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Inside Politics

Voters Send Warnock Back to Washington, Seal 51-49 Democratic Majority; How Warnock Won and Gave Dems 51-49 Senate Majority; Walker's Loss Underlines 2022 Defeats for Trump; Manhattan DA: Trump Organization Verdict is "Chapter" in NY Trump Probes; McCarthy Previews GOP-Led Investigations. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 07, 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.

Democrats seize the final price as Georgia drops the curtain on a dramatic midterm year. Herschel Walker's loss marks another big rebuke of Donald Trump. The runoff victory gives Democrats some important Senate space and it gives Raphael Warnock, a six year term and a very powerful American Dream moment.


SEN. RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): She grew up in the 1950s in Waycross, Georgia picking somebody else's cotton and somebody else's tobacco. But tonight, she helped pick her youngest son to be a United States.


KING: Plus, Donald Trump suffers defeats of a different kind subpoenas a guilty verdict in New York criminal referrals here in Washington, an onslaught of legal setbacks. And the second gentleman now shoulders a new and very important public role, the Biden Administration voice calling out anti-Semitism.

Up first for us though Georgia sends a very strong message. The runoff result, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock coming back to Washington after defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker the move rewires the balance of power in the United States Senate giving Democrats a 51 to 49 advantage.

That bigger majority gives Joe Biden as somebody's your pathway to getting things done. The lessons embedded in the outcome are important too. Georgia yes, still leans red but is more and more competitive. One reason for that Donald Trump's brand is beyond toxic in the suburbs and Walker carried both Trump's blessing and his own considerable baggage.

This morning, the still Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer sounding triumphant holding up five plus one fingers a nod to the new math and Senator Schumer reads a clear message in last night's result.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Turn left Republicans or at least don't turn hard, right? It will be a bit more appropriate - a more appropriate thing to do. We want to get things done. And if we can get some bipartisan things done, it will of course be better for the country.


KING: Let's start up on Capitol Hill with our Chief Correspondent Manu Raju. Manu an important morning after for Leader Schumer what next?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's been a lot of soul searching bellyaching finger pointing among Republicans today who of course thought that they would be in the Senate majority. They did not even fathom they could lose - 51-49 Senate and now deciding what they should change going forward.

I've been speaking to Republicans up and down the line. There has been blame above their failure to get the early vote out criticism of Donald Trump his presence on the campaign trail defending Donald Trump the decision now of the National Republican Senatorial Committee not to intervene in primaries.

All these issues coming back to the basic fact - basic criticism from a number of Republicans that they need better candidates, according to Roy Blunt, who is a member of the Republican leadership said, "We need better candidates".

The number two Republican, John Thune indicated that it was Donald Trump's presence late in the campaign season that gave Democrats an opportunity to shift the focus away from Joe Biden and his policies and make it a contrast election. And he also had a message for Republican candidates who embrace the bogus notion of the 2020 election being stolen; saying independent voters weren't having it.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): It all starts with good quality candidates. There's no substitute for that in an election year when it should have been a referendum on the current administration, their policies. The Democrats, in many cases, were able to kind of turn it into a choice election because of Trump's presence out there. So, you know, was he a factor? I don't think there's any question about that.


RAJU: And when I asked Senator Lindsey Graham, a quack a staunch Trump supporter about this, about that comment, he said, I said, do you agree with Senator John Thune? He said no, he said that Trump was not the problem.

And the Chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee, Rick Scott said he defended his decision not to engage in Republican primaries saying it is up to Republican voters to choose those candidates, even as top Republican leaders want to take a more assertive role in the next election cycle. So a lot of back and forth John but no unanimity about what they should do going forward.

KING: The results are clear with the debate continues. Manu Raju appreciate you kicking us up on Capitol Hill. As Manu noted, Warnock's victory does that 51 Democrats 49 Republicans in the United States Senate. At the end of a midterm year will Republicans thought they would take the majority.

Let's pop back to last night and give you a closer look. We'll do a little bit later in the program. But let's take a look now tee up how Senator Warnock got his victory? You see right here it's a narrow victory for all the baggage that Herschel Walker had himself as a candidate and with Donald Trump's endorsement.


KING: It's a narrow win so Democrats can celebrate but they have some lessons to learn as well about Georgia 51 to 49. If you round up Herschel Walker, how did it happen? Look at the Metropolitan Atlanta area in the suburbs, right? You see all that blue right there. Let's look even more closely.

Look what's happening in the suburbs? This is both Walker and the Trump brand as you pull it out. Cobb County right 60 percent for Senator Warnock, only 40 percent for Herschel Walker. Let's go back one month to the Governor's race. In the Governor's race yes, Brian Kemp loses Cobb County but look how competitive he is 47 percent.

