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U.S. Rail Strike Vote; GOP Senators Vote for Marriage Bill; Oath Keepers Found Guilty of Sedition. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 30, 2022 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hello and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Thanks for your time on a very busy news day.

Big votes to open a year-end sprint in Congress. Today the House votes to stop a nationwide freight rail strike.

Also negotiations underway to keep the government funded.

Plus, six days to the runoff count in the Georgia Senate race. Early voting already breaking records. As Republican Herschel Walker faces more questions about where he calls home, the Democrat, Raphael Warnock, ratcheting up the TV pressure.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the hell is he talking about?


Is he for real?


I've been telling this little story about this bull out in the field with six cows. And three of them are pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no substance. There's nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes me want to laugh and makes me think we're in trouble.


KING: And the TikTok threat: South Dakota's governor cracks down on the popular app. And Washington may soon follow suit. As you watch those catchy dance videos, odds are China is watching you.

We're just moments away from a critical and controversial vote in the House of Representatives. The legislation at issue immediately would prevent a crippling holiday season strike by railroad workers. That measure uses federal power to require workers to accept a new

contract that some of the impacted unions had voted to reject. President Biden asked that this bill be rushed to the top of the agenda for an already consequential year-end congressional session.

His reason for that: the strike could begin as early as next Friday, December 9th. And could cost the economy as much as $1 billion in just one week. Also high on the agenda for this session, trying to reach agreement on a government spending plan before a December 16th deadline.

The railway legislation is in two parts because of Democratic hesitance to force a contract on their labor movement allies. The first bill does just that, imposes the contract.

The second bill, though, addresses the key issue that led several unions to reject the industry proposal. That second bill would require those companies to offer paid sick leave. That second provision, though, faces dim prospects over in the Senate. Let's get straight out to chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju.

What should we expect?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is a pretty messy process. Ultimately it seems likely to become law potentially as soon as tomorrow. There are still hurdles that need to be overcome.

The House will vote on this legislation to avoid this potentially disastrous rail strike. It could be impactful along the supply chain as soon as this weekend if they don't get action in Congress, which means the timing is essential.

In a matter of moments, the House will vote to approve this tentative deal reached in September, between the rail industry as well as the rail workers, that was silent on the issue of getting paid sick leave to workers.

Now they will also approve an amendment that would require paid sick leave to workers. That will be approved in the House. Then it will go over to the Senate. The Senate can ignore the paid sick leave proposal and approve the underlying bill that is silent on that issue agreed to back in September.

That's what ultimately is expected to happen but not without some concern. The administration is sensing that concern.

Already the focus is shifting to the Senate as Secretary Pete Buttigieg of the Transportation Department as well as Labor Secretary Marty Walsh are planning to go to a Senate Democratic lunch in a matter of moments to try to sell Democratic senators on this issue. Some are very concerned it lacks sick leave.

One of the members of the Democratic caucus, Bernie Sanders, plans to offer an amendment to ensure that actually happens.

But Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat, told reporters he doesn't think the Bernie Sanders amendment has enough support to be adopted to the underlying bill, which means ultimately this bill could pass without that proposal.

John Thune on the Republican side indicated he does believe this will ultimately pass, even though he himself has concerns.

Saying that Congress should not intervene on this issue and the administration should, instead, both Democrats and Republicans are staring at what could be a disastrous strike and recognize this may be the only chance to avert that strike, which is why the expectation is that it will pass possibly as soon as tomorrow in the Senate.

But it will still take some negotiation to get there, John, as lawmakers are concerned about the impacts if they don't act.

KING: An important issue.


KING: We should note, a messy process to watch in the minutes and the days ahead. Manu Raju live on the Hill, thank you.

With me in the studio, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Martin of "Politico" and Leigh Ann Caldwell of "The Washington Post."

This is already a consequential year-end session. Now the President of the United States asking Congress to do this. The Democrats trying to tell the labor unions, we're sorry, essentially, the paid leave proposal, we're sorry we have to do this, right?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, absolutely. This was difficult for Democrats to say, we understand your concern, we also believe and think you should get paid sick leave. But now is not the time. We're not able to get it done right now.

