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Trump On Referrals: "What Doesn't Kill Me Makes Me Stronger"; Lawmakers Race To Pass $1.7 Trillion Government Funding Bill; U.S. To Send Precision Bomb Kits In Ukraine Aid Package. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired December 20, 2022 - 12:30   ET



SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But I have found the broad, at best, muted defense from the Republican Party pretty interesting because we've seen how so often in the past when we -- when the President -- with former President has gone through these legal troubles, or other troubles, he has been able to use that to his political advantage, painting himself as a victim, ergo, rallying, most of the Republican Party behind him.

But Republicans now, especially after all of the, all the very disappointing result that they had in the midterms caused partially by the former President, they aren't so eager to help him kind of use this as a political advantage. You not only had the comments from Mitch McConnell, but you had other Republican leaders agreeing that, you know, obviously the former president bears responsibility for what happened that day. And I'm not seeing a lot of really full throated defenses from Republican allies, which has been really interesting so far.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And let's take a look at what some of those responses have been. So you have, let's see, Senator John Thune saying, they've interviewed some credible witnesses. You have Senator John Cornyn saying, quote, don't dispute that people saw. They doesn't dispute that people saw January 6th with their own eyes. Senator Rick Scott, he called it political theater.

Senator Roger Marshall, it is time to move on. And of course, you have Mitt Romney, who's saying, look, I've said from the beginning who was responsible for this? But it is an interesting point that you're not seeing the full throttle defenses of the former president that perhaps you would have seen before.

CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, sure, I look at Senator Marshall's words. It's time to move on. I wonder if that has a double meaning. But I think one of the questions we've all asked since 2020 is how much power is Trump going to continue to have? You know, people, it seems like it almost matters not what Trump does or what happens to Trump, but what the Republican Party does in response to Trump. And so, you know, with the midterms, like Seung Min said, with the trading cards, with all of these issues that are going on, you know, the question, it just seems like there's just a slow backing away of the Republican Party from Donald Trump. BROWN: And some are coming out right, and saying, look, I don't think he should be the leader of our party. I mean, I interviewed Senator Cassidy recently. Who said he's not the leader of the party. I just interviewed French Hill, a Republican congressman from Arkansas. He said there should be a generational change for both Trump and Biden, that others should come and fill the spot as the head of the Republican Party.

For Trump's part, here is how he has responded. He posted on Truth Social, what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. People understand that the Democratic Bureau of Investigation are out to keep me from running for president because they know I'll win. There's a theme here with Donald Trump wanting to win. Hope Hicks, his former senior advisor said as much. Listen to this.


HOPE HICKS, FORMER TRUMP COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The evidence of fraud on a scale that would have impacted the outcome of the election. And I was becoming increasingly concerned that we were damaging his legacy. He said something along the lines of, you know, nobody will care about my legacy if I lose. The only thing that matters is winning.


BROWN: So this matters too. If you look ahead, he is running for president again.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he's running for president again. On the one hand, I would say, if we can all stretch our memories back to 2015, there were a lot of Republicans speaking out against Donald Trump back in 2015, too, until he became impossible to beat and the train to get on. I think it would be, like, foolish to try to say, well, look, people are speaking out against him, so it's over.

The difference is, at the time, there was a big question about what would he be like if he was president? Now we know the answer to that question. The other difference is that the midterm results not great for Donald Trump. Ron DeSantis has surpassed him in much of the polling, and there's some evidence that within a sizable chunk of the Republican Party, people are just tired of relitigating 2020 and want to move on to your point about the Senator's comments.

But again, when we talk about that, trying to take lessons from 2016, the more fractured that Republican field is, the more Republican candidates are in that field, the easier it is for Donald Trump to try to make a comeback with his base, even if his base is smaller than it once was if there's 15 people in a race, it's a different race than if there's two or three people in a race.

I think it's too soon to really know what things are going to look like six months from now. But I do think Donald Trump seems to be right now in a much weakened state with enough Republican incumbents, particularly in the Senate, who are just having none of it and don't want their own legacies, their own political accomplishments to be entirely defined by what he's done.

KIM: Right. And I think he is in that weakened state partially because what we've seen from the January 6th Committee is his actions told through the words and recollections of his own staff, the people who are the closest to him. I think that's what was kind of underpinning what Senators Thune and Cornyn were saying when they were talking about these credible witnesses.

I mean we just saw that footage from Hope Hicks. There was no one in the White House closer to Donald Trump than Hope Hicks. There was no one in the White House closer to Donald Trump than Hope Hicks.


So to see her kind of recount the kind of the horrors in the day and what the president was and was not doing, I think, is really has been a really powerful message for the public at large, but for the Republican Party, who had been turning a blonde dye to Trump's behavior for so long.