Let's move over here to Gwinnett County Brian Kemp re-elected as Governor one month ago with 44 percent in this county. Look at Herschel Walker 38 percent there. The struggle in the suburbs for the Republican Party is growing. A lot of that is toxic Trump but it's not just the suburbs.

Move up here you see these red counties. These are the x urban counties you're driving out of Atlanta you go 10, 15, 20 miles and more. Look up here Cherokee County. Yes, Herschel Walker one you say oh, he got 69 percent of the vote. Why is that a weakness?

Go back one month in the Governor's race Brian Kemp getting 74 percent? Move over here Forsyth County Governor Kemp a month ago gets more than 72 percent Herschel Walker last night 66 percent. The Republican struggles are moving even from the urban areas and the close in suburbs out into the excerpts.

That is why Senator Warnock who's been campaigning constantly for two years primary special election now he gets a six year term. He says he's coming to Washington for a full term to fight for Georgia families.


WARNOCK: I just want you to know that I see you. I see you parents as you're trying to put your kids through college and through community college and technical College I see you students as you're trying to make a way out of nowhere. Farmers who are an answer to our most basic prayer give us this day, our daily bread and yet they struggle to hold on to the farm. Farmers I see you.


KING: Let's sort through some of the early lessons with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Melanie Zanona, Toluse Olorunnipa, The Washington Post and USA Today's Francesca Chambers.

It is without a doubt it is just without a doubt the Trump brand and then Walker's baggage on top of that. If you look at the suburbs and you move out to the extremes if you're looking at the map, Republicans won every statewide election in Georgia this year, it was a good year for Republicans in Georgia except for this race. Why?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: In part because of what you just laid out. The Trump brand continued to be toxic. You have to remember that the Republicans who won at the state level including the Governor had campaigned against the idea of the big lie against the idea that Trump should be the leader of the party.

And so even as they tried to rescue Herschel Walker, it was too far gone in terms of how voters viewed Herschel Walker as an acolyte of Donald Trump as someone who was sort of picked out of obscurity to be a Senator by Donald Trump.

And so while it's important to note that Trump's brand continues to be toxic for a number of moderate suburban voters Raphael Warnock did also campaign and a number of these ex urban and even rural communities and try to tighten those margins, even though he lost a number of those counties.

And that's something that we're seeing from Democratic candidates across the board, pointing out that they can compete in some of these counties, even as they lose among some of these rural voters. They can tighten the margins and win statewide.

KING: That's a very important point. We're going to take a closer look at Georgia later in the program. But we're just talking about how Herschel Walker underperformed in the suburbs? Senator Warnock over performed in some of those roadways again, he's got shellacked in many of those counties, but he's a lot closer. Over performed Stacey Abrams, you make it better.

This is Dan MacLagan (ph), a Republican Strategist, Melanie. Georgia is a red state when we pick the best candidate rather than the rich one or the celebrity until we learned that lesson we will be treated to more train wrecks like this one, as our nominee gets vetted in the general election like a slow motion, Spanish Inquisition.

He's talking about Georgia there. You could apply the same lesson to Pennsylvania a seat the Republicans wanted to hold Dr. Oz lost. New Hampshire a seat the Republicans wanted to pick up they lost. Nevada a seat the Republicans thought they would pick up they lost. Arizona a seat the Republicans thought they would pick up they lost and yet you just heard your colleague Manu Raju up on Capitol saying some Republicans say no, this isn't Trump.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: What they're saying is I mean Trump is definitely a factor here because these are handpicked Trump candidates. Yes, can inequality obviously was an issue. They decided not to get involved in primaries, though this cycle at least the NRSC because of Trump.

Because they didn't want to cross Trump and so they can sit there right now and say, you know, we need to maybe reassess and come up with a different strategy next cycle, but will they be willing to cross Trump that is why they didn't get involved in the first place.

And we've seen these autopsies conducted before and Republicans do all this soul searching and then they flatly reject them. So we'll see whether they learned lessons including on mail-in voting that was another thing that GOP started to realize those attacks backfired, but we'll see whether they change course?

KING: Circle back to that in a second. But you covered of the White House so Joe Biden has now has his midterm election year. It did not go anywhere near as badly as many Democrats thought it would.


KING: But the Republicans will control the House with a very narrow majority. That actually might complicate things even more for the President, because you have the rest of House conservative stirring up.

Now you will have a Democratic Senate where he's got a little bit more room. If it comes to judicial nominations, if it comes to people in the cabinet decide it's time to leave after two years and things like that. How do they view this at the Biden White House this day, as we drop the curtain on the midterm year?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, on the Vice President, she can be out of town more often, she can focus on other areas of her portfolio when she does not have to focus on casting the tie breaking vote. So that's certainly on the minds of White House officials.

