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CNN In Mexico Amid Concerns About Influx Of Migrants; Biden Admin Warns End Of Border Policy Could Increase Migrant Surge "Immediately"; GOP Border Rep: "Worst Is Yet To Come"; McCarthy Allies Turn To Hardball Tactics To Push Holdouts; Moderate Republicans Weigh Hardball Tactics To Elect Kevin McCarthy Speaker; Boehner Cries During Speech At Pelosi's Portrait Unveiling; Boehner On Pelosi: "Game Recognizes Game"; 1/6 Cmte Expects To Release Key Chapters Of Final Report Monday. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 15, 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. Bad and getting worse, an intelligence memo reviewed by CNN, shows Biden administration officials bracing for the number of migrants trying to cross the southern border to double next week. Thousands are already here.


JUDGE RICHARD CORTEZ, (D) HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS: But we have is, we have a leak, we need a plumber to come and stop the leak. And instead, what we're doing is we're sending us more buckets to hold the water.


KING: Plus, a new CNN reporting about behind the scenes hardball as Kevin McCarthy allies tried to get him the speaker's gavel. It includes pushback from self-styled only Kevin McCarthy allies to counter the small but passionate, never Kevin wing. And from hesitant to all in. The First Lady Jill Biden said now to be eager for another campaign. And on the Republican side being Chris Sununu often means, looking for ways to needle Donald Trump.

We begin with the border crisis. The Biden White House warrant is about to go from bad to worse. A Trump administration turn them back policy called Title 42, could expire next week. And if it does, and already steady stream across the U.S.-Mexico border is predicted to double in size, perhaps even more than that. That one jarring headline is in a Biden Department of Homeland Security Intelligence memo.

Local officials who see this every day agree more migrants are just waiting for word Title 42 is no more. And those officials warn, already stressed shelters and services are soon to be overwhelmed. CNN's Ed Lavandera is at the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Ed, what are you saying?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as you mentioned, we are on the Ciudad Juarez of the Mexico, Texas border, just on the other side of El Paso. And this is the Rio Grande, you can see the little rocky area there. There's a small group of people literally just seconds ago walking across.

I wanted to give you a sense of what this recent surge that we've been talking so much about in the El Paso area looks like from the side here in Mexico. And this is the area where many people are essentially freely walking across the river, which is only 25 to 30 (Audio Gap) just in front of the border wall in the barbed wire while there, and this line goes on for hundreds of yards.

There are thousands of people that have been crossing in the last week or so. And the latest numbers we have are saying about on average, about 2500 migrants have been crossing here a day. What's really stunning is just how orderly it all is. And these are people, John, who have been waiting throughout the night.

They're essentially walking across the border and waiting to turn themselves into border patrol agents. They're in a long line here waiting for it. And if you look across now, border patrol agents are signaling just a handful of people to come through and pass the wall there every few minutes or so. And then they are escorted several hundred yards on the other side of that wall to a border patrol processing facility.

We understand that those facilities are already overcapacity. As you mentioned in the lead in there, that the shelters and the humanitarian efforts on the other side of El Paso are already overwhelmed. But what is looming over all of this, John, is the prospect of Title 42 being suspended next week. This is a search different from all of that. But the Biden administration is preparing for as many tonight as many as 9,000 to 14,000 people crossing the border daily, the ones Title 42 is lifted.

And if you follow me just over here, on the other side of the street, there is a carwash and where people have been sleeping, and those are mostly, I was just over there talking to them, John, mostly Venezuelan migrants. One gentleman we spoke with and said, he's been deported four times in the last two months because of Title 42. And he is now waiting until next week to see if he can get through here.

So, this is an area where there are a lot of people sleeping in shelters, a mix of people who are just saying, you know, we've come a long way, we're going across now. Other people trying to take a wait and see approach. But all of this is factoring into what we're going to see next week once the possibility of Title 42 being lifted, John?


KING: Ed Lavandera, thanks to you and your team critical reporting just south of the U.S.-Mexico border on the Mexico side. Ed, thank you so much. Those pictures are certainly more than dramatic. Joining me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson and Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post. You just look at the pictures there and Ed makes the key point. There's the daily migration anyway. And then there are the people who are well aware of Title 42 is about to disappear or at least believed to disappear next week. Waiting, waiting, he says sleeping in a car wash, sleeping in parking lots.

