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1/6 Cmte Expects To Release Key Chapters Of Final Report Monday; NH Gov. Sununu: Trump Shouldn't Be President Again, Floats DeSantis; WH Warning: Now Is The Time To Prepare For COVID Surge. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 15, 2022 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: We just learned the January 6th 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. Mississippi Democrat also teasing new evidence and criminal referrals that what will be the Committee's last public hearing.

With us to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Sara Murray, who's up on Capitol Hill and the former federal prosecutor, Jennifer Rodgers. Sara, let's start with you. So a hearing on Monday and executive summary more referrals, what new or what important are we expecting?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, look, we want to know everything about the referrals, right, particularly any criminal referrals to the Department of Justice. Bennie Thompson, who's the chairman of the Committee also said he's hoping that they can get eight chapters in the report out on Monday that may prove to be a little too optimistic. And our conversations with other members are talking about still putting the finishing touches on him. I talked to another source who said, you know, this could still slip we still may not see, you know, the real guts of the report until Wednesday as Bennie Thompson previously said.

But look, it's pretty clear that we are going to see a number of the top line headlines, the full executive summary in the Monday public meeting. And again, the details on these referrals, what are the names? What -- who are they being referred to? What is the basis, particularly for the Justice Department, John?

KING: And Jennifer, as we get to the end of this process, the Republicans are about to take over the House. We do know, maybe this is housecleaning, maybe this is just a concession that we weren't going to win here. If January 6th withdrew subpoenas in addition for phone records of several key players, Roger Stone, the Trump ally, Stephen Miller, the Trump aide, Sebastian Gorka, another Trump ally, and Cleta Mitchell, one of the lawyers involved in all of this. A, what does that tell you? And I know one of your points is that because of all the successes of this Committee, it did have some issues, some failures to get cooperation. You believe the report should make recommendations for what Congress should do to improve its ability to invest -- to conduct, excuse me, investigations, but what hope is that when you know, the Republican House opposes even the existence of this Committee?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Yes, it's a good point, John, I mean, this really is just housekeeping, when you close down and investigation, you need to close out subpoenas that are outstanding. I am looking forward to the legislative proposals here, you're probably right that they don't stand much of a chance in the new Republican controlled House. But listen, the fact that these investigations shut down when a Congress turns over. And so the -- it just -- what's the whole point? I mean, our justice system is just not set up to deal with these kinds of investigations that have this kind of expiration date.

And so Republicans should want it to. They should want better tools to try to enforce their subpoenas and get their investigations done. So we'll see if it happens. But I am looking forward to what this Committee has to say about ways to increase their power. And not just for this, of course, but down the road as well.

KOTB: I may stick with you, Jennifer on this question, because it's another subpoena question, which is we know the new special counsel. Now our full understanding is seven states that were targeted by President Trump at the time and his allies to try to overturn the results, Election officials in all seven of these states have now received subpoenas from the new special counsel. What does that tell you about the aggressive nature of the new special counsel or the pace of the investigation? What's most noteworthy here?

RODGERS: Well, they're moving quickly, they frankly, should have probably issued the subpoena some time ago. It may be that they felt they were held up by the frivolous privilege assertions that were going on that now I've been cleared by Judge Howell in D.C. So I'm glad that they've done it, they certainly need to talk to these people. And, you know, I think this could be a really fruitful area for cooperation for the special counsel and his team. You know, these are folks, by and large, who are public officials, local and state public officials, they don't want to go to prison. They don't want their reputations damaged by being involved in this plot. And they're probably not as loyal to the former president as some of the former president's own people, right?

So they're a good place to look for cooperating witnesses, and witnesses who will maybe not pleaded guilty to anything will be cooperative with investigators. So I think they can maybe make some real headway when they talk to these people and start getting in their fight.

KING: And Sara, the January 6th Committee, we will get the final acts next week. And they essentially want to end by connecting their work to the Justice Department work that we're just talking about, the Special Counsel works underway. One of the Republican members on the Committee, Adam Kinzinger says, he has absolutely no doubt and he hopes the Justice Department agrees Donald Trump committed a crime. Listen.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I'm not a Justice Department official. They have different levels of standards. I think he's guilty of a crime. I mean, look, he knew what he did. I think he is absolutely guilty. If he is not guilty of some kind of a crime, I mean, what we've basically said is presidents are above the law, and they can do everything short of a coup, as long as it doesn't succeed.


KING: We know this final report will be quite damning in its characterization of Donald Trump. Do we know much more in the details beyond that underneath him of who else to report wants to single out as the most nefarious actors?

MURRAY: Well, look, we know that they want to zero in on people who are in Donald Trump's inner circle, people who they feel like contributed to these plans to overturn the election, may have contributed to the riot in the run up to January 6th. Yes, we know Rudy Giuliani is someone they've been considering. John Eastman, an attorney, is someone considering. Jeffrey Clark is a person that they were considering, you know, who seemed amenable to helping stage this sort of coup at the Justice Department. So these are the names. But again, this is not an exhaustive list. And, you know, we don't have their final decisions.


