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Inside Politics

Six Days Until Georgia Runoff Senate Race; TikTok Draws Bipartisan Fire Over Security Concerns; New House Dem Leaders Hold First News Conference. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 30, 2022 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Can you square that circle?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: No, you can't. I mean, he mentioned Texas three times in a very short period of time describing where he lives. I mean, this is a tough campaign to watch. Herschel Walker was a fantastic football player from the University of Georgia, won the Heisman Trophy. He had a fairly good career in the NFL too. Whether or not he is qualified to be a senator and whether or not he is steeped in any sort of policy issues, I think that'll be up to the voters to decide.

But I think so far he hasn't been a very credible messenger. I think a lot of Republicans down there. You saw that in some of the split ticket voting, they voted for the top of the ticket, Brian Kemp, and either didn't vote at all or voted for Warnock. And Warnock is trying to sort of explore those fissures by pointing to Walker's own garbled speech and messaging on any number of topics.

KING: And to that point, number one, we've seen earth shattering record early voting, and for all the times we talked about election denial and other things we should, you know, be happy when people, whatever your party, whoever you're supporting, come out and vote. Those are high numbers that's broken the records as of today. But to your point, the lieutenant governor of Georgia who is not a Donald Trump fan and not a Herschel Walker fan, let's be quite clear about that says this though about the campaign.

Herschel Walker was granted a mulligan in the form of runoff, an extra four weeks to convince the 200,000 Georgians who pulled the lever for Governor Kemp and Senator Warnock to change their minds. It certainly doesn't feel like he's made enough progress on that mission. And he's running out of time. And he's not the only Republican in Georgia to essentially be saying, you know, we got the bad -- we got a bad candidate here.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: And that's why Republicans when it was clear that this was going to a runoff, Republican sources told me that it is essential that Brian Kemp gets heavily involved in this race to convince those Republicans who didn't vote for -- that voted for him didn't vote for Walker, to vote for Walker a second time. So we'll see, the race is in a week, less than a week. KING: It's not just the candidate, I think the candidate has been disappointing to Republicans who support him. But if you are running this campaign 101, if you have somebody who has lived in two states or lived in several states, you have to clean all this, you clean all this up months ago. You don't have a guy on the campaign trail yesterday saying I've lived in Georgia all my life when you know, because the K-file team reaches out to them to comment. Instead, there's audio of him saying I live in Texas. I live in Texas, I live in Texas.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And it was well known that he was living in Dallas. He played for the Cowboys. He was living in the Dallas area. That's sort of a well-known fact. And to your point, John, this is not the first time that somebody has run for the Senate after having lived in a different state. There's a long history of that and both parties, but they do it with some delicacy and even precision. They explain why they're there. They perhaps do a listening tour of the said state. And they set it up in a way that Herschel Walker just never did.

And I think it's emblematic of the challenges with his candidacy at large. It was never done with any sort of obvious and sort of meticulous rationale. It was sort of done on the fly. Why? I think a lot of Republicans solved the Trump example and took all the wrong lessons from it. OK, that you can just make it up as you go and sort of steamroll your way through media accountability. It doesn't matter anymore. None of that counts. And guess what, gravity does still apply.

KING: And to the gravity point, the Warnock campaign is now just decided in the final days to -- this is their latest ads, it just essentially tell, they make their case to the people of Georgia, that this man is not up to serving in the United States Senate.


HERSCHEL WALKER (R-GA), SENATE CANDIDATE: So I've been telling this story about this bull out in the field and six cows, and three of them are pregnant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no such thing, there's nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's make more a lie and then it makes me think we're in trouble.


MARTIN: Focus groups being -- I mean folks who work in politics or cover politics know what that is. Those are focus groups that every campaign does, where they test what can be a positive or a negative message on themselves and their opponents. We just don't see it on the air very often.

HENDERSON: Yes, no, I think it's one of the most effective ads, it's essentially saying to, you know, Georgian voters, do you want this guy to represent you because he seemed like somebody who could stand in the Senate, you know, well, and give a speech about anything coherently and represent the values and the views of Georgians. And so, yes, I mean, they aren't going all in, you see sort of the diversity of that focus group. Those are the voters they need to show up certainly, if you're Walker.