TALEV: Winning at all costs, this that theme that you bring up, I think the real question is, we know that's a core part of Donald Trump's brand. Is that a core part of the Republican Party's brand also, where those roads diverge and then may be the answer to where this story goes.

WOOTSON: And I think one question that we got from the midterms that needs to be answered is like, what do people want the Republican Party to do? Do they want them to keep fighting Trump's fight, or do they want them to fight inflation or to come up with solutions to other problems? And I think one of the things that we're just going to have to see is which direction the Republican Party takes.

BROWN: We shall see. All right, thanks so much. Stay with us.

Up next, there's a race against the clock on Capitol Hill for Congress to pass a massive $1.7 trillion spending bill to keep the government open.



BROWN: Well, the clock is ticking as lawmakers rush to keep the government funded, and today they are one step closer. A $1.7 trillion funding bill was filed very early this morning. It must be passed by midnight on Friday in order to avoid a government shutdown. CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill to go over what's in the bill and what didn't make the cut. Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a lot of questions still, Pamela, because this bill was just unveiled more than 4,100 pages, $1.7 trillion. It was unveiled at 1:23 a.m. this morning, and it could pass the Senate as early as tomorrow. That is according to the number two Senate Republican John Thune just told me that moments ago, they're trying to push this through. There's a snowstorm coming, hitting parts of the country. They want to

get it done and pass Congress. But there are a lot of questions about what's in there, because this bill was drafted only by a handful of members and the leadership, and ultimately, they're trying to pass this by a Friday deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Now, this bill, 1.7 trillion includes money for Ukraine, more than roughly $45 billion in money for Ukraine. In addition to this, it includes $40 billion in disaster aid. It would ban TikTok from federal government devices. And also it would overhaul the Electoral Count Act. Of course, that is the legislation that was passed in the aftermath of January 6th in order to prevent a future President trying to do what Donald Trump tried to do, which to urge Mike Pence in 2021 to overturn the electoral results. That can't happen next time there is a joint session of Congress meets to certify a state approved election results.

But there was a lot of provisions that did not get in the bill, an expanded version of the child tax credit. The White House also had been pushing hard for billions of dollars in aid for COVID relief, also not part of that plan. Other measures, such as allowing cannabis growers to use banks to put their cash reserves, and banks did not get in there.

But still, Pamela, questioned still by what is in this proposal, because this was just unveiled, even though the initial deadline was September 30th. Now, the new deadline, end of the week, just unveiled this morning. They'll see if they try to get it done within the next couple of days.

BROWN: Yes, getting awfully close to the deadline. All right, thanks so much, Manu Raju.

Our panel is back with me to discuss. Yes. So government funding set to expire Friday at midnight. What do we think is going to happen here?

WOOTSON: You know, I think we're worried about the bomb cyclone or whatever that's coming. I think maybe, hopefully, government doesn't ruin Christmas for all of us. We have to work this weekend. I think what we are seeing is some of the sort of horse trading that's going back and forth.

And one of the things that I think those of us that watch this closely are trying to see is what is going to be the Republican stance toward the Democrats and vice versa. What does this mean for the future, for next year, their take on the Biden administration? Is it going to be horse trading back and forth, or is it going to be, you know, grandstanding and holding things up?

BROWN: You already have one Republican who's threatening to block legislative priorities of House GOP who vote for the spending bill. That Republican Kevin McCarthy, who could soon be the House Speaker if he gets his way.

TALEV: -- reason why you want to put that message out. BROWN: Exactly. I can't think of a reason at all. So you see the tweet up on your screen. So it comes after a group of 13 current and incoming GOP House members threatened to thwart any policy priorities championed by Republican senators who vote for the omnibus, so a little bit of a twist here.

TALEV: I mean, it just goes to show, like, look at two of the things that I look at in the final package that's going to be passed by Friday are the Electoral Count Acts inclusion, and that big chunk of Ukraine funding. And why are both of those in here when we're talking about a government shutdown bill? Because it ain't going to happen once the Republicans are in charge in the House.

And everybody here knows that. And so what you're seeing with that McCarthy messaging is Kevin McCarthy trying to lock down his speakership. What is it set up? A big power struggle contest between Senate Republicans and House Republicans, between Kevin McCarthy --

BROWN: They're trying to get more hardliners on his side.

KIM: Yes, exactly. And what Kevin McCarthy will not admit to you, although we all know, is that this bill passing actually makes his life a little bit easier, should he become speaker next year, because don't -- what conservatives wanted was a short term spending bill basically kicking the can to perhaps January, February. So we do this messy process with at least a Republican House. But Republicans have always struggled with government funding.


There are Republicans who just adamantly disagree with the levels of funding that Democrats call for. Senate Republicans have been generally more apt to be able to negotiate with Democrats than House Republicans. And House Republicans, if they were in charge, they were going to struggle to pass a big sweeping government funding legislation.