As you said, I think that the Committee thinks this is important for the historical record, it's important to send a signal that they believe that crimes were committed and they believe the Justice Department should do something. But as Jennifer was saying, the Justice Department is already moving along. And so some of the hurdles that Committee faced, like getting, you know, subpoenas and phone records and that kind of thing, DOJ is not going to face this same kind of pushback.

KING: Now, the Committee has surprised us that many, if not most of its big turns and events so we'll see what comes next week. Sara Murray on the Hill, Jennifer Rogers appreciate the insights for both of you and a big week to look forward to next week.

And next for us, Being Chris Sununu, a new CNN special explores how an ambitious Republican governor and frequent Donald Trump critic sees the road ahead for the GOP.



KING: Some new insights into who and what Republicans want from a Republican who has ambitions on his own. CNN's Dana Bash spend time with the Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, that part of the CNN special series Being, in this chapter, Being Chris Sununu. In their conversation, Governor Sununu outright rejects the idea Donald Trump will ever be president again. And he brings up a potential rival unprompted.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Given what happened after the 2020 election, the conspiracies the frankly lies that he peddled about the election, and then what happened on January 6th, is he fit to be president, again?

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I just don't think he's going to be president again.

BASH: But do you think he shouldn't be president again?

SUNUNU: No, because he's done his time. He's done his service. We're moving on. We are as a country, as a party, we want the next idea. We want the next generation, whatever it is. So to say we're going to be a country where the best opportunity for our future leadership is the leadership of yesterday, that's frankly unAmerican. We're just taking the next step. We're moving on. Thank you for your service. We're moving on.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Thank you for a historic landslide victory.

BASH (voice-over): He even brought up Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, unprompted as a stronger potential candidate than Trump.

SUNUNU: There's an argument to be made that someone like DeSantis could beat him in the primary today. And this --

BASH (on camera): Do you think he could?

SUNUNU: That's a word -- I think another candidate could, yes. Oh, do I think this? May be, I don't know. I mean, I really don't know.

BASH: Would he be a good president?

SUNUNU: Oh, I think Ron would be a good president. Sure. I think a lot of Republican governors would be good president.

BASH: Do you think that he would be able to connect with voters the way you're describing?

SUNUNU: Everyone connects with voters differently, right? I mean, I don't want to speak specifically to Ron, but I have my style. He has his style. Everyone's a little different. Every state is different.


KING: Our reporters including Dana Bash back with us. So sometimes he's very plain spoken and says what he thinks. Other times he's ducking dodging, bobbing, and weaving. Very important because of his history, his dad was the governor of New Hampshire, his brother was a senator, his dad was a White House Chief of Staff. New Hampshire happens to at least at the moment, we'll see what happens to the calendar of the leadoff presidential primary. He would like to be president, he won't say it. But clearly he would. He's trying to figure out like so many Republicans, is there a lane for me?

BASH: How do you know he won't say it? You got to tune in tomorrow night. Shockingly, I did ask him that question. Yes. They're all trying to figure out what the lane is. And what is fascinating about just the broader field here is that there doesn't seem to be a big rush to jump in after Donald Trump did his thing. A lot of these governors particularly, were just reelected. They have a lot to do in the short term with their legislatures, and then they're going to potentially figure it out. But, you know, in the series, we tried to get beyond the sort of top of the news.

And there was a lot of a lot of New Hampshire. And we actually were there at the peak of the fall. It's just beautiful. And he does give an insight into what it's like to be in, what is still a pretty purple state and the very real crossroads for the GOP right now. He wants to be a part of figuring out where that party.

KING: And he's trying to, I'll barrow your hand gesture, he's trying to figure that out in a time. It's not just where's -- how big is Trump's still, and we'll get to some polling on that in a minute. But how big -- how dominant, how forceful is Trump still? But also, where's America? In the sense of when I started doing this for a living, you know, I came to Washington, right, as Ronald Reagan was leaving, it was Ronald Reagan, then his vice president, it was Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush governors became president, then you had Barack Obama and Joe Biden and businessman Donald Trump. Governor used to be the path. Is it anymore?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think that the challenge for governors who have to govern and run a state for all the people is the primary. And where the country is, is a lot different than where the Republican base is right now. And that still continues to be the challenge for any Republican who wants to challenge Donald Trump, save perhaps, maybe Ron DeSantis.

But, you know, I talked to Sununu also a couple of weeks ago, and he was not. He didn't have an answer for that yet. And that I think is the big challenge for him. And, you know, Republicans, there's an inflection point and they have to figure out how to -- they say they're going to move on beyond but how do they do that and gain the support of their supporters.


KING: On the one hand, 2024 is a long way off. And the other hand, if you want to run for president, it costs a lot of money and you got to start organizing, get it raising money, getting a staff, getting going. So you don't have too much long. But to the point, is there a lane? The answer is yes. The question is, how many people can get into it? This is from our new poll released yesterday, should Donald Trump be the 2024 Republican nominee? This is among Republicans and Republican leaning voters.