CALDWELL: And the voters they also need to keep home the Republican voters that they don't want to show up.

KING: That's a great point. It works both ways.


Up next for us, South Dakota's Governor takes on TikTok and Washington may soon follow suit as critics say all those catchy dance videos are essentially a direct data pipeline to China and the Communist Party.


KING: TikTok is clearly in for a political storm. South Dakota's Republican Governor Kristi Noem is banning the popular Chinese owned app on government devices in her state citing national security concerns. And lawmakers in both parties here in Washington want to ban or at least significantly restrict TikTok on grounds all those catchy videos are a giant data boon to the Chinese Communist Party.

With us to discuss, our CNN national security analyst and a former Director of National Intelligence, Deputy Director of National Intelligence Beth Sanner. So let me read from Kristi Noem's announcement. She says if you're a state employee and you have a device that's owned by the state that state gives to you, South Dakota will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us. The Chinese Communist Party uses information that it gathers on TikTok to manipulate the American people. There's no argument with that on the facts, right?


BETH SANNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: There's a little bit on the facts. I mean it is not completely clear that TikTok is the source of information that the Chinese government uses to influence Americans, but they have lots of other means of getting information and TikTok could be that. But I, you know, I think right now, this is this is kind of a political statement in a lot of ways.

KING: A political statement, because sounding tough on China and sounding tough on the CCP, is something that gets you head waves within the Republican Party. But a lot of Democrats are doing it as well. Let me -- Mark Warner -- this is Mark Warner, the Democratic Chair of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats will keep the Senate so he will remain chairman. He says it's a problem.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think Donald Trump was right. I mean, TikTok is a enormous threat. So if you're a parent, and you've got a kid on TikTok, I would be very, very concerned. All of that data that your child is inputting and receiving is being stored somewhere in Beijing.


KING: That's a Democrat. This is Mike Gallagher, a Republican House member, but who's working with a Republican senator.


REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI): TikTok should be banned. Senator Marco Rubio and I have legislation that does exactly that. TikTok is digital fentanyl, addicting our kids. And just like actual fentanyl, it ultimately goes back to the Chinese Communist Party.


KING: The fentanyl part is -- that's, you know, a little over the top in the sense that, you know, that fentanyl is such a deadly problem.

SANNER: Right, right.

KING: But the idea that you have bipartisan people talking about either banning it or significantly restricting it is that, you think some of the rhetoric is over the top. Does this need to be scrubbed, does it need a close look?

SANNER: Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that, you know, here's the thing, that we don't really know exactly what is going on with this data and where it's going. But we know that the parent company in China has to give information. It's part of China's legal system. They have to give all this information up to the Chinese government. And they are hoovering it up. And there's a reason that my college aged kid does not have it on his phone and will never do it. And he gets it.

So I mean, we do have to be worried about this, absolutely. But I do also think that we have to be smart about this. And I'm not sure a ban is actually going to work. And there is a process where the Cepheus, which is part of a U.S. committee, that will -- that is currently looking at this, they made put this into a situation where they create a firewall, and there is a way that you can monitor and prevent that data from going to China, that might be the best step forward. But I think there's going to be a lot of Republicans who then will say, well, that's not enough, because you're not being hard enough on China.

KING: Well, these conversations are similar conversations did come up during the Trump presidency, and you have this, yes, you have the letter from the house incoming -- will be chairman now on the House side, there were ranking members or there are still ranking members today that James Comer and Cathy McMorris Rodgers say TikTok told staff, TikTok does not track users internet data while not using the application and that China based employees do not have access to the U.S. users location specific data, both claims appear to be misleading at best, at worst, false. Is there evidence that the U.S. subsidiary essentially if TikTok has lied to Congress? SANNER: There appears to be. I mean, there were some press reports out this summer, which I think look very credible, which were leaks of internal conversations, recorded conversations from TikTok internal meetings that indicated that China was having to access all -- having access to all this information. Plus you have all the code being written for this in China. And we know that they periodically allow the coders in and out of the system. So you know, I think it would be naive of us to think that China isn't hoovering up this information.

KING: Right. And quickly the idea that, you know, legit -- many legitimate questions about China from A to Z, about their operations, where should this be on the list?

