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Police Credit Army Vet With Saving Lives And Subduing Gunman; Police Identify 5 Victims Killed At LGBTQ+ Bar In Colorado; Survivors Give Emotional Account Of Mass Shooting; Soon: Appeals Court Hearing On Special Master In Trump Case; Source: Trump Probes "Haven't Skipped A Beat" With Special Counsel Handover; Dem Leader: " McCarthy's Going To Have A Very Tough Time" McCarthy Eyes Speakers Gavel As He Visits Southern Border. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 22, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. In their own words, survivors and heroes who made it out of Club Q alive, give a painful bullet-by-bullet account of what happened inside that Colorado Springs nightclub.

Plus, no slowing down. The special counsel takes over and moves full steam ahead with the big Trump investigations. Also today, another courtroom showdown between the Justice Department and the former president's lawyers over those documents taken from Mar-a-Lago.

And some brand-new CNN reporting this hour on Ron DeSantis. He calls his midterm reelection with a national GOP roadmap, but the governor's go to loan approach, leave some GOP donors and bigwigs with a bit of a sour taste.

Up first for us though, a sketch of pure grief emerging from the new firsthand accounts from the survivors of yet another American massacre. This morning, the alleged Club Q shooter remains hospitalized, uncooperative and under investigation now for bias motivated crimes.

Today, a snippet of new information just before his 16th birthday, the suspect petitioned a Texas court to legally change his name. Now why he did that and why he barged into the Colorado Springs club and started spraying bullets remain unclear today. But we have learned a lot, learned a lot through halting, tear-filled interviews with the people who made it out of that nightclub with their lives intact, though forever scarred.

Richard Fierro shrugs off the title but make no mistake. This is what an American hero looks like. Fierro at the club with his daughter and her boyfriend. He went to the ground at first rifle pop before making a 20-yard dash straight for the shooter, pulling him down and separating him from his AR-15. Last night here on CNN, Fierro angrily, painfully recounting his last-ditch attempt to stop the slaughter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD FIERRO, STOPPED CLUB Q SHOOTING: I got to protect my kid. I lost my kid's boyfriend. I tried. I tried to everybody in there. I still feel bad. I fight people that didn't go home. And this guy, I told him why I was (Inaudible), I will kill you man because you try to kill my friends, my family was in there.


KING: This morning, this gratitude from Club Q's owner to the man he credits with saving countless lives.


NIC GRZECKA, CO-OWNER, CLUB Q: You were a big part of saving many more lives, stopping this from being worse than it already was. We thought you - again, I can't wait to give you a big hug. I just can't say thank you enough. I'm just so happy you were there. You're an angel to many people in this community.


KING: Let's get straight out to the scene Colorado Springs, CNN's Rosa Flores is there. Rosa, tell us more.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, just to tell you more about that hero Richard Fierro, he is a 15-year U.S. army veteran. He served for tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he says that his instincts kicked in his instincts to run towards danger to make sure that others are safe.

Now he describes the scene at the beginning of all this, before all this unfolded like some of the other survivors that we've talked to. It was a good time at Club Q. That's why people were there. This was a safe haven for so many. And then the gunshots rang out. That's when Fierro says that his instincts kicking, kicked in. He went directly towards danger to save others' lives. Take a listen.


FIERRO: I went, hey, I got stopped this guy. So, I ran across the room, and I pulled him down. He fell to his left side. And when I put him down, his rifle was in front of him. The young man that tried to help me was in front of him with his feet towards it. And I started yelling, hey, get his AR and I was going for the pistol. I just started hitting them to make him stop fighting. I'm not letting him get back up. And Thomas, I told him, hey man, kick, kick, kick, kick this guy, kick this guy.


FLORES: And you know, John, he goes on to say that the suspect, that the shooter was going for his magazines, was going for his weapons and that's why he and others kept on beating the man until police arrived. Now the other thing that he was asked, Fierro was asked if he had a message for that shooter and what he said is, he wants to see him in court. John? KING: Rosa Flores, live for us on the scene. The story so compelling and remarkable, especially Mr. Fierro. Rosa, thank you. There's also disbelief today from the survivors telling their stories unsure how they made it out alive, while some friends did not.



MICHAEL ANDERSON, SURVIVOR: I ducks behind the bar, and as I did that glass began to spew everywhere all around me. But after about a minute and a half, I decided I needed to get out of there.

JOSHUA THURMAN, SURVIVOR: It was so scary. I heard shots, broken glass, body. It was how, why?