Back in December, it was 38 percent. That's right now. In July, it was 44. At the beginning of the year was 50 percent. So Donald Trump is descending, if you will, in terms of a favorite of Republicans. And as for who it should be, maybe Chris Sununu should change his name to just not Trump. If you look at our poll, just not Trump gets 53 percent, Ron DeSantis gets 38 percent, everybody else gets 1 percent or less, including former vice president, former presidential candidates, former Republican nominee in Mitt Romney there. So Trump is descending, but he's still powerful. We can't put that aside.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. 38 percent, you know, that's pretty good if you've got a field that's crowded and filled with folks like Mike Pence, and Mike Pompeo, and Ron DeSantis, and Greg Abbott and Sununu. And you know, that's how he won before. That's how he can win again. You know, I think people are surprised that he isn't really doing anything other than meeting with anti- Semites and releasing digital trading cards.

The fact that he's been so quiet, and then gives a bit of surprise to people and could explain why no one else has really jumped in, I think we thought maybe some other people would have jumped in by now, but so far --

KING: But if you're Ron DeSantis, if you could put that graphic up there and you'll see that number there was also a "Wall Street Journal" poll yesterday that shows him actually ahead of Trump among Republican voters. You know, everybody wants to be on Team DeSantis is whispering or shouting at the governor right now. Let's go. Let's do this. The question is, if you're Ron DeSantis, is that your peak? Is that, you know, that's what you got to ask yourself?

BASH: Well, you should call former Governor Scott Walker to ask that question --

KING: Yes, or Jeb Bush.

BASH: Or Jeb Bush or others who were thought of as so or even Chris Christie that back in that cycle, who were thought of as, you know, definitely the front runner somebody who absolutely could do no wrong and then suddenly, they crashed and burn. So that's obviously a question that DeSantis and the people around him are asking, I think the point you made about the crowded field if there is a crowded field, would it matter if Donald Trump is that 30 something percent, that's still winnable.

KING: We spent all the time in Republicans there. I just want to get this and to show our viewers when we go to break, our Kate Bennett has some new reporting. Jill Biden was hesitant about 2024, now all in, several sources close to the First Lady tell our Kate Bennett, so that another sign that President Biden at least is leaning forward into going in 2024. You should join Dana Bash for that conversation, as she says a lot more to share with the New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu. Being Chris Sununu starts Friday night at 10 o'clock right here on CNN.


Up next, free COVID tests are back as part of a new White House effort to prepare for a Triple Threat winter, flu, RSV, and COVID-19.


KING: The White House today brought back it's free COVID-19 home testing program that after a grim warning that COVID-19 is not gone and that preparation is the key, the rollout as part of a new winter preparedness plan as cases and hospitalizations are rising across the country. Let's go to MJ Lee, standing by live at the White House for us. And MJ, COVID tests you can order again, it's not just COVID the White House medical team is worried about.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right. You know, as we enter the winter holiday season, the White House is offering this warning and that is COVID is not over and people really need to protect themselves. And that is why they are launching this new campaign that you just mentioned, which essentially is urging people across the country to do a lot of the things that we are already familiar with. That is of course getting vaccinated, getting boosted, and also getting tested frequently. And to that end, they are restarting this program of making free COVID at home tests available to people so you can now order for free tests sent to your home for free. You can do it earlier. Starting today, I tried it just this morning.

And they're also trying to offer additional support to nursing homes and other long term care facilities. You know, when I was talking to Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID coordinator about this last night, he said, look, the last few weeks have made really clear that COVID is definitely on the rise. And the reason that the stakes are so much higher right now is of course is because of this triple threat of COVID, RSV and the flu. He said think about it this way, COVID this winter is not a one disease in isolation. He said all of these things have obviously put hospitals and health care workers an extra stress.

He did say one good piece of news, which is that RSV does appear to have peaked if you've gotten it, if you've had family members get it. That certainly seems to be good news, John.

KING: MJ Lee, important news for us from the White House. MJ thanks so much. And again, folks, this stuff gets caught up in politics too often just use common sense as we head into the winter here.


Up next, the Senate takes swift action amid rising security concerns over TikTok.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, after three Senate runoffs in the last two years, Georgia's Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says, enough already. Raffensperger wants the legislature to ditch that Jim Crow era law that requires a candidate to get past 50 percent of the vote to win the general election.

Last hour, President Biden vowing to expand the United States involvement in Africa. He also pledged to travel to the continent soon.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The choices that we make today and the remainder of this decade and how we tackle these challenges in my view will determine the direction that the entire world takes and decades to accomplish. The United States is all in on Africa and all in with Africa.



KING: The Senate unanimously passing a bill banning the popular TikTok app from government devices. The Chinese own software company raising national security concerns. A wave of governors all Republicans have already issued TikTok bans on state devices. A spokesperson for TikTok says they hope lawmakers will pursue a plan that quote actually addresses national security concerns.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.