This is what the Department of Homeland Security memo says about this. Priscilla Alvarez is obtaining this, take a read of this. The end of the Trump-era border policy next week will likely increase migration flows immediately. And migrants who are in encampments along Mexico's northern border may attempt to cross into the United States. And that memo goes on to say, they think this could possibly double.

Does the Biden administration have a plan for this. Please correct me if you think I'm wrong, but they seem again to be reactionary, not proactive.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. I mean, there's been some reporting in Axios and other places that they're just having discussions. I think (Inaudible) said that they there's been no decisions that have been made just yet. But it's not just the Biden administration, I think Democrats are also very reactionary, and not really talking about this.

I just interviewed Representative Clyburn this morning for Washington Post live. And I asked him about this. If the Biden administration needs to do more, what to do about Title 42? And he said, he doesn't really have an opinion about it, and that he just met with someone who was on the border and thought that the border actually looked pretty good.

And so, that is the same line of Democrats that it says, you know, kind of saying on one hand, that it's not that big of a deal, that things seemed fine there and kind of ignoring the entire situation. And in these polarized times, Republicans have the exact opposite approach and are making this a very political issue.

KING: But it's an interesting point, you're just looking at these pictures that Ed and his crew are feeding in, does not look good. Whatever your views on immigration. If you want more people to come into the United States, if you want more legal immigration into the United States, pictures like this do not help your cause.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, it's of course, not orderly at all. There's a crush of humanity, there are people fleeing these very unstable countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Cuba as well. For a while, it seemed like Kamala Harris, this was her portfolio right, to get to the root causes in some of these countries and destabilize governments, but that's kind of impossible, right?

I mean, because a lot of these countries have essentially dictators who are cracking down on civil society. They are, you know, drug warlords there and that's what these folks are fleeing. And that's very hard to really stem that in those root countries. So, listen, but I think we've been here before, and it does seem like every single time the Biden administration seems a bit slow on their heels to actually react to it.

KING: And so, we're just a little over two weeks away from Republicans controlling the House, which is going to change the tone of the tenor of this conversation. This is Tony Gonzales, Republican member of the House on television today, listen to him. He says, yes, the Biden ministration needs to do something, but he's already making the case. They're not going to, so Congress will.


REP. TONY GONZALES, (R) TEXAS: I fear the worst is yet to come. And we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg. While the administration has a role to play in this and they should certainly be part of this. Congress has a role to play, and Congress needs to lead. It is very difficult for me to talk about immigration reform, when I've got 50,000 migrants waiting on the other side of the border.


KING: He says Congress needs to lead. The issue here that sadly been an issue for 20 plus years in this town. The House Republicans have their ideas. The Democrats have their ideas. And they refuse to get in the room and figure out is there at least 40, 50 percent of this we could agree on. Let's do this. And then let's come back next month and talk about the rest of it.

DANA BASH, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: And when they do get in a room or the most recent times that they've gotten in the room several years ago at this point. They have been both sides, mostly the Republican side under the Trump administration, demagogued to the point where, whatever they were trying to come up with completely fell apart.

I mean, yes, there is a complete backup of humanity at the border right now because of Title 42, because they were kept out of America because of COVID and that still exists. But this is a crisis that has built up for more than 20 years. And it is because Democrats and Republicans both have been in charge over the past couple of decades.

Republicans in the White House, Democrats in the White House have not been able to get their act together. And it is because this is one of the most sadly, one of the most hijacked issues by both sides to be demagogued that they say that - they don't say this, but the reality is they would much rather have an issue than a solution.


KING: Right. There was a proposal that is now said to be off the rails. We're not done with the so-called lame duck here at congressional session yet. But Senator Sinema, who is from Arizona border state who have just left the Democrats to become an independent. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, they are working on a plan that would deal with some of the modest pieces of this, but significant pieces, more border security funding, which Republicans say they want. Just give status to the so-called dreamers, young people who were brought across the border by somebody else when they were too young to make the decision themselves and a few other things. And even that, even that's something that would get majority support like that. They won't bring to the floor because of what could just competing political interests.

CALDWELL: There's not the votes, Sinema and Tillis have an agreement amongst themselves, but you need 60 votes in the Senate, doesn't look like House Democrats are that interested in it. This bill is a big investment in border security, but there's two things here. Are Democrats going to agree with it?

And also, most Republicans now are saying, they will do nothing on immigration, including DACA until the border is secure. So not simultaneously, but until and so that there is no room for compromise or negotiation at this point.