SANNER: I think that TikTok is one of those things that it's easy in some ways to get your head around. I don't think it's the most important thing. I'm actually more worried about and applaud the Biden administration's banning of Huawei, ZTE and the and the videos that we have near, for example, some of our U.S. military installations that worries me a lot more because there are other ways that China is hoovering up American's information.

KING: We continue the conversation. Beth, thanks for coming in.


Up next for us, House Democrats passed the baton and they make history as they elect new leaders. And on the Republican side. Kevin McCarthy is making deals why? Because he's still short the votes to become House Speaker.


KING: Soon up on Capitol Hill, the new Democratic House leadership team will hold a news conference. It's the first time in two decades that Nancy Pelosi will not be the Democratic leader. Now the changes don't officially take effect until the new Congress convenes in January. But the votes today mean Hakeem Jeffries will succeed Pelosi. That means the 52-year-old New Yorker you see him right there will be the first black American and the first person of color to serve as a congressional party leader.

His new deputies Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, she will serve as whip, Pete Aguilar of California, will be the new Democratic Caucus Chairman. Our great reporters are back at the table. Just giant that Nancy Pelosi after two decades as a Democratic leader will be gone time of transition in both parties in the House congressional leadership, how is Hakeem Jeffries different than Nancy Pelosi in what he cares most about or how he runs things?


CALDWELL: It's a good question, we're going to see. So people are to my sources are telling me people, lawmakers, aides think that the trio of Aguilar Clark and Jeffries are going to be able to make up what Pelosi had in one. And they think that that's going to be good for the conference. I think that all three of them are going to be needed and necessary.

But it's also a good place in the minority to learn the job. And they're going to have that benefit, they're going to have to work with Kevin McCarthy, perhaps who's going to have his own challenges, it's going to be chaos for him for the next two years. So it's going to be interesting to see how both parties interact. But hardly anyone has a relationship with Kevin McCarthy.

KING: You're new -- it's a new team after the team that's served for 20 years, which makes it interesting and challenging to begin with. Is it easier to get your sea legs, if you will, as the opposition party, as opposed to having to be responsible for passing things?

HENDERSON: Yes, I don't think any of the either these jobs are meant to be easier. I mean, I think it'll be different. It'll be more about sort of messaging and kind of defining what the Democratic Party stands for in opposition to what the Republicans stand for. I think it's helpful for that trio that Nancy Pelosi is still going to be there, I think they decided to give her some sort of honorary speaker a maritime title or something. So I imagine she'll still be involved in sort of mentoring and guiding the way of this new trio of folks.

KING: To that point, Nancy Pelosi become Speaker, Emerita, emeriti, I went to Latin school, I should know that, I should know how to say that. That one is going to get me in trouble. But today, David Cicilline, Democratic congressman from Rhode Island says he will challenge Jim Clyburn wanted to stay on as an assistant in the leadership. He's was the number three, he wanted to stay on in a number four another spot in the leadership. David Cicilline says it's important for the Democratic Party to have a member of the LGBTQ community in its leadership, and he's going to mount that challenge.

MARTIN: Yes, it was a pretty smooth transition that sort of took place in a few hours time here between the three octogenarians, Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn, and the new three Democratic leaders. But I think Clyburn's decision to try to stay at the table, even more of a symbolic role clearly didn't sit well with younger members of the House Democratic Caucus who have been agitating for years for generational turnover.

And I think what people liked Cicilline saw Pelosi and Hoyer stepped down and then Clyburn try to sort of semi stay. I think it didn't go over that well. And I think, look, it's an ambitious crowd by its very nature, their congressman, right?

KING: And they've been waiting a long time for a chance to be ambitious.

MARTIN: They're waiting a long time for this. And they saw Pelosi and Hoyer leave, and they said, no, there should be a full turnover for all those slots that the three currently occupied. No, the Clyburn sort of semi post is not enough. He should step down to allow Pelosi and lawyer. Look, I don't think it's going to work. I think there's enough regard for Jim Clyburn in the caucus that will keep the post that he's aspiring to, but it does get to the sort of angst in the caucus here that hasn't been fully resolved even with Pelosi would leave.

KING: Let's quickly deal on the Republican side. Kevin McCarthy has until January 3rd, right, whether or January 4th, if it carries over. That's when they pick a speaker on the floor of the House of Representatives. He is still short the votes. He had meetings yesterday. He calls him the family, different factions of the Republican Party in his office.

