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CNN: DeSantis Retains "Outsider" Reputation Amid National Rise; Bracing For GOP-Led House, Questions About 2024; Right Now: Jury Deliberates In Oath Keepers Trial. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 22, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: 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. DeSantis received a standing ovation this past weekend, after speaking to a Republican gathering in Las Vegas that attracted more than a half dozen potential 2024 prospects, but one attendee delivered. Listen here, both the complaint and a compliment telling CNN, when DeSantis came on, all the young kids came up, it was like a celebrity showed up. But he didn't stick around to schmooze.

CNN's Michael Warren joins our panel to share this reporting. Is this just donors, operatives, they want to be loved, they want to schmooze? Is it just like so what? You know, this is some egos that want to be, you know, stroked by Ron DeSantis, or does he have a problem?

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: Yes and, right? I mean, this is we shouldn't have some caveats here. Ron DeSantis is a rockstar, you saw that reception. He's shaking hands on the rope line. At an event last week, the RGA, the Republican Governors Association meeting in Orlando, his home state, he was also received, give a speech or had a conversation, got a big raucous standing ovation. And look, he's got a lot going for him. He's got over $200 million in the bank. Polling shows that if anybody's going to challenge Donald Trump for the Republican nomination, it's him.

But these donors are pointing out that he does seem to have a disdain, as you put it, for the kind of glad handing that's going on right now, at this moment early on in the primary process. He does not like to meet with donors. That RJ meeting, for instance, in his own home state, he went to one event, it wasn't an all Governors meeting.

He wasn't at a reception with donors. And they notice and they're picking up on it. It is a question of whether or not he can get the Republican nomination without doing that. That's sort of been his MO throughout his political career. But he hasn't really been on the national stage the way he seems to be moving toward them.

KING: And so forgive the Thanksgiving metaphor, but he's being picked apart like a turkey right now because he is this rising star, because a lot of Republicans who don't want Trump think we might have to pick one person, right, pick somebody to rally around. So Chris Christie, who thinks he's that person says I don't think Ron hangs out with anybody.

Former Congressman David Jolly from Florida who's no longer remember the Republican Party calls Ron DeSantis a bit of an odd duck. Ryan Costello, who served with DeSantis in the House says he had friends, he had allies, but he was not a gregarious back slapper. The question is, does that matter? We were talking during the break. Barack Obama was sort of aloof. I think he served two terms as president.

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: I covered Barack Obama for eight years plus his campaign. He was absolutely aloof, there are White House events, where donors were -- where people were invited where he was supposed to shake hands when he got criticized for not staying at the events there, let alone fundraisers that he would go to for the DNC and for his campaign. And he did fine. So it's OK, sometimes to be aloof, if that's who you are.

But I think it does have an impact, especially at the beginning of a national career, or on the political stage. And so no doubt that that reporting is fascinating. It also shows that there's a target on his back.

KING: Yes, so you quote this DeSantis fundraiser in your piece, Nick Larossi, no one seems to care whether he wants to stay at a reception and shake hands, they care more about what he does as governor to improve their lives on a day to day basis. I would add to that, and this was the Obama magic, if you will, he could hold the establishment aside because he was winning, right? If they think you're the horse that's going to get them what they want, which is the White House, people will grumble a little bit but send you a check.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: And the context here is DeSantis came up through the Tea Party era again, then sort of embrace the Freedom Caucus then was in the Trump wing of the party. All of that means you've entered the politic in a defensive crouch kind of, you're not going to deal with the establishment because you're an outsider.

Well, what happens when you're an insider, when you're just a governor running for election like any other governor who might be running for election? Now you've got to deal with if you don't want the establishment, the establishment infrastructure, and the infrastructure is the money in the glad handling and the donors and making those tastemakers and kingmakers happy. \ I think what my question is, Trump has captured so much of the state party mechanism around the country, that I don't know what DeSantis' lane is through that infrastructure. You don't have the state parties. You're not doing your handshakes with the donors. Who are the people, you know, that that you're going to get? Maybe you have the answer here. Yes.

WARREN: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think that is a question is that concerned, right? I mean, you need friends. If you're in Ron DeSantis' position, and that is something that I hear constantly from donors, will he have enough friends? He's not really buddy-buddy, for instance, with the Republican governors. CORNISH: And the base is what's giving Trump all those small donations, right? So he's not tapping that, yes.

WARREN: That's right. But, you know, again, I mentioned before, he has over $200 million, DeSantis does in the bank. He has money. He has a base of support. But these are the questions and the -- he's under the microscope, a lot of ways. And there was an eagerness to get on board with DeSantis among donors that I speak with, they just want to know more, and so far, they're getting kind of halfway to that.

CORNISH: And we're in the era of the billion dollar campaign, right? That is that is like how your table stakes if you're going to run for President.


