Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Trump Launches Third White House Bid Amid GOP Midterm Losses; Congress Returns For Lame-Duck Session With Packed Agenda; Pentagon Gives Update After Missile Kills Two In Poland. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 16, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: 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. It reminded me of his inaugural address the American carnage part of it.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. Yes. And even his energy, I mean, one of my favorite tweets about it was even Donald Trump is tired of Donald Trump. And that's kind of how he delivered it. It was very kind of somber and dark, not a lot of energy. And what was also interesting was the crowd too, was incredibly flat.

You know, usually there is sort of excitement. Donald Trump has all sorts of one liners and hooks that people can grab on to, and a real vision. I mean, if you remember his first announcement, you know, it was racist and xenophobic, but people could grab on to it, it was something that was new and fresh. In here, this is just an also ran, he seems just sort of out of touch. You know, part of it was him pleading, I think, for the people who are turning their backs on them, that maybe he could be an acceptable version of himself, at least during that hour or two of his speech. But we know there's going to be more to come.

KING: Right. I will just say, you know, for those who are saying that Donald Trump has done and it's over a lot of the same people said this in 2015, he'll never be the nominee. So I would just withhold judgment on anything here. We'll see what happens. He is still the most formidable force in the Republican Party. We will see where it goes from here. There's no question. You can blame him for 2018, 2020, and 2022. But he's still the most formidable force in the Republican Party. What was interesting to me is he started, tried to frame the speech around when I left office two years ago, and draw a contrast.

So he's still very early on, when I left office two years ago, and he said, everything's gone to hell. Essentially, in his view, the unemployment rate is significantly lower than when he left office. The COVID cases are significantly lower than when he left office. The deficit, normally a Republican issue is way down under President Biden than when Donald Trump left office.

Now, violent crime is up border crossings, a key issue for Trump are up. So there's an opening there, but just the floor -- it was just, like, it was his grievances against Biden, I guess, to find the speech.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Absolutely. That is something that stuck out to me a lot. Whether that will be a winning message for him is remains to be seen. The only thing that really stuck out to me is how he didn't talk about the 2020 election very much at least as much as we've seen him do in the past. It makes me wonder where his advisors and his ear telling him this is a losing message. Clearly that was resoundingly rejected in the general election, even though it was clearly a winning strategy in the primaries.

But you know, I question whether Trump has the capability to look inward at what went wrong in his campaign, what went wrong in these midterms? And if he's able to recalibrate and adjust his message, I don't know that he is.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: And also, when he left office, the Capitol was on lockdown. There was National Guard troops around it. You couldn't -- there was fences around it, there was a military state in Washington, D.C., so that has to be part of the narrative that Trump is obviously not talking about, but he also has investigation after investigation, state investigations in Georgia, in New York, that Department of Justice is investigating him. So ultimately, it's up to voters. But this is the narrative that he is running in.

KING: And the investigations is important for a couple of reasons. Number one, look, everybody, including Donald Trump is innocent until proven guilty. But number two, now that he's an official candidate, the Republican National Committee will not pay his legal fees. And so part of my question is, is part of this to raise money? You saw the text Donald Trump on his thing? There are the investigations right there. There are two federal investigations wanting to declassify documents, wanted, did he try to obstruct the transfer of power in the United States.

There's a tax trial underway for organization right now in New York. There's the Georgia grand jury investigation, which is getting some really high profile witnesses this week and there is more. Is it almost like to challenge prosecutors? Now I'm a candidate, I can -- anything you do now I can frame it, at least to my people, as political witch hunt.

ZANONA: Yes, but this does not, as our Paula Reid was reporting earlier today. This does not insulate him from investigations. It is a lot of baggage. And I think that's why you do see a lot of Republicans looking at him maybe we can support a Ron DeSantis who, you know, similar to Trump without all that baggage. The problem is, as we were alluding to earlier, is that the Republican Party is so fractured right now at this critical moment of debating whether do we support Trump again or do we finally move on?