KING: Which suggests we'll have two more years of gridlock and scenes like you're seeing, playing out right there. Up next for us. New reporting on the hardball tactics. Kevin McCarthy allies now way as he is still short the votes to be the House speaker. And a former Republican Speaker John Boehner up on Capitol Hill yesterday getting emotional, paying tribute to his one-time rival Nancy Pelosi.


JOHN BOEHNER, (R) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: No other speaker of the House in a modern era Republican or Democrat, let's just say your one tough cookie.





KING: Some new behind the curtain reporting now and how frustrated allies are trying to win over Republicans who vowed to never back Kevin McCarthy for Speaker. McCarthy is mulling how much he is willing to give his critics and concessions. Just as his allies turned to hardball tactics, hoping to push far right holdouts into the yes column.

Let's get up to CNN's Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. She's behind this reporting. Mel, tell us more.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, John, this is really shaping up to be a showdown between the never Kevin camp and the only Kevin camp as the group is now calling themselves. Look, moderate Republicans are getting incredibly frustrated with this very small band of anti-McCarthy Republicans who are threatening to derail the speakership. And so, they're starting to think about ways that they can act as a counterweight to that group and really punch back with some things of their own.

Sources told me and my colleague Annie Grayer, that one of the things that they're considering is offering a resolution to remove those holdouts from their committees if they don't back down on multiple rounds of voting. Something else the group is considering is voting against a rules package, if it contains some of the most hardline demands that this group is seeking.

And then finally, they've also publicly threatened to team up with Democrats to elect a speaker. You know, a longshot idea, but one that really speaks to just how frustrated Republicans are right now. As Don Bacon told us, teams win, fractured teams lose. We can't let a handful hold the conference hostage.

Now, it's unclear how willing moderates actually will be to play hardball. They're not known as a group that's willing to use those types of tactics. And some of these things could backfire, opposing the rules package, for example, if it contains some of the deals that McCarthy worked out to win the speakership, that could really complicate things for McCarthy.

And one of the chief sticking points right now, John, is this motion to vacate the speaker's chair. That is something that the hardliners are pushing forward. It would allow any single member the ability to force a snap vote to depose the sitting speaker, McCarthy and many Republicans are against that idea.

They're worried it could hamper their ability to govern. But McCarthy may need to find a compromise here. They had a meeting yesterday to talk about potential solutions. And it could be key to unlocking the remaining votes needs to be speaker, John?

KING: It's a remarkable drama, that continues still short the votes. Melanie Zanona, appreciate that live on Capitol Hill. Let's bring it back into the room. And as Melanie noted, there's the never Kevin group. And then there's the, and she put on her Twitter feed, the only Kevin group is walking around now with buttons, with OK buttons. There you see it right here.

Forgive me, this is about something really important to leave the House Republicans in their new majority, and it's a constitutional office, your third in line to the presidency. And I'm sorry, this is like middle school.

BASH: Yes. But I mean, where do we even start at what saying that? You know, sometimes Congress middle school is a---

KING: Middle school will certainly a win.

BASH: Yes. There isn't, but they're just to keep it going. There is a group that is not represented there, or maybe a party, which is my Kevin, which is what Donald Trump calls Kevin McCarthy. And that is what Kevin McCarthy has been grappling with. How far to go to get to the Trump side of things. And then how far to be accommodating more broadly versus being tough. And I think this Melanie and Annie reporting is so fascinating, because for so long Kevin McCarthy has been just about accommodating, particularly when it comes to the right flank. And he's changing right now. He's changing his strategy. And if that works, then it could make him and should make him a more effective leader on this very unruly caucus.

KING: And this idea that where do you draw the line? Do you let them to vacate the chair, just have a majority vote? Or does it have to be 30 percent or 40 percent or 50 percent? Just how do you be - how do you come to work every day? Where you think if I make you mad, if I do one thing and guess what? You're going to do a lot of things that make, you know, you got a big - you got a conference, you know, no one's always going to be happy. But if I make you mad, you just call them up, you have a vote and I'm done.

CALDWELL: Yes. So, yesterday in the meeting that Republicans had about this, one member stood up and said this motion to vacate idea about one person being able to recall the speaker (Audio Gap) handing out 435 matches and daring someone not delighted. And so, there is a lot of frustration among the moderates, the more pragmatic members of the party, who say that this handful of members are holding the entire party hostage, and these handful of members, most of them have never served in the majority.


