioned a moment ago led by Lloyd Austin, he began by explaining that this is in fact a reminder of how desperately Ukraine needs updated much more sophisticated defense systems that it has at the moment, suggesting that what is of use had failed to stop that missile. And that has been at the heart of that meeting that's been ongoing, how to get more NATO countries to pledge some of those more sophisticated defense systems that Ukraine has been asking for.
KING: Melissa Bell live for us in Brussels at this very tense moment. Melissa, thank you. Standby as we wait to hear from the Pentagon. President Biden now heading back to the United States that after an overseas trip that included the G20 Summit in Bali. Late last night just before departing Indonesia, the president convening an emergency meeting with other world leaders to discuss this poll and strike.
Our CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us now. Jeremy, what are we hearing from the administration after these urgent talks? And now as they try to get every little piece of the TikTok as to how this happened.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, John, I can tell you that there are ongoing consultations between the United States and its NATO allies as well as Poland and Ukraine, as they try and figure out exactly what happens here. That preliminary assessment though, according to two U.S. officials is that this missile did originate from Ukraine and you're seeing the increasing likelihood that it was indeed an erroneous missile fired up by Ukraine that landed in Poland, killing two people on that territory.
The president for his part, he was awoken in the middle of the night, John, with this news, and he quickly convened a meeting with his national security adviser initially and his secretary of state as you can see in that photo there. And then later this meeting with G7 and other U.S. allies, where they all agreed to follow the investigation where at leads.
And interestingly, at the very top of that statement, was not about the missile that landed in Poland. But it was about the barrage of missiles that Russia had been firing on Ukrainian cities, on civilian infrastructure earlier in the day.
And that is kind of to this broader point that we are hearing, as we just heard from the NATO secretary general here, that regardless of who actually fired this missile, it is only happening because of Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine. And you can expect that that will be a fundamental point that the U.S. highlights in the coming days.
Lastly, before President Biden departed from the G20 Summit, there was this statement from G20 leaders. Interestingly, it said that most of the G20 members condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Of course, we know that China has, you know, not condemned Russia's invasion as forcefully and it has helped Russia frankly, evade many of those U.S. led global sanctions. So, that's also a notable piece out of that summit. John?
KING: Jeremy Diamond live at the White House for us. Again, we're waiting for a Pentagon briefing with the defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. Jeremy, thanks so much. He'll be standing by as well.
Let's get some important perspective now from Andrea Kendall-Taylor. She is the former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia. Andrea, grateful for your time on this day. You heard Melissa Bell talking about, in the initial moments after a missile hits ground in Poland and people say it's Russian made. There was this worry that we could have an Article Five moment, that we could have an Article Four moment.
Now that they believe this was Ukraine's air defense systems firing a missile because of the incoming Russian barrage and it inadvertently crossed into Poland. What is happening right now? We know the defense secretary is on this phone call. What are the conversations within NATO about what do we need to know and what comes next?
ANDREA KENDALL-TAYLOR, FMR. DEPUTY NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICER FOR RUSSIA: Well, I think as the reporters have highlighted, Austin and others are meeting in this Ukraine Contact Group, which is a regularly scheduled meeting in order to coordinate important critical military aid to Ukraine. So, I imagine they're all taking stock of what has happened. And figuring out how to lean into this moment and equip Ukraine with what they need to end the war.
I think one of the most critical points that comes out of this for me, is that it is in America's interest and our allies' interests to equip Ukraine, to take back their territory and end this war as quickly as possible because the longer this war goes on, we will continue to be exposed to risks like this. So, I think it's conversations about air defenses and other systems that Ukraine need, so that they can more quickly retake their territory and end this war.
KING: Smart take there on the military side. Now help me with the diplomatic side, in the hours, in the days immediately after. If you're Russia, you're saying this is a provocation from Ukraine, you're looking for cracks in the coalition here. That was why President Biden convened that meeting right away. That is why this defense secretary, and the chairman of the joint chiefs are on the phone with allies right now.
From the President of Poland came words, the White House quite welcomed, saying this is a tragedy, but that he too blames Russia, that if Russia were not the aggressor in this war, that would not have happened. Explain to viewers who might not understand. Poland has reserved the right to invoke Article Four. Article Five is an attack on one, is an attack on all. Explain Article Four.
KENDALL-TAYLOR: Article Four enables a NATO member to trigger immediate consultations when one country feels that they are under threat. It is not in any way directly linked to triggering Article Five as you mentioned. And it's important to note that Article Four has been invoked regularly, including earlier this year by the polls when Ukraine - sorry, when Russia initiated its attack on Ukraine.
So, it is just an opportunity for the allies to get together for immediate consultations to compare notes intelligence and chart the way forward. As you noted, it looked like the polls were going to trigger Article Five - Four in the immediate moments afterwards, but given the intelligence that's coming in, they have rescinded that request.