BARRETT HUDSON, SURVIVOR: I fell down. He proceeded to shoot me. I got back up. I made it out of the back of the club. I've been shot seven times at this, or seven times by now. I've been grazed once. I hopped on a table, hopped about a 10 to 12-foot chain link fence. I don't know how I'm here. I do not, do not know how I'm here. I don't know how I'm walking.


KING: We now know the names. You see them. There are the five people killed in this horrific shooting and we know who they were. From accounts of the people who loved them. Daniel Aston, the 28-year-old transgender bartender and entertainer is remembered for making people laugh and wanting to help the LGBTQ+ community. 22-year-old Raymond Green Vance being described as kind, selfless and gifted. His family said he went to the nightclub with his girlfriend, her parents and her parents, friends to celebrate a birthday.

Kelly Loving, a 40-year-old transwoman who was known for being kind and caring to the people around her. Ashley Paugh being remembered as a loving mother and wife who was devoted to her family including her 11-year-old daughter. Her family said she worked with the LGBTQ+ community to find foster families, for children. And friends and family say 38-year-old Derrick Rump was a quiet soul, who always had a bubbly and welcoming personality. Important that we remember them all in this tragedy.

Moving on now to new developments in the investigation surrounding the former president the United States. Donald Trump's new reality, a special counsel now helms two federal investigations into his conduct. Today, at two o'clock in the afternoon here in the East Coast, the big courtroom test in one of those cases.

The Justice Department and Trump's lawyers are back in court, fighting over the need for a special master that the third-party official to examine the 2200 pages of documents the FBI recovered in Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago home after serving a search warrant.

Let's go to our senior legal affairs correspondent Paula Reid, covering this court proceeding. Paula, what do we know?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, this is the first big test for newly appointed special counsel Jack Smith. He will not be here in person today. But he has personally approved all of the arguments that prosecutors will make in just a short time in this courthouse behind me as they try to convince this panel of judges to do away with this requirement that all of these documents be reviewed by a third party.

We don't expect to get a decision today. But some good signs for the prosecution. Previously this same court has granted prosecutors a carve out to this requirement, allowing them to at least investigate classified documents. And just a short time ago, we learned that two of the three judges on that panel are also going to sit on today's panel to decide whether to just do away with a special master all together.

And the big issue here, John, is speed, trying to move this investigation along quickly, as there were concerns about how far it will extend into the 2024 presidential campaign. As we know the former president has successfully used delay as a tactic in litigation and other investigations. So, a lot riding on these arguments, and we'll bring you all the updates as they come.

KING: Paula Reid, live for us at that important hearing. Paula, thank you. And let's add some important new CNN reporting on the early work of the new special counsel. Sources telling our Evan Perez and Katelyn Polantz, there are no signs the pace of the big investigations into Donald Trump are slowing down. As a result of new special counsel Jack Smith, taking the reigns.

With me to share their insights on this, the former federal prosecutor Carrie Cordero, and CNN's Evan Perez. Carrie, I just want to start with you very quickly on this hearing here. Do you believe that this special counsel as opposed to the attorney general, is that make any difference in this special master case? Or is this just whether these judges believe it's necessary?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: I don't think it's going to make a difference in terms of how the court itself is going to evaluate the issues in the case. What it does is it provides some installation for the Justice Department to show that now the special counsel, the new special counsel is engaged and is making decisions whether to continue to go forward and stay on the path.

But it shows that the arguments that the Justice Department is making are consistent from the attorney general being in charge of this investigation to now the special counsel. And the Eleventh Circuit really is going to look at whether the original judge who appointed the special master got the law wrong.

KING: We got the law wrong there. So, the letterhead changes. You have a new special counsel, Jack Smith, what else changes? I just want to read a little bit from your reporting with your colleague Katelyn. Prosecutors who work under Smith haven't made widespread changes to their schedule in the next few weeks of taking witness testimony, collecting documents under subpoena, according to people familiar with investigation. So, take us inside. A new boss, what else changes if anything?


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: While he's absolutely communicating with them. He's still stuck in the Netherlands where he's recovering from knee surgery. So, he's not here, you know, to lead the teams, but he's already communicating with them that he wants to make sure that the activity, and a lot of it, you know, was picking up certainly after the election, the grand jury activity.

We know people were getting subpoenas. We know witness testimony and so on was being scheduled. And of course, today's hearing is going ahead without any interruption. So, those are the signs that he is trying to make clear to the teams that, you know, just because you have a new person overseeing everything, I'm going to get up to speed. But you know, everything should continue as it was going along.

Now, John, how long that continues, is still up in the air, obviously, because there's still a lot of concern that people have both people on the left and of course, the former president's team, that this is going to drag things out.