So that's how President Biden and Speaker Pelosi moved forward. Then there was a lot of consternation among Democrats in the House and the Senate, saying, wait a minute, we have to at least try to give them paid sick leave.

And that's why Speaker Pelosi made the move. So we'll see what happens today in the House. It will go to the Senate.

Will Bernie Sanders get his vote on an amendment?

Some Republicans are talking about supporting it. Getting 10 Republicans, I think that's a big task to get.

KING: The reason the President of the United States, who, himself, is a very pro labor union guy, says we have to do this. He says more than 700,000 jobs would be lost in the first two weeks, it would cripple the supply chain to the middle of December, right before Christmas.

Prices would go up, disrupt holiday travel, risks to drinking water, risks to farms and the like. So the president says, I'm your friend but I have to make this tough choice. Manu just noted that Marty Walsh, the Labor Secretary, he comes out of the labor movement in Boston. He is out there, telling guys, sorry, eat your peas.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And some union members are fine with this deal. I think there are eight unions that agree with it and four that don't. You've got a situation where you've got this very pro union president, somebody who has gone into these union halls and talked with these folks, saying, listen, you can get it done.

But you also have the reality that so many people would be affected by this. Essentially Christmas could be ruined by this because of the supply chain and the jobs affected. They've got to forge ahead and get this done immediately and essentially tell part of their very important base that they can't actually follow through on something that's very important to Democrats.

Paid sick leave is very important to the Democratic Party's identity and something they would want to have for workers but not this time.

JONATHAN MARTIN, "POLITICO": I've been struck by the relative silence from the AFL, the umbrella labor organization, which has given Biden a wide berth on this and not jamming him on this issue, which tells me the Biden folks did their politics behind the scenes to sort of keep the AFL somewhat quieted on this.

Secondly, I think it's possible, at least possible, that the rail folks could come out of this actually with a better contract they would have had, had it not gone to Congress.

If that bill comes before and they are able to add the seven days of paid sick leave and that's voted through, that's going to be a better contract for them they had before they even went to Congress.

KING: Likely that gets through --


KING: -- we'll come back to that. I want to come first in the meantime go to a historic vote in the Senate lat night. Again, a crazy packed agenda at the end of Congress.

So sometimes things can get lost and the significance can get lost. The Senate last night voted to codify same-sex marriage. You had 12 Republicans voting for it. You see them right there. Some of them are retiring. Others facing pressure from Christian conservative groups, Catholic groups to not do it.

But they decided to vote for this. One of them, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, going to the floor, explaining why it's a difficult process but she thinks her yes vote is the right thing for the country.


SEN. CYNTHIA LUMMIS (R-WY): My days since the first cloture vote on the Respect for Marriage Act as amended have involved a painful exercise in accepting admonishment and fairly brutal self soul searching, entirely avoidable, I might add, had I simply chosen to vote no. For the sake of our nation today and its survival, we do well by

taking this step, not embracing or validating each other's devoutly held views but by the simple act of tolerating them.


KING: It's a courageous speech. It's a reflection, number one, I could have voted no. My phone would stop ringing from all these Republican groups, saying don't do this.

But a Westerner saying why is the government in this business?

Let people make their own decisions.

CALDWELL: Yes, she comes from a libertarian state, she has libertarian tendencies. What I also heard in her speech is something more than that.

She's also recognizing the divisiveness of this country right now, especially on this issue within the Republican Party. Cynthia Lummis is not someone who I ever thought was going to buck the party. She did. So that was surprising in itself.


CALDWELL: So I think there's a libertarian component and I also think it seems like she's very troubled with the state of politics right now, especially on such a personal issue.

KING: Does it carry over?

You get 12 Republicans to vote for this.

Does it carry over on anything else, including what they're dealing with the moment, with -- forgive me America -- do you have an omnibus meeting, that carries for the whole next year or a continuing resolution that's maybe a couple months?

MARTIN: So many of those 12, as Leigh Ann knows well, the usual suspects. These are the dealmakers, getting their hands dirty on bipartisan bills on a variety of stripes.

KING: Can I also jump in to say there are politicians who listen?