KING: And so one of the people saying it's time to move on is the guy who served Donald Trump incredibly loyally for four years only to get the betrayed by the then president, is the former Vice President Mike Pence, who says this.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And It's a free country, the President's entitled to announce his intentions whenever he desires, but I honestly believe that we'll have better choices come 2024. And I think there's a genuine desire for leadership that could unite the country around our highest ideals.


KING: Unite is not a word associate, Trump used it yesterday. But again, you mentioned the Capitol. It was a couple of days after he launched another racist attack on Mitch McConnell's wife. So Trump and unity do not go in the same sentence, Pence is trying to make the case maybe he's that guy.


HENDERSON: Yes, that's right. I mean he when he talks about there'll be better choices he thinks he'll be one of those better choices. He's going to be on CNN tonight at 9 o'clock, I think with a town hall with Jake Tapper. So and he's on this book tour. It's not clear that there's a lane for him. It's not really clear who there is a lane for that, you know, can fill up a lane that could actually challenge Trump. We saw last time he was able to win because it's a winner take all system and then everybody else who weren't named Trump split the vote. So we'll see.

But I think this weakened Trump and the fact that he doesn't have the same megaphone that he used to have with "Fox News" with "The New York Post," I think their non-headline was Florida man announces for president at the bottom of the cover of "The New York Post." So there is a whole different dynamic going forward.


KING: A couple of big significant donors pulled away, right.

ZANONA: Yes, right. Ivanka Trump has said she's not going to be part of political operation anymore.

HENDERSON: Yes. So but we don't know about voters, again, primary voters seems to be dedicated to both Trump and Trumpism. And so we'll see going forward.

KING: Right. To find the establishment and to find sometimes just playing out political gravity has been his trademark. We will see. We will see if he can do it again.

After historic midterm election, Congress back at work today with a jam packed agenda, including a vote this afternoon on codifying same sex marriage.



KING: Live pictures the Pentagon briefing room here. We're waiting for the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. They're going to brief us on a conversation they just had with a number of allies including NATO allies to support Ukraine in this moment of crisis, a missile falling into Poland killing two people believed to have been fired from Ukrainian Air Defense System during a Russian missile strike. We'll go there live as soon as that briefing happens.

In the meantime, a first test up on Capitol Hill today of the post- election work environment in the Congress, the Senate will decide whether to open debate on a House passed measures to guarantee the right to same sex marriage. Democrats decided to wait until after the election to bring this legislation to the Senate floor believing it would be easier after the election to get 10 Republican votes needed to advance debate. This is the first major test of the post midterm legislative mood as Congress begins a year end session with several major issues looming, including that small thing called funding the government, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hopes the same sex marriage bill is a positive beginning.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I hope that at minimum, 10 Republicans will be ready to throw their support behind the sound common sense bill, millions of people will be better off if we're able to work together on this important and highly personal issue.


KING: This one looks like it was a smart strategy of the Democrats. And it looks like this will pass today, which is a big deal, which is a very big deal. The House has already passed it. This bill will go to President Biden. It will make federal law of the land the right to same sex marriage. My question is number one not to take away from the big deal of that. Does that positive bipartisan climate last or does it quickly go away?

CALDWELL: Well, based on the conversation that's happening behind closed doors among Senate Republicans right now, we'll see. There's a lot of people who don't want to compromise. They expect to get the 10 Republican senators today, Senator Tammy Baldwin, who's the lead Democratic negotiator, she told me yesterday that it's going to squeak through today. But she predicts that final passage will actually have a bigger bipartisan vote. It's post-election. Lame duck is a great time to be bipartisan. But there are some Republicans who are now itching for a fight.

KING: And among the items on the agenda. First, this same sex marriage bill but funding the government to avoid a shutdown, passage of the National Defense Authorization Act. The President wants more money for Ukraine in there. The same sex marriage bill, as you see. The Electoral College Count Act, which is supposed to fix some of the murky legal issues around what happened before January 6th. That last one there, it's the shortest line on the graphic, it's the biggest fight, raising the debt ceiling.

ZANONA: It is the biggest fight. What we're hearing right now, it's probably not going to get done in the lame duck, they can try to put it on a reconciliation bill. It's like budget procedure. But that takes time, you have to get all done Democrats in agreement and Republicans, there's not just 10 votes right now to raise the debt ceiling. It's going to be the massive fight of next year.