KING: So that is the question. We don't know how close they were to big decisions that would be presented, you know, to Merrick Garland in this case. He has decided now since Trump declared his candidacy. Biden says I'm probably going to run that he thinks it's just best to put this in the hands of a special counsel. In terms of how quickly does it take to get up to speed? You have the two investigations, one, the classified documents, one, essentially, do they try to disrupt, interfere, obstruct, the transfer of power. How long does that take?

CORDERO: These are complicated investigations. I don't think that the appointment of the special counsel means that there was some imminent decision about whether to bring indictments, whether that's against the former president or others who were involved in these potential conspiracies, and then on the mishandling of the classified information on presidential documents.

So, I think these investigations are very active. As Evan describes, they're still doing grand jury witnesses. They're still serving subpoenas. That is the indication of an ongoing active investigation does not necessarily mean that indictments are imminent. And these cases, both the election case and the classified documents case, and the presidential records case, these are cases that are complex. It doesn't necessarily mean that they are going to be handled quickly.

KING: The attorney general obviously can overrule any decision at the end, that would be unlikely, or it would be a big step anyway. Once you appoint a special counsel, you normally give them a pretty wide lane. But who is Jack Smith? There's a big debate about this this in the Washington Post, Alan Vinegrad, former federal prosecutor, very talented, enthusiastic, fearless, truly dedicated to the prosecutor's mission, he will be enthusiastic and throw himself into it. Then you have this from Jeffrey Cortese, the acting chief of the FBI, who had some tension. The FBI public integrity, attention with Jack Smith, when he was the head of the Justice Department public integrity, was understood the fastest way for a case to die was to give it to them. So, Republicans are already attacking this, saying special counsel, political, witch hunt, who is he?

PEREZ: Well, you know, he is all of those things. Public integrity, certainly during the years that the Jack Smith was there did have some trouble. I mean, they lost a bunch of cases, including against the former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. And so, these were important losses for that section. That in some people's opinion, and certainly I wrote stories about this, it made them a little gun shy about when to bring public corruption cases.

Now, things have changed. And so, we will see whether the Justice Department has righted the ship when it comes to those types of cases. I think that criticism that was being made is certainly very accurate, but it doesn't mean that it's the same conditions now.

KING: And Republicans seize on that Bob McDonnell, the Virginia governor, but he also was behind the case against John Edwards also, right, when he was Democratic senator - vice presidential candidate.

CORDERO: The important part from the attorney general's perspective in terms of making this appointment is he found somebody within the department who does have the public integrity experience, prosecuting former politicians which involves sensitivities. And he found somebody who has not been a political appointee before has not been identified. Senate confirmed affiliated with one of the parties and so he's not a partisan

PEREZ: And the most important part, he's keeping the teams that were running these investigations that are reporting directly to Jack Smith now. That's an important part of this.

KING: So, the new chapter begins, and we will see how it plays out. For us, up next, the new Congress. Republicans will have a narrow House majority, but a top Democrat predicts more of the chaos that led the last two Republican speakers to step aside.




KING: The House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is visiting the U.S. Mexico border today, highlighting an issue the new Republican majority will make a big priority come January. McCarthy's meeting with the border patrol comes as he tries to quiet Republican critics who want to block him from becoming speaker of the House. He is at the moment short votes.

The new Congress convenes in 42 days. And as Democrats prepare to surrender the gavel, the current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer predicts chaos and listen here. He predicts speaker McCarthy could like the two most recent Republican speakers have a short and stormy tenure.


STENY HOYER, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: Mr. McCarthy is going to have a very tough time dealing with a caucus conference as they call their group that is very negative in its perspective and wants to look back, not forward. When you look at John Boehner and Paul Ryan, two previous speakers they got out. They got out early because they could not deal with their right-wing extremists.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Audie Cornish, Reuters' Jeff Mason, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press. Now, Democrats are trying to stir up this trouble for the Republicans, right? It's just supposed to election stirred up however, Steny Hoyer is right that both Boehner and Ryan finally just said, I can't deal with this anymore and got out of dodge.

The question is, can Kevin McCarthy or whoever is the speaker manage an even more combative group now?


AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I have to admit this is pretty kind of surprising and I think in some ways embarrassing for Kevin McCarthy who has spent so much time trying to shore up support especially, in the Trumpist wing of the party to now be in this position where it's still basically a fight for him. I'm surprised by it. This is inside politics. You guys can tell me, but like this is uphill for him.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: Well, it's also if you say the Democrats have helped stir the pot. It's good for Democrats. It's also genuinely good for the White House, because we know that the Republican House is going to come in and start these investigations, do all sorts of things to unravel Biden's agenda. But if they're in disarray, and if Democrats can kind of poke at that disarray, it just provides that contrast that President Biden wants to give, which is, we're governing and we're getting things done.