So this gets something off of potential of Speaker McCarthy's plate. But, yes, he's in a very precarious position right now trying to lock up votes for speaker, whether his members push him on spending priorities or House rules. So he has to pick up support and find every little which way to pick up that support for the next, you know, couple of weeks.

BROWN: But in a way you come out against it, right. Make these threats. But also it could be a gift to him like you said. So it could be a good thing, an early Christmas present. Exactly. Exactly. Now, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader for his part, here's what he's saying about the spending bill. Let's listen.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: This omnibus is bold, generous, far reaching and ambitious. It's not everything we would have wanted, of course. Lots of when you're dealing in a bipartisan, bicameral way, you'll have to sit down and get it done and that means each side has to concede some things. But it is something that we can be very proud of, all of us.


BROWN: And I'm wondering, you know, you're talking about the horse trading. Is there anything that you're surprised that the Democrats for their part gave up on? It's interesting when you look at what's in, what's out, the ban on TikTok from government phones is in and then what's out, the extension of the enhanced child tax credit, pandemic aid, some priorities --

WOOTSON: Yes, I can imagine federal employee furiously looking at TikTok while they can. I think the child tax credit, while not necessarily a gigantic surprise, it is one of, you know, Biden has said I'm going to try to end child poverty, right? It is a seminal issue for Democrats and now it's just either gone or kicked down the road and that seems like, you know, hard to get back.

BROWN: All right, thank you all so much.

Up next, new CNN reporting, the U.S. is planning on sending another weapons boost to Ukraine.



BROWN: The Biden administration is rolling out its next round of security aid for Ukraine. And sources tell CNN the package will include weapons aimed at helping Ukraine fight back against the barrage of attacks from Russia. CNN's Barbara Star joins us live from the Pentagon. So, Barbara, what's in this new package?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, you know, we've all talked about the Patriot air defense missiles being part of the package, but now we also are being told by multiple sources that something called JDAM will be in there. And what is JDAM? JDAM is basically a bolt on kit to a bomb. And what it does is it turns a so called dumb bomb into a smart bomb.

Dumb bomb, something that simply falls off an airplane, falls to Earth and hits whatever underneath it at that point, but precision guided smart bombs, and that's what this bolt on kit will give Ukraine precision guided weapons much more of a multiplier on the battlefield against Russian dug in targets.

And it's what the Ukrainians have been wanting. They have aircraft, but they have to figure out exactly how to modify their Soviet ear aircraft to put these JDAM kits on the bombs to get them onto the aircraft, may not be too complicated, but it's going to take a while to get it all done. So people are watching very much with anticipation to see how soon the Ukrainian air force can get these precision weapons in shape onto their aircraft and begin to fly more against those Russian targets, especially with everybody digging in for a very cold Ukraine winter. Pamela?

BROWN: All right, Barbara, we got to note before we let you go, today is an end of an era. It is your last day at CNN, and you have been showered, rightfully so, with all the love from your colleagues, because you have just been such an incredible part of the CNN family. You're going to be sorely messed. I remember when I came here to CNN around 10 years ago, I was like, I can't believe I get to call Barbara Starr, my colleague.

STARR: Well, that's very gracious of everybody. And CNN is a family, and it's been proven throughout the years, proven to me, especially in the last few days.

BROWN: You're going to be missed. But I'll tell you what, I don't know if any other reporter is going to be getting up at 4:30 a.m. to be sending reporting e-mails like you did, so you're leaving behind a void, that's for sure, in so many ways. Barbara Starr, thank you for everything. We'll miss you.


Well, incoming Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries is moving quickly to choose the head of the party's campaign arm. His decision isn't one of the people who have publicly campaigned for the role.


BROWN: Topping our political radar, a big decision from incoming Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries. Sources told CNN he tapped Washington State Congresswoman Suzan Delbene to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The decision still needs to be ratified by the full Democratic caucus.

Two other lawmakers Representatives Ami Bera and Tony Cardenas had said they -- Cardenas, let me correct myself, had said that they wanted to lead the party's campaign arm. But sources say the leadership wanted a woman in that role. Well, a lawsuit filed by Arizona Republican Kari Lake will be allowed to move forward on two narrow planes.

First, a judge says Lake's team can present evidence to back her claim that a Maricopa County employee interfered with printers, resulting in her losing votes in the governor's race. The judge is also going to allow Lake's team to argue that Maricopa County violated the ballot chain of custody. Eight other claims were dismissed, like lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs by about 17,000 votes.

And Virginia Democrats are taking part in a firehouse primary today. They're going to pick a nominee for the February special election to fill the term of the late Representative Donald McEachin. A firehouse primary is one conducted by the party organization instead of by election officials. McEachin passed away last month, just weeks after winning reelection.


And quick programming note for you, Anderson and Andy are back for another global celebration. Be sure to join them for New Year's Eve live from Times Square starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. I'll be back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.