And while Kevin McCarthy is not going to come out in support of doing the debt ceiling during the lame duck, privately, you better believe that he would have loved to have this off his plate because he's going to have to deal with it. And he has a razor thin majority. He has Republicans on his right for itching for cuts to Social Security and Medicare. You have Democrats who say that's a hard line. So this is going to be a massive fight in the New Year.

KING: And as we watch, at least today, a bipartisan day in the Senate and we will see how quickly or if that unravels, I suspect it will. The question is, how fast? One of the most fascinating things about by the end of the day today, we're likely to call the House of Representatives for Republicans, they will have a very small majority come January. And you'll have a Democratic Senate and a Republican House. So the Secretary of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas was already in the House yesterday made clear that come January when Republicans control the committees, just speaking committees, his life is going to change.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Answer the question, have you had a conversation with anyone in the administration about stepping down from your current role?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I have not. I hope for the sake of the safety of the American people that that conversation happens very soon.


KING: So maybe there'll be at least periodic bipartisanship on the Senate side, don't bet on it on the House side.

HENDERSON: No, I mean when Kevin McCarthy was talking about what it would look like if he assumed the speakership, it was all about investigations into Afghanistan, into the origins of COVID, Hunter Biden. So you imagine that we are going to have endless hearings. This will please part of his flank, particularly of the sort of House Freedom Caucus. So in that way, that's good. I think if you're the Biden administration, it's not good to have this kind of scrutiny. But it's also like will there'll be a kind of overreach by the House or Republican Caucus, that then sort of boomerangs and essentially benefits Biden because they look like they're focused on things that American people don't actually care about. And then Biden is doing the work of the American people.

[12:45:37] ZANONA: And I can tell you, there's a lot of moderate Republicans, including some of these new members who were just elected, who were saying exactly that. They're warning against that they say, we can't use our newfound majority to just pummel Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci. So that is going to be the push and pull that Republicans have to deal with next year.

KING: We're going to watch this -- it's --

ZANONA: Whoever is the speaker.

KING: We've had divided government repeatedly through the years, this one I think is going to be interesting is a good neutral word, we will see.

Up next, Artemis 1 takes flight after months of setbacks. Take a look. Launch, a launch that is critical to NASA's plans to return to the moon as a springboard to Mars.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, boosters and ignition. And lift off.





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Three, two, one, boosters and ignition. And lift off of Artemis 1. We raise together back to the Moon and beyond.


KING: That right there Artemis 1, lighting the sky over Florida early this morning, launching a new era of space exploration. This is an unmanned mission. But it's -- I'm sorry, we need to go live now to the Pentagon, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone, thank you for being here today. It's my pleasure to introduce Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley. The Secretary and the Chairman will deliver opening remarks and then they'll have time to take a few questions. I'll moderate those questions and call on journalist. Secretary Austin?

LLOYD AUSTIN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thanks, Patrick. Good afternoon, everyone. We've just completed our seventh meeting of the Ukraine defense contact group. And it's been another highly successful session. Now we were meeting today as Russia continues to target Ukraine civilians and bombard its energy grid. But Russia's deliberate cruelty only deepens our resolve. And we'll continue to support Ukraine's bedrock right to defend itself and defend the rules based international order.

Yesterday, we saw reports of a deadly explosion in Poland near its border with Ukraine. I spoke last night to my Polish counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense B?aszczak and I conveyed my deep condolences to the Polish people and to the loved ones of those who were killed.

I also underscored America's ironclad commitment to defend Poland. We have full confidence in the Polish government's investigation of this explosion. And they've been conducting that investigation in a professional and deliberate manner. And so we won't get ahead of their work. We're going to stay in close touch with our Polish counterparts, as well as with our NATO allies and other valued partners. We're still gathering information but we have seen nothing that contradicts President Duda's preliminary assessment that this explosion was most likely the result of a Ukrainian air defense missile that unfortunately landed in Poland.