On the way out, Jim Jordan, a key member of the Freedom Caucus said quote, we had a breakthrough. Ralph Norman, one of the Republicans who has said I will not vote for Kevin McCarthy says I'm open to negotiating anything.

Kevin McCarthy willing to somehow renegotiate the rules, apparently, of how things work, how powerful the speaker is, do we have any evidence? Did he move the ball at all forward, did the ball go backwards? Is he status quo? Do we know?

CALDWELL: I'm only laughing a little bit because this is going to be a everyday occurrence for the next couple of years if Kevin McCarthy becomes Speaker of the House. The fact that he had Marjorie Taylor Greene in the room on his behalf, he is using her as his latest weapon to kind of corral the far right. He's going to -- he's going to have to be peace broker for the foreseeable future. But his first task, as you said, he has to get 218 votes, and he's not there yet. And he is working extremely hard to get it.

HENDERSON: And just to keep everybody in line, right, as he speak. I mean, we've seen what has happened to prior speakers who've been run out of town, by the more right wing, part of the Republican Party, you know, I think he's -- this was his dream job, I think it's going to be a tough one to keep if he gets it.

MARTIN: There's no room for error. He going to lose four votes. And I think today, I think --

KING: Up to Capitol Hill, the New House Democratic leadership team, let's listen.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY), DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS CHAIR: -- as the incoming House Democratic leader for the 118th Congress that will convene on January 3rd and to be joined by my two good friends, amazing colleagues and partners, the incoming House Democratic whip, Katherine Clark, and the incoming caucus chair, Pete Aguilar.


Let me first begin by just expressing my heartfelt thoughts and prayers for the family of Don McEachin, tragically passed away. The House Democratic Caucus is a family. And Representative McEachin was an incredibly important part of that family and he will be deeply, deeply missed. I also want to convey my thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an extraordinary speaker for the ages, who has delivered so much for so many over such a significant period of time. Our caucus is better, our country is better, the world is better, because of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's incredible leadership. I also want to thank our current house majority leader Steny Hoyer and our current House Majority whip Jim Clyburn for their incredible friendship, mentorship, and support for all of us along this journey from the very beginning of our arrival in the Congress. We stand on their collective broad shoulders, building upon the incredible work that they've done, excited about the opportunities to advance the ball for everyday Americans as we move forward into our future.

I was born at Brooklyn Hospital, raised in Crown Heights by my two parents, who were public employees, a caseworker and a social worker in a middle class, working class neighborhood in the midst of the crack cocaine epidemic in the 80s, into the early 90s. I'm thankful for them, thankful for their love, support and prayers throughout the years throughout my journey into adulthood, and my journey as a public servant.

Growing up in that Crown Heights neighborhood, first member of Congress I was ever aware of was the honorable Shirley Chisholm. And I eventually was able to be elected to represent many neighborhoods in Brooklyn that she formally represented. And so it's with particular reverence for her that it was communicated to me earlier today that this actually is Shirley Chisholm's birthday 98 years ago.

I stand on the shoulders of people like Shirley Chisholm, and so many others, as we work, to advance the ball for everyday Americans and get stuff done. Because that's what Democrats do. That's what our record says. Each and every day, House Democrats committed to fighting hard for working families, middle class folks, those who aspire to be part of the middle class, young people, seniors, immigrants, veterans, the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the least the lost and the left behind house, Democrats, fight for the people, that's our story, that's our legacy, that's our values, that's our commitment as we move forward, get stuff done, make life better for everyday Americans.

We look forward to finding opportunities to partner with the other side of the aisle and work with them whenever possible. But we will also push back against extremism whenever necessary. We love this country. We love our democracy. We love the Congress and the House of Representatives, the institution designed to be the closest to the people and we're going to fight hard each and every day. We have this honor to serve in Congress to deliver.


I now yield to my good friend an amazing colleague the incoming House Democratic Whip from the commonwealth of the great state of Massachusetts, Katherine Clark.

REP. KATHERINE CLARK (D-MA): Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon. I am so honored to be here with our leader-elect Jeffries and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar. It is truly humbling to be the next whip for the 118th.