KING: And so, back to the military perspective. It's also the weather becomes a factor. Everyone is, you know, the winter is starting to take hold in Ukraine, and most people were anticipating a pause at least in ground defense. If you can still lob the missiles as Russia has done with increasing regularity in recent days. What are your biggest questions right now about what you think should be on the table in terms of the short-term military response, given this incident and then the coming colder months?
KENDALL-TAYLOR: Well, we should note that Ukraine just had another major victory in western Kherson. We can't lose sight of that. Ukrainians have retaken almost half the territory that Russia held at its peak back in March. So, they have tremendous momentum. Obviously, as you said going into the winter, it may be more difficult to retake territory.
So, my concern at this point is not only the winter, but as Russia is defending less territory, they're able to consolidate their forces to dig defensive lines. I worry very much that we're marching more towards a stalemate situation, a prolongation of this war, which as the incident in Poland underscores, there will be risks.
It's more costly for the United States to sustain support, more costly to build Ukraine at the end. And we will continue to be exposed to risks like what happened in Poland if we are in that prolonged situation. So, that's what I'm looking at in these coming winter months.
KING: Grateful for the important insights. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, thank you very much. We'll continue to watch the situation. Obviously, we'll continue this conversation. And as I noted, we're waiting for a briefing at the Pentagon. The Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, they will speak any moment.
Up next for us. Though until that happens, a Republican Senate showdown born of the GOP's midterm disappointment. Mitch McConnell facing a challenge to his leadership role from the Florida Senator Rick Scott.
KING: Republican senators are meeting right now on Capitol Hill to choose their leadership, fresh off a disappointing midterm performance. For the first time in 15 years, Mitch McConnell faces a challenge for the top spot. It's coming from the Florida Senator Rick Scott. McConnell, though says, there's no real threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I think the outcome is pretty clear. I want to repeat again. I have the votes. I will be elected. The only issue is whether we do it sooner or later.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju, joins us now live from Capitol Hill. Manu, they are in the room. Is it going to happen today? Or will McConnell's opponents or at least those who want to wait carry the day?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will definitely happen today. This after an effort by Senator Ted Cruz along with a handful of other conservative members of the Republican conference tried to delay this until after the Georgia runoff, which is on December 6. They failed in that of that porch. They got support, though of 16 Republican members of this conference, who are present and voting.
It is unclear exactly what will - how many votes will ultimately come down for Senator Rick Scott, but we do expect him to fall well short of the majority needed to become the next Republican leader, that is according to virtually every Republican senator that we talk to. And of course, Senator McConnell has been working the votes behind the scenes for some time.
So, the only question now is, how many votes Rick Scott gets. So, they have been talking behind closed doors. They have been members who have given nominating speeches on behalf of Mitch McConnell, dominating speeches on behalf of Rick Scott. Scott has made his case that Mitch McConnell is the status quo. They needed change in direction, criticizing his stewardship of the Republicans outside group that spent tons of money in this past election cycle.
Behind closed doors yesterday, Mitch McConnell returned criticism over Rick Scott's handling of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and some Republican senators came to McConnell's defense, including Susan Collins of Maine, who questioned the spending decisions of Scott's campaign committee.
So, there's finger pointing has been happening behind closed doors for days, John, because of just how disappointing those election results were. But just in a matter of moments, we do expect that results to come forward. And that's when Mitch McConnell will become the longest serving party leader in U.S. history. John?
KING: Manu Raju, as soon as you get those results, come back and share them with us. We'll be waiting. And in the meantime, with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN's Melanie Zanona, and Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post. So, 16 Republicans vote to delay this election. They want more time to think about this.
That in and of itself is a shot across the bow of Leader McConnell, which worse watching this play out in the House as well. Is it venting frustration? Or is it real? Is his leadership he's going to win today? That's my bet. I think that's a safe bet. Tell me if I'm wrong. But is his authority over - is his authority undermined, you know, abide by this?
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I think that's the big question. There's also questions about whether Mitch McConnell will continue to serve out for the rest of his term, doesn't stick around in 2024, especially if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. Now he has said, he's going to serve all the way through. He hasn't answered what he would do going beyond that.
But there are serious questions. This is the first time McConnell has ever faced a challenger and just, you know, 30,000-foot view here is remarkable. The amount of unrest, we are seeing in both the House and the Senate Republican Party's right now. Mitch McConnell do not think he would be here right now. Kevin McCarthy certainly didn't think he'd be in this position right now. And it's really overshadowing the fact that the House is probably on track to win the majority for Republicans and that McConnell is about to break the record for being the longest serving leader.
KING: So, the challenge comes from Rick Scott of Florida. He sent a letter. He was the chairman as Manu noted of the Republican Senatorial Committee. They raised money and support candidates. There's a huge debate about whether they spent that money smartly, whether a lot of people thought Rick Scott was using it to hire consultants and plan a presidential run, but now he's running for leader.