And whatever the final conclusions may be, the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident. Russia launched another barrage of missiles against Ukraine specifically intended to target Ukraine's civilian infrastructure. This tragic and troubling incident is yet another reminder of the recklessness of Russia's war of choice. And Ukraine has a bedrock right to defend itself. And we will continue to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine as a defender country.

And we were joined today, again today at the contact group meeting by my good friend, Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine's minister of defense, and by Deputy Chief of Defense Lieutenant General Moisiuk. I spoke with General Reznikov by phone before this morning's contact group meeting about yesterday's explosion in Poland. And we'll remain in close consultation as we move forward.

Ukraine's commanders have shown tremendous leadership and tenacity. And they updated the contact group this morning on the current battlefield dynamics and on Ukraine's most urgent self-defense needs. Ukraine's troops continue to consolidate their gains on the battlefield as they head into the winter, and the contact group continues to push hard to bolster Ukraine's air defenses in the face of Russia's ongoing barrages. I'm pleased to be able to report that the NASAMS Air Defense Systems that we've sent to Ukraine are now operational. And their performance so far has been very impressive.


The NASAMS Systems had a 100 percent success rate and intercepting Russian missiles as the Kremlin continues its ruthless bombardment of Ukraine, including yesterday's attacks. We're also working to secure more critical equipment to protect and repair Ukraine's energy infrastructure after Russia's indefensible attacks.

We also heard an important update from General Cavoli, our Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. I'm confident that the training efforts spearheaded by the United States and many other members of this contact group will equip the Ukrainian armed forces with the skills that they need to consolidate their gains and to seize new opportunities on the battlefield. I'd also like to acknowledge the European Union's important efforts here. The E.U.'s training program across Europe will do a great deal to reinforce what other countries are doing bilaterally.

Also I'd like to recognize Germany and Poland for their leadership in this larger mission. And let me thank the U.K. for pledging to train another 19,000 Ukrainian troops next year. The contact group also discussed an important industrial based initiatives to sustain our security assistance to Ukraine. Let me also thank the department's acquisition and sustainment team as well as the co-host of the national armaments directors working group under the contact group auspices.

Now, all of these initiatives helped prepare the Ukrainians to consolidate their gains during the winter, and to prepare to seize new initiatives in the spring. And you can see this contact groups ongoing unity and commitment in some of the announcements that its members made. I'd like to thank Sweden for coming forward today with a substantial $287 million package of assistance to Ukraine. This package includes key capabilities, including an air defense system that will bolster Ukraine's ability to defend itself against Russia's ongoing, ruthless attacks.

And Spain has promised to send to more Hawk launchers and missiles. And Canada is stepping up with this largest -- with its latest tranche of $500 million in assistance, and Canada remains one of the lead donors of winter gear. Germany has advanced much needed donations of air defense, artillery, and MLRS ammunition. And Greece also announced an important donation of 155 millimeter ammunition. And Poland has committed additional artillery and tank ammunition as well as short range air defense capabilities.

And so these contributions will make a real difference. And so does a coordination of our security assistance that this contact group makes possible. So we will continue to deepen our work together. And the contact group has met seven times this year. And each meeting has produced tangible results that help Ukraine defend itself and its citizens.

And you can see that progress and Ukraine's victories in Kharkiv and Kherson. Over the weekend, the world saw Ukrainian forces liberate Kherson, demonstrating once again the determination of the Ukrainian people to live free in their own country. Our resolve is only strengthened by Russia's indefensible attacks on civilian targets, and will continue to stand together and common purpose because no member of this contact group wants to live in a world where big countries bulldoze their peaceful neighbors.

And we won't just accept Putin's imperial aggression and erosion of international norms as some kind of new normal. Instead, we will continue to stand up for Ukraine's inalienable rights to defend itself. We'll continue to strengthen our unity and resolve. We'll continue to show the power of partnership. And we'll continue to bolster Ukraine's armed forces by rushing them the capabilities that they need to defend their country. And we will continue to help the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom.

Thank you very much, and I'll turn it over to General Milley for his opening comments.

MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Thank you, Secretary Austin. I appreciate that. And I appreciate your leadership. As we gathered today, this morning, for the seventh consecutive convening of the Ukrainian contact group which we've been doing every month as you know.