The public opinion has changed dramatically. Some of the interest groups are dug in. But if you go out in America and talk about this issue, especially the idea that the government should tell you --

MARTIN: -- you wouldn't have seen Todd Young and Joni Ernst, they wouldn't have taken that vote, were it not for what you're saying, if the country hadn't changed on the issue.

To your larger question about the foster sea change in Congress, I think it's one more example of the Senate still being the Senate. It's not the House. They still are able to cut bipartisan deals. I think you saw that in this Congress, largely because of the people on the screen.

HENDERSON: On this, I think it's important to say this doesn't actually codify Obergefell. It says states can discriminate against gay votes. If you're in a state like Mississippi or the 35 states that say you can't get married if you're gay.

I think the real fear still is are they going to overturn the decision that they've codified, the right to same-sex marriage and said it was a constitutional right?

This is not what that does. You can essentially find yourself years from now in a situation where somebody in Alabama wants to marry their partner and they have to go to New York and do it.

So that is still sort of creating different tiers of marriage. So, listen, it's something of a mixed bag, I think, for folks. We'll just see what the Supreme Court does going forward.

KING: The core question whether this becomes an issue again because of something from the court is a very important point.

We'll continue to track the debate in the House on the big rail strike. Next for us, guilty verdicts in a key January 6th prosecution. The founder of the Oath Keepers convicted of seditious conspiracy. Several others also found guilty on charges stemming from the January 6th attack on the Capitol.





KING: Major convictions in the quest for accountability over the January 6th insurrection. The federal jury yesterday found Oath Keepers' Stewart Rhodes and his associate, Kelly Meggs, guilty of seditious conspiracy.

Three other defendants found guilty of other charges, including obstructing an official proceeding. The seditious conspiracy convictions are a big win for the Justice Department as it prosecutes hundreds of January 6th defendants.

And those convictions come as other investigations, also, are nearing or reaching critical points. CNN legal analyst and national security analyst Carrie Cordero joins our discussion.

Two seditious conspiracy convictions, the others disrupting, interfering with an official event. This was viewed as the most significant trial at least to date in the accountability effort.

What is the meaning?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think it's a huge deal. Seditious conspiracy is a charge that the Justice Department doesn't bring frequently, it doesn't bring it lightly. There's actually a little history of a case not working out many, many years ago.

So it was a really big decision for them to go forward. In my view, it's always been the right part of the law that fits the activities that were conducted on January 6th, 2021.

So what it does is it both sets a precedent for the following cases, with other individuals who are also charged in other cases for seditious conspiracy, and, most importantly, it provides accountability for the activities that took place. It puts the activities that took place in the right historical context.

KING: You have 919 people who have been charged, considered defendants by the Justice Department; 430 entered guilty pleasure, 460 convicted, meaning trials in the other cases there.

This is the interesting part. You have these legal proceedings against those who stormed the Capitol. You have the legal proceedings and a remarkable success rate so far by the Justice Department in getting convictions of some kind or guilty pleas of some kind.

My question is what about the people who brought them here?

What about the people who paid for it?

What about some of the other organizers?

There's legal culpability for those who stormed the building.

What about everybody else who was a part of it?

CALDWELL: I guess we'll have to see what the Department of Justice is doing. We know there's an investigation into the former president that has now been passed over to the special counsel. Maybe this will be in his realm of consideration.

We know the January 6th select committee has looked into this. We'll see if that's part of the final report that has to be out very soon, before the end of the year. So, yes, those are excellent questions. It's a much bigger problem than the people who actually attended in person.

KING: The chairman, Bennie Thompson, said the January 6th committee has been making some good progress. There's been some disagreement about what the report should have, criminal referral.

You have Trump adviser Stephen Miller, called before the federal grand jury yesterday. In Georgia, Mark Meadows, former chief of staff, who, for months and months has fought testifying, being ordered to testify there.

There's political accountability.

But will there be legal accountability for some of the politicians involved in that? HENDERSON: I think Leigh Ann gets at it well here. I think most average Americans, after having seen the January 6th committee over those weeks and weeks and weeks, really point a direct line to Donald Trump. He called the mob here and essentially had a vision for what they did and articulated it.


HENDERSON: Will he be held accountable?