KING: And until they had to, until they had to the Republican establishment didn't want Trump. They pushed him away. They criticized him. They said he's not one of us. He said he didn't share our principles or party. And now, you know, if they have to do -- the establishment doesn't like it, but to your point he as the donors, the base and there were no state parties on Trump's side when he ran. Now he has most of them wired. Let's listen to a bit to DeSantis because his point is, you might not love everything about me, I record. I can win.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): What we've shown in Florida, is you can stand up for truth, you can stand on principle, you can fight the woke elite, and you can win. I don't think you can ever find a governor in history that has been attacked more than me for standing up for what's true. We've accomplished more over a four year period than anybody thought possible. But I can tell you this, we've got a lot more to do and I have only begun to fight.


KING: There is a Trump beat message to that right, go after the woke, people go after the media. But he also comes to the --

CORNISH: That was the only I can --


KING: But essentially comes to the table with I have more than 10 percent of the Electoral College votes it takes to be president. I have Florida, thank you very much.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, right. And he does bring a lot of these elements, a lot of the Trumpy elements without being Trump himself, which is why if you talk to Republicans, they who don't like Trump, they can at least be warm or at least open to supporting Governor DeSantis. And I think the fact that obviously, Florida has trended red in recent cycles, but the fact that he won resoundingly, I think is it's certainly a plus in its favor. WARREN: -- helps everything.

KING: He had a very weak opponent. He had a very weak opponent, but he still won. In the end, it goes in the books as a win, right? A win is a win is a win. Up next for us, the Thanksgiving break for the current President, President Biden. But the new Republican House means the President does need a new post holidays battle plan.



KING: President Biden's Thanksgiving and holiday season plate is already quite crowded. Yes, he's taking a holiday break in Nantucket starting tonight. But the President faces big decision soon on just how to deal with a combative new Republican majority in the House. And yes, on when to make a final decision about whether he will run again in 2024. Count the vice president as quite bullish on the reelection question.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The President said he intends to run and if he does, I will be running with him. And I have no doubt about the strength of the work that we have done over these past two years.


KING: Our reporters back around the table with us. There are very important policy decisions and stylistic decisions to be made at the White House about how to deal with the Republicans in the investigations. But this question keeps coming up, why?

MASON: I think it was we were talking during the break, part of it is his age. And so the question of whether he actually pulls the trigger, whether he actually decides to go forward is going to keep asking until he files and until he comes out and says it officially.

But I also think it's because both parties, to some extent have a little bit of the excess -- not an existential problem but a problem about where do we go next. And we've seen that turnover happening in the lawmaker or in the House leadership for the Democrats. At some point, it's going to happen at the presidential level as well. Does it happen in this next cycle or not?

KING: And does he wait to just see how it goes for a little bit in the sense that you're going to have this very narrow Republican majority in the House that has made clear? Yes, there'll be some policy debates here in Washington, but mostly it's going to be about investigations and combat with the Hunter Biden investigation, border security, perhaps the impeachment of the Homeland Security Secretary, the Trump related investigations will come up, they're going to make sure Republicans, House Republicans to try to deny funding to them, they want to revisit the withdrawal from Afghanistan, they want to revisit the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. How does the White House position itself vis-a-vis those

investigations? Do they cooperate? Or do they play the trump card if a subpoena comes and say no.

KIM: That's yet to be seen. We know that they have been preparing for some time staffing up looking at what House Republicans are interested in well before the November midterm results. But I also do think the one thing that the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill are banking on or hoping for is that Republicans overreach because this is not how they won their majority.

If you look at the messages that were effective, they were talking about kitchen table issues, they were talking about inflation, and this isn't inflation, like it is very aggressive investigations that Democrats hope will really turn off those swing voters that really determined who win the house majority in a lot of these areas.

MASON: And the other thing Biden has right now that the Republicans don't have is a remarkable amount of unity from Democrats. I mean, when you have progressives coming out and saying, oh, we weren't so sure about this guy at first, but now we'd like him to run again, and look what he's done on student loans. Look what he's doing, and has done on climate change. That gives him some strength. That is pretty helpful when he's facing a Republican House.

KING: Which I think gets you through the -- he should wait a bit, you know, you would think similarly to just wait a bit. Let's see how this first three, four, five, six months of the new Congress goes but, the pressure will be there. So this is the part of the week where I let you all laugh at me and say I'm naive and I should not have my optimism. This is the new governor elected the state of Arizona, Katie Hobbs, who says she believes the White House and the Democratic Party in this town, Washington are not sensitive enough to the issues of border security and need to think more and do more.


KATIE HOBBS (D-AZ), GOVERNOR-ELECT: We need real action on immigration reform. We need real border security. It's one of the things that the top of my agenda to talk to the President about in terms of bringing real security to our state and the border. I don't think they're doing enough. I would love to have them visit and see firsthand the kind of support and relief that folks in these communities need from the federal government.



KING: Another network will love that last part. I'd love to see them visit because they'd like to count the days since Biden or Harris have not visited the border but let's move to the substance of it. Is it naive to think? And the answer is probably, yes. Republicans care about border security.