But I wanted to go back to the quote that you shared from Dan. Take a step back there; he worked for Gary Black in the primary who had tried to become the nominee. He also had worked for Doug Collins, in the previous cycle when Doug Collins was facing off against Kelly Leffler.

So there's some history here in terms of Republicans in the State of Georgia today, feeling frustrated that when you have these newcomer - newcomers to politics who ended up essentially becoming the nominee, so complicated, because there's run offs and all kinds of stuff, but essentially become their party's nominee.

And they're saying today that if you just go with the establishment candidates who have been tested before, and aren't going to have as much political baggage, like we saw, with Herschel Walker coming out that you might not end up with these scenarios.

KING: It's a very interesting point you make there because the Republican philosophy normally is, is make decisions as local as you can, right? Get them out of Washington get into the state, if you can get them to the county get into the county, if you get into the people get into the people, which is the very message listen here.

This is Brad Raffensperger just reelected as Secretary of State and Geoff Duncan, the Lieutenant Governor of Georgia saying we should have let Georgians pick the candidates, not Donald Trump.


BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE: As Republicans, if we want to do some soul searching, we need to win back the suburbs. That used to be our bread and butter. That's where we used to be really, really strong.

LT. GOV. GEOFF DUNCAN (R-GA): We can never let Donald Trump let us get to this spot again. We got two years to get our act together. We have to coalesce around the fact that we want to win the White House in 2024. And it's going to take a serious minded policy minded individual that truly wants to be a leader not just you know when a campaign and be a hero on Twitter.


KING: It is anything but unanimous but you do hear more finally, we're done with Trump. Finally, we're done with letting him have this much power over who we run. How long is that lasting? Will that cement ever dry?

OLORUNNIPA: It remains to be seen, in part because the voters did choose Herschel Walker in part because of Trump's endorsement. But those same voters chose the gubernatorial primary winner and other winners who Trump didn't endorse. So Trump continues to have the biggest voice in endorsing candidates and until other Republicans stand up to him. That continues to be the case.

KING: Up next, something that could factor in to that same conversation a very tough day in a very tough week in a very tough time for Donald Trump. His business found guilty of criminal tax fraud. The January 6 Committee announcing it will make criminal referrals plus more federal subpoenas now tracing Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election.



KING: It is simply a dizzying time trying to keep track of all the Donald Trump investigations including CNN learning this today. Trump's lawyers recently hired a team to search for the Former President's properties including Trump Tower in New York City and his Bedminster Golf Club that search to look for potential classified materials.

The Former president now also vowing to appeal a Manhattan jury's decision finding two of his companies guilty of criminal tax fraud now, Trump himself was not charged in that case, but it is a significant blow to his brand. And that verdict comes amid important new developments in several other investigations stemming from his efforts to ignore or to overturn the 2020 election results.

There are new subpoenas, for example, from the Justice Department, Special Counsel and potential referrals now by the January 6 Committee criminal referrals joining me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Sara Murray, CNN's Evan Perez and our CNN Legal Analyst, Former Federal Prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers.

Evan, let me just start with you in the sense that we can put up on the screen. There's a myriad of investigations. One of them was the investigation the verdict yesterday in a lawsuit where he was not named as a defendant. But there were certainly questions raised about the ethics and the tax practices of his business. The New York Manhattan District Attorney says that's a stepping stone more work to be done.


ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The investigation is ongoing. This was a chapter and it was a case against the corporations who sanctioned the conduct on behalf of the corporation is a different standard from sort of, obviously proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to an individual. But you know, we are continuing to our work.


KING: This is an office that has been trumped critics have criticized in the past saying that he backed off from other investigations that he inherited. Do we get a sense does the tax case give them more fodder evidence to move forward? Or is he just holding his options?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: I think he's trying to have it both ways. I mean, they had an option certainly when they had Alan Weisselberg, who was the star witness in their trial, you know, they could have made a deal with him where he would be a witness against the former president and his family.

They pointedly did not do that. He says that, obviously all the options are still on the table. But it's hard to see; you know how you're going to make a case when you don't do a deal like that. By the way, you know, our Kara Scannell who was in court during those seven weeks.

You know, you know, she reported that, you know, multiple times prosecutors said that it was clear Trump was involved in all of this that he obviously under reported his income or his taxes, certainly for his tax purposes, for years. So all of this should have you think, you know, presented the evidence that they could use?

KING: Well, we'll see where that one goes from there. You're up on Capitol Hill yesterday. Another one of the questions is how specific will the January 6th Committee be when A, it publishes a report and then B; it will the Chairman says have some criminal referrals to the Justice Department. One of the members Adam Schiff on NPR this morning says at the top of that list should be Donald J. Trump.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Donald Trump committed specific prosecutable crimes on January 6 and beforehand a criminal conspiracy or something else?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Yes, I do that I think the facts support a potential charge against the Former President. And the end of the Justice Department, in my view needs to hold everyone equally responsible before the law.