That is the main big fish that people are wondering about. We'll see what happens with the proceedings going forward. And all of the ancillary people who were maybe paying for these people to get here or any of those issues.

Listen, I do think this underscores the seriousness of it. We all watched it unfold on TV. We've seen Republicans try to erase what happened, erase the violent part of it. Here you have really serious charges brought and a conviction for these two.

KING: Mark Meadows has always been critical here. He had eyes on so much, on the then president Donald Trump but also on the other stuff happening in the West Wing and who was getting to Trump to push these.

Now he has to testify in front of the special grand jury in Georgia. We know he was on the phone call, when Donald Trump spurred with secretary of state Ben Raffensperger about this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The people of Georgia are angry. The people of the country are angry and there's nothing wrong with saying that you've recalculated because 2,236 in absentee ballots.

They're all exact numbers that were done by accounting firms, law firms, et cetera. And even if you cut them in half, cut them in half and cut them in half again, it's more votes than we need.

BRAD RAFFENSPERGER (R-GA), GEORGIA STATE SECRETARY: Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.


KING: Secretary Raffensperger essentially saying, Mr. President, you need better advice, better counsel.

This grand jury has had considerable success. Lindsey Graham has been forced to testify. Now Mark Meadows who refused to testify, did give a lot of text documents to the grand jury. This grand jury could get a lot of information that we have been unable to get in Washington.

MARTIN: Yes, and it's been striking how much Meadows has been a key player in all this. It's because of his text messages that he turned over to the 1/6 committee that we know so much about that day.

It will be interesting to see which Mark Meadows shows up to testify down in Georgia when he does go there. You listen to that call that you just played. It gets to the sort of tactics that Trump employed in the weeks after the election and why a lot of folks in the legal community think he could face jeopardy here in Georgia.

KING: The way I posed the question, please tell me if you think it's the wrong way to frame it. But those who stormed the building are being held accountable.

Those encouraged or brought them here, what is the legal line in the sense of, Donald Trump didn't go into the Capitol, so can you charge him with disrupting an official proceeding or anybody around him?

I named him because he's central. There are a lot of people with tangential roles.

What are the legal ones?

CORDERO: You have the seditious conspiracy charges, which were about the use of force to prevent the execution of the laws. So that's a really serious charge. That involves the violent part of what happened.

But then there also is an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the efforts to subvert the election itself. There has been less publicly known and exposed because there haven't been charges on those particular cases brought yet. That's an ongoing Justice Department investigation.

And we'll continue to see whether that affects people closer to the political process. The other piece with respect to the connection between the former president, folks in the White House and the violence that occurred is the January 6th committee did have an opportunity, if they would have had the evidence, to make those connections between the people like Roger Stone and the Oath Keepers and the other violent groups that stormed the Capitol.

And they had many hearings and they never did it. Now we still don't even know whether that type of information is going to end up in the final report.

KING: That's one of the many questions as we await that report. Appreciate that conversation.

Right now, I'll show you pictures of the House. They're voting at the legislation aimed at averting a potentially crippling rail strike.

Next for us, early voting surges in the Georgia Senate runoff as Republican Herschel Walker contradicts himself about the state he calls home.





KING: Herschel Walker, you might say, is in a debate with himself in the final days of the final week of the Georgia Senate runoff campaign. You might recall a recent CNN "KFILE" scoop that Walker in both 2021 and 2022 received a tax break in Texas intended for a primary residence.

Now the "KFILE" team reports Walker himself said,, quote, "I live in Texas," while speaking to University of Georgia college Republicans earlier this year. And he repeatedly held campaign interviews from his Texas home.

But on the campaign trail yesterday, this:


WALKER: I represent the great people of Georgia. I've lived here my whole life. I owe so much to the great people of Georgia, to the state of Georgia.

Do y'all think I'm going to let you down?

I scored one time. And I can score again.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us.

You just heard the candidate, that was yesterday, "I've lived here my whole life."

This is the candidate in January of this year.


WALKER: I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas and I was seeing what was going on in this country -- I live in Texas, I went down to the border, off and on sometimes.


KING: Can you square that circle?

HENDERSON: No, you can't. He mentioned Texas three times in a very short period of time, describing where he lives.