You have a newly elected border state Democratic governor there, Mark Kelly, who just won reelection to the Senate from Arizona says this Biden administration has not done enough when it comes to border security. Let's do that. And then maybe we can do some of the immigration stuff, I guess, Worker Program deal with the dreamers? Am I naive to think that that's at all possible?

CORNISH: I think about it a little bit differently. I mean, essentially, you're hearing, as you pointed out from Democrats about this, what are the things she would like to talk to Biden about, what are the policy specifics? What does the Democratic agenda around these issues look like, beyond the dreamers, legislation, et cetera?

I think for a time they've let that be an issue that they can kind of demonize Republicans on. And I think we all know the history here. It is one of the most thankless political efforts to ever deal with immigration in a comprehensive way. And I do feel in some ways Congress has kind of wanted to stay away from it for that reason.

KING: Anyway, the call the Republicans bluff say do you want the issue or do you want to deal?

MASON: Yes, I think that's the question. And I mean, they've tried during the George W. Bush years, they tried during the Obama years, they probably could if there were scope for compromise, but that's not the signal that we're getting from the Republican side.

KING: Very polite way to put it, not the signal we're getting. You should all listen to the new CNN podcast, The Assignment with our guest right here, Audie Cornish, where she talks to the people actually living the headlines. It's available wherever you get your podcasts.

Up next for us, jury deliberation is underway right now, five leaders of the Oath Keepers charged with seditious conspiracy for their roles in the January 6th insurrection.



KING: Right now a federal jury deliberating one of the most serious cases stemming from the assault on the nation's capital back on January 6th, five members of the Oath Keepers group are charged with seditious conspiracy, the Justice Department arguing they conspire to forcibly stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power from then President Donald Trump to Joe Biden. CNN's Sara Sidner is tracking this case. She's live outside the U.S. District courthouse. Sara, what do we know?

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, this is really one of if not the highest profile trial that we've seen so far in connection with the January 6th attack on the Capitol. It involves five people, four members are members of the Oath Keepers and the other is an associate. Its leader Stewart Rhodes and one associate both on trial, prosecutors allege that the five defendants conspired to forcibly stop the peaceful transfer of power from then President Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The jury has been deliberating just under three hours now. And there have been some emotional and dramatic moments in this case that has lasted about seven weeks. They have seen a mountain of evidence. They have heard from dozens of different people. And we should mention they've seen things like text messages, and some what looked like planning to videos that the world saw on that day January 6th, with the defendants in that video, as well as some secret recordings of some of the defendants talking about some of their plans.

The jury also heard something that you don't hear in every case, and that is several of the defendants actually testified in their own defense. We heard from Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, who took the stand to make sure the jury knew he was a Yale trade lawyer and that he believed the whole election itself was unconstitutional, and that neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden won the election in his legal estimation. But the jury also saw text messages and posts that he had been putting out in the days leading up and after January 6, talking about civil wars tried to keep Donald Trump in power.

We also heard from Oath Keeper and transgender woman, Jessica Watkins, who talked about being as she said, just being a quote dumb ass for going into the capitol that she had never intended to stop the peaceful transfer of power as well as Thomas Caldwell, one of the associates of the Oath Keepers took the stand saying the violent words he used was because he was writing a screenplay.

So you're heard all these different things. The jury has a ton of evidence to look over. And if they are convicted for seditious conspiracy, they face about 20 years possibly in federal prison, and there are more than just that one charge against them. John?

KING: Stakes in this case and as you noted stakes for the Justice Department as it continues this prosecution, Sara Sidner, important duty outside the courthouse. Thanks so much. We'll stay in touch.


Ahead for us, Dr. Anthony Fauci about to head into retirement, how he wants to be remembered, of course after serving as America's leading authority on COVID throughout the pandemic.


KING: Topping our political radar today and what was likely his last appearance at the White House podium, earlier this hour, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reflecting on nearly four decades of government service.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE MEDICAL ADVISER: I'll let other people judge the value of not of my accomplishments. But what I would like people to remember about what I've done is that every day for all of those years, I've given it everything that I have, and I've never left anything on the field.


KING: Dr. Fauci who has served under seven presidents, announced earlier this year he plans to retire in December.

As we're learning about serious threats to a top election official in Arizona, the governor-elect, Katie Hobbs, says Kari Lake's conspiracy theories, not helping.


HOBBS: Many people across the state of Arizona and across the country are being misled by these so called political leaders, and their rhetoric is dangerous and it's leading to threats and violence and it needs to stop.


KING: The Republican leg still has not conceded and she has suggested without evidence and machine issue in Maricopa County impacted this year's election results. You'll also recall she has repeatedly pushed the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Senator Lindsey Graham testified before grand jury in Georgia today, that over phone calls he made to the state's top election officials. The Fulton County District Attorney's office as the South Carolina Republican senator might be able to shed light on Donald Trump's efforts to subvert the 2020 election.


And the President of the United States has called Richard Fierro and his wife Jessica, one of the individuals who tackled the gunman of course in that shooting, a Club Q in Colorado Springs.

Thanks for your time today. Our coverage of that important story continues as Ana Cabrera picks up right now.