KING: And oddly, Senate Republicans in that regard, not specifically on the policy so much, but on the let the adults run the town. We might end up being the democratic White House friend. This is Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, talking about the House Republicans have said we want to just stop spending, right?

Let's just we want to - let us get the majority. We don't want to pass any long-term spending plan in the so-called lame-duck session. Let us get the majority, so we can stand up to Biden. He says the idea that we could somehow deal with the omnibus, that's the spending plan. In the first week of the new Congress, that's just not realistic. So, while I understand, particularly the probably, speaker's desire to delay some of these things, I don't see there being that much more leverage. He managed to work in a probably, Speaker McCarthy/ SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right, right. Well, and also there is precedent for - I mean, precedent not many years ago, for a Republican House not being able to do the basic function of governing, and Senate Republican, Senate Democrats in the White House kind of had to team up and clean up the mess. We're talking about then Vice President Biden, then and now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

And even if Republican leaders want to present a unified front, at least initially, when we are close to broaching the debt limit, or when we can't, you know, fund the government, you're going to see a pretty delicate kind of puzzle that Republican leaders will have to navigate.

And certainly I, you know, obviously you want to - Republicans want to wait until the New Year to deal with these big issues. So, they can have an imprint on spending bills and whatnot. But I wouldn't be surprised that they kind of wanted to get off the table and lay out.

CORNISH: Yes. I mean, just to challenge that for one second, though, I mean, at the time, it wasn't something that they just didn't want to do, or they were in disarray. They were lawmakers, specifically the tea party like they came and said, we want to halt the gears of government period that includes spending, that includes some of these policies and regulations.

I think the difference now is now Republicans, including McCarthy, they've had that experience. They know what that looks like. And they know what that means for their own agenda. And that's why this time around, it may feel like, oh, do we want to get back on that, again, because the public does perceive the Congress as being just a complete stalemate, totally doesn't do anything. And it wasn't helped by those years.

KING: It wasn't helped by those years. But a lot of these Republicans run in their safe Republican districts, that's the problem. They go home. They're not listening to the entire country. They're not listening to the people in their districts. Democrats have some challenges of their own. You saw steady horror there at the beginning of the program. He's one of the 80 somethings in the Democratic leadership stepping aside in the House. Speaker Pelosi, leader Hoyer, and whip Clyburn, all in their 80s.

So, Hakeem Jeffries from New York, we assume will be the new leader. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts is the number two, congressman names escaping me now.

CORDERO: Pete Aguilar.

KING: Pete Aguilar, thank you, California number three. So, some of the other lawmakers from middle America and other battleground district are saying what about us? So, this letter from Susie Lee, who just won reelection in Nevada, in a very competitive race. For the future of our caucus, we need the very members responsible for defending, winning and expanding our majority each cycle to have direct seat at the leadership table. She is speaking up now. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan has said the same thing, will we see an effort among Democrats to say let's create a new position for somebody who has to go home to 50-50 district every two years, not one of these easy districts to win. So that they're involved in every decision?

KIM: In the past, Speaker Pelosi has often expanded the leadership table to assuage some of those concerns, because obviously she did have that grip on power in her caucus for two decades. But she did that in part by making sure more voices were at the table. It'd be really interesting to see how leader, you know, soon to be leader Hakeem Jeffries handles that situation. Does he want to expand the voices to kind of accommodate these concerns?

And I would also be really interesting to see how he deals with the varying voices in his caucus. We know that Pelosi when given the choice would almost always side with those frontliners because they were the ones who won her the majority. Does Hakeem Jeffries do the same even though he is in the minority? It'll be really interesting to see where he takes the five.

KING: My mostly attention is going to be on the Republican battle. But the leadership the style of the New Democrats as well important especially the next election will start just as soon as they gavel the new Congress in. Up next, some brand-new CNN reporting on the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He's a rising GOP star, but some Republicans say his going alone style might prove an obstacle.




KING: Ron DeSantis is in road test mode selling his big midterm reelection win as a model for the National Republican Party and there is no question a lot of Republican leaders, donors, operatives and voters are impressed but there's also some clear and very interesting grumbling. The 44-year-old Florida Governor has a go and alone reputation, and he also has a clear disdain or distrust of the Republican establishment.