KING: He among the committee members has been nudging the Justice Department from the very get go here. Do we have a sense of how clear they will be?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they don't have a sense of how clear they will be at this point. You know, right now, they're said they're still narrowing down the list, the universe of people that they want to put on this list for criminal referrals.

Obviously, we know their wave, or they're weighing the possibility of a Donald Trump criminal referral. But the question is which of those allies may also be on those lists? What kind of crimes are you talking about referring them for?

And they don't really have a lot of time to narrow this down. I mean, they keep saying it's going to be soon it's going to be soon, it's going to be soon. And we're saying, you know, how soon like, is this week thing? Is this a next week thing? So we're waiting for them to nail down the details? I think like everyone is.

KING: Jennifer Rodgers, help us with your experience as a Former Federal Prosecutor, sometimes investigators send subpoenas because there are any early stages of investigation, they're trying to gather information, and you don't know where it's going to take you.

In the case of the new Special Counsel, we know there have been new subpoenas issued to election officials in Wisconsin, in Michigan and in Arizona, asking, we know that in all of those states Trump allies were trying to reverse some find a way to reverse the results of the 2020 election. What does that tell you? What would you read into that about the strategy, the focus of the new Special Counsel?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well John, these are later stage subpoenas. They started with subpoenas to the fake electors themselves to find out who was involved? What did they do? What was the scope of this game? And also to see if they could flip any of those people and get testimony from those people about the folks who were really running the show from Washington.

So now we see kind of the next round, the subpoena is about. We want to hear about communications between you and these people in Washington, Donald Trump and his supporters, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, the other folks who were actually running that criminal scheme.

And so now we'll see, as people start going into the grand jury, now that a lot of the litigation over executive privilege and other privilege issues has largely concluded they'll start getting that evidence. And after this round, I think they'll start to be in a position to think about charging those crimes.

KING: After this round that to think about it one last quick one, confirming the reporting that Trump's lawyers hired a team to look he's in this big another desktop with the Justice Department over the documents he took from the White House classified materials. They say they searched and they found no more classified documents?

PEREZ: That's right. They said that they found no additional classified documents. And you know, very nice of them, they also invited the Justice Department to come at least observe one of these searches which the Justice Department declined.

But they you know keep in mind that the prosecutors have been telling Trump and his team we believe there are additional documents that are missing, that need to be returned. And that's partly why they know that the Former President has a lot of legal jeopardy.

You know, the constellation of investigations that you pointed out, but this one is really very real, right? He got a subpoena. He was told to turn over documents that were marked classified, did not and then weeks later, the Justice Department goes there and finds.

KING: And yet again, you try to answer a question and you raise a question if they believe they're still missing classified documents, and they're not in any of those four locations at least that's the testimony in the report back. Where are they? So this continues, appreciate everyone coming in for that we will stay on top of these many stories.

Up next, Kevin McCarthy's investigation wish list. It's a message as to the Biden White House, but it's also proof McCarthy is still shy the votes in the House Speaker's race.



KING: Kevin McCarthy says the new Republican House majority will move quickly to launch aggressive investigations and oversight on issues ranging from Afghanistan and COVID to Hunter Biden's financial dealings.

Here the list of investigations McCarthy unveiled last night. It is in part a stern message to the Biden White House. But let's be honest, it's also a message to McCarthy critics, who at the moment who are denying him the votes he needs to be Speaker of the House.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Before divided on January 3, we're squandering this majority. We can't send out any subpoenas. We can't have the hearings down at the border. We can't secure our border. We can't go into any investigation.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us. Am I wrong about that in the sense that if you go through the investigations of the border, big tech China, what they call woke identity politics, Hunter Biden, Afghanistan education and critical race theory? That's all been on the record before that Kevin McCarthy felt he had to put out a list. Why?

ZANONA: Because a member of his right flank who's starting to oppose him for Speaker said we want to see a list of exactly what you're going to investigate and lo and behold, a few weeks later, that's exactly what Kevin McCarthy did.

It definitely signals that he's worried and he doesn't have the votes and he's trying to do things, both behind closed doors and in public to win support for his speakership. It's not just that he dangled the thread of impeachment over Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security Secretary he vowed to kick some Democrats off their committees. He fought to get the vaccine mandate excluded from the defense policy bill.

He even took a swipe at Mitch McConnell who's been, you know, reviled on the right lately. So all of this is happening in the open and that is by design. He doesn't want to look like he's cutting side deals, but he knows that he needs to do a lot more if he's going to become speaker.

KING: Back to how they handle this in a minute. But what about the Biden White House now we know for months they've been you know do we need better lawyers do we need better staffers?