And he says after traveling the country to support our candidates, I believe voters want a plan. They're begging us to tell them what we will do when we are in charge. Is this Rick Scott's ambition? DeSantis, Trump also from Florida. Marco Rubio, also from Florida. Maybe there's not a presidential path for Rick Scott out of Florida. Is this ambition? Or is this genuine disbelief, disappointment with McConnell's leadership?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Or it could perhaps be a third option, which is deflection against how he did run the NRSC. And the challenge like they were almost broke a couple months before the election at a critical time. I don't know what it is. Some people just think that perhaps this is just an alliance to show that he's tough against McConnell to suck up to Trump really. There is those who think that Rick Scott there, it's like his only way out to try to push a fight again to deflect. So, I'm not sure.
But the thing and the bigger question is, thing is, is that there is a faction of the party. That is not the same faction of the party as the McConnell wing of the party. McConnell wants the Republican Party to be how it used to be. And there's members of his leadership who agree, Senator John Thune does, too.
But then there's this new crop of Republican senators who are coming in, who came in in 2020, who came in in 2018, who want the Republican Party to change. And McConnell is resistant to that, doesn't want anything to do with MAGA, anything to do with Trump. And that is where this friction is.
KING: Right. McConnell's history is as a governing conservative right of center, but count the votes cut the best deal. That's what he has done for years, count the votes, cut the best deal. Hold out, have the courage to block and people at home are saying that's not courage, call it what you want to block Merrick Garland. Merrick Garland is the Attorney General, not a Supreme Court justice because Mitch McConnell stood up and said, sorry President Obama, not going to give it to you, too late new term.
You mentioned the new wing. Here are the three we know publicly who are supporting Senator Scott. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin just reelected, Josh Hawley of Missouri, and Mike Braun of Indiana, newer members of the United States Senate, recent years, the Tea Party movement and so on. So is this a the new ideology, more than a generational thing, more than - it's a new ideology within the Republican Party.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: In some ways and listen. If you're a senator, you are a very ambitious person. And I think some of the frustration goes to that and goes to the way in which Mitch McConnell has a bit of a top-down leadership style, and people who want to move up and have a voice and a presence in shaping the future of the Republican Party. There is frustration with that.
Listen, a few weeks ago, I remember us at this table essentially saying Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell, were going to be battling over who would get the most credit over Republicans taking that the Senate that obviously hasn't happened.
ZANONA: Now they're battling over who's to blame.
HENDERSON: Who's to blame, exactly. And so, this is kind of what losing does, right? The fights break out, tensions over identity and vision of the party. And it doesn't help that you've got now Donald Trump announcing, and I think you're exactly right. In some ways, this is Rick Scott saying, pick me, pick me, Donald Trump.
KING: And to that point, before you jump in. Mitch McConnell in that fight says, told yourself, listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MCCONNELL: We underperformed among independents and moderate because their impression of many of the people in our party and leadership roles is that they're engulfed in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks, candidate quality recall, I said in August is important. And in most of our states, we met that test, and a few of them, we did not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: People in our party and leadership roles, they're engulfed in chaos. I can't imagine what he means by that.
CALDWELL: Right, exactly. Well, talking to Republicans, not only just in the Senate, but in the House too, and this is part of the Republican challenge moving forward. They do not agree on what McConnell said. The McConnell wing of the party, some of the more moderate, not that McConnell is moderate, but the moderate side of the party, they think that extremism did not work. Election denialism did not work.
Then you have the right parts, the far right of the party who says, we didn't go hard enough. We compromise too much. We didn't fight enough. We gave Schumer and Pelosi what they wanted. Biden won. And so, there's just a huge disconnect in, I mean midst the party right now.
KING: And that huge disconnect plays out of the segue to this. Up next. Yes, it's part of the same story. Donald Trump is officially a candidate for president again. His announcement speech was an indictment of President Biden and an effort to blame the GOP's miserable, midterm showing on anyone but himself.
KING: Quick reminder, we're standing by. Any moment now for a news conference at the Pentagon. The Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley after a conversation with allies about what next. Now that a missile apparently fired by Ukrainian air defense systems has fallen in Poland killing two people, urgent conversations underway. We'll get the Pentagon take in just a moment.
In the meantime, Donald Trump is officially a candidate for president again. He filed the paperwork yesterday and then made his announcement before supporters at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. In his speech, Trump took issue with Republicans who say his brand is toxic and is the biggest reason for the underwhelming Republican midterm campaign performance. And Mr. Trump delivered a dark rebuke of the man who defeated him back in 2020, President Biden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FMR PRES. TRUMP: Two years ago, we were a great nation and soon we will be a great nation again. The United States has been embarrassed, humiliated and weakened for all to see. You can't stay quiet any longer. You're angry about what's happening to our country. We will join together and reverse this staggering American decline and it is staggering indeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our great reporters back around the table with us. Normally announcement speeches are upbeat, elect me and I will take you to this place, kind of a North Star. It was a little bit of that, but it was dark.