And so, they are also thinking in the mindset of making demands based on what they know in the minority when you have no rights. And so, you know, there's this bubbling frustration among these moderates as evident and what, you know, Melanie just reported and trying to flex their own muscle.

KING: And so, this is about who should lead them. Imagine about any big policy questions, any national security crisis, anything big, but you have to get consensus, which is why Kevin McCarthy is the strongest candidate at the moment. But he looks pretty weak, when you have these daily meetings and negotiations everything else, which is why when our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju asked a pretty normal straightforward question. He gets annoyed.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why has it been so hard for you to get to 218 votes to become Speaker when you have President Trump apparently lobbying on your behalf, you've been meeting with members of the Freedom Caucus, but the votes just aren't there. Why has it been so hard for you?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) MINORITY LEADER: Have you spent any time with my conference? but I mean, you know, it's amazing to me. Here we are with the biggest things going on on the spending, that I can always count on you for the most inappropriate question.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: It's a perfectly appropriate question. But it just - he it's, you know, you don't look like the leader, when you don't have the math, he doesn't want to be at.

HENDERSON: Yes. And listen, this was supposed to be easy for Kevin McCarthy. They were supposed to have essentially, you know, free rein of the bigger majority, a big majority. They don't have that. They only want a handful of seats. So, this is him in a very unexpected opposition. If you're a moderate, you are worried that this is a speaker that could come to power, beholden to five or six others in the extreme wing of the party.

And what the midterms told those moderate Republicans is that being extreme is not good for their party's fortune. These folks are up into years. And so, to have somebody like Marjorie Taylor Greene, essentially in control, and having a speaker that owes the Marjorie Taylor Greene wing of the party is just bad for the party and it's certainly bad for moderates.

KING: And it matters for people at home, thinking this is middle school and it's just, you know, who's going to get shoved in their locker. It does matter. If there is, you know, how do you get money for Ukraine through when a good number of the people are reluctant to do so? What if there's a national security crisis? We just talked about the border.

Can you at any point get people to compromise? If you can't lead, if you don't lead strongly, that is an issue. So, let's move - let's turn the page back to you, saw a little bit of this as we went to break. To a man who once had this job, who left because of these very same dynamics, the right flank getting in his face all the time.

Yesterday, up on Capitol Hill, they unveiled the Nancy Pelosi portrait, first woman to be Speaker of the House, the most powerful woman in American politics until Kamala Harris was elected vice president. John Boehner paying tribute in John Boehner style.


BOEHNER: And Madam Speaker, I have to say, my girls told me, tell this Speaker how much we admire her.


KING: It is a reminder. We can make fun of John Boehner's emotions that he'd be fine with that. It is a reminder, though, that it was not all that long ago, where there were public servants who completely disagreed on issues who respected institutions and respected the tenacity of their colleagues and rivals.

BASH: Yes, listen. They have many more things that they disagree about than they agree about John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi. But he was there. Look at that. I mean, that was a classic Boehner moment planting one on her. But he got emotional when he handed her the gavel at that time, at the time that that happened. And they definitely had a mutual respect, like you put it.

Think about what happened when Nancy Pelosi gave her - made her announcement on the floor of the House that she was stepping down from leadership. Kevin McCarthy wasn't even there. Most Republicans weren't even there. And no, it's a two-way street.

Nancy Pelosi has virtually no respect for Kevin McCarthy either. But these things matter. It's not just superficial stuff. These things matter because the human interaction leads to an understanding that leads to when, you know, what hits the fan, getting things done for America.

HENDERSON: And listen, this is essentially why Boehner was run out of time because of the far right in his party. And we can see that element on now at play and McCarthy trying to grab the gabble.

KING: And we thought it was a big deal then. It's more feisty Trumpy now, that's predictable.


CALDWELL: Oh, yes, absolutely. And it's at a level that we didn't expect back then. Yes, we thought the politics and the Congress was broken. And the polarization was horrible then, now we're here.

KING: Now we are here. Next, the January 6 committee lays out plans for its final hearing and it makes a big decision about subpoenas for phone records.


KING: We just learned the January 6 committee expects to release a full executive summary in eight chapters of its sprawling report at a hearing this coming Monday. The Chairman Bennie Thompson previously said, the report will be published later in the week.