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McCarthy Struggles To Secure Enough Votes To Win Gavel; McCarthy's Concessions Fail To Sway Conservatives; Never McCarthy Republican: Challenger Will Emerge On Second Ballot; Suspect In Univ Of Idaho Killings Expected To Waive Extradition; Jan 6 Cmte Releases New Batch Of Interview Transcripts; House Cmte Releases 6 Years Of Trump's Tax Returns; Trump In 2020: Closed Chinese Bank Account Before I Ran For Pres. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 02, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us and Happy New Year. Drama and dysfunction to start the new Congress. Republicans will take a narrow House majority tomorrow but are too divided to agree on a leader. Kevin McCarthy keeps making concessions, but Republican insurgents keep saying it is not enough and they vow to humiliate McCarthy by denying him the gavel.

Plus, diary of a would be terrorists. Sources say the 19-year-old who attack three New York police officers with a machete on New Year's Eve wrote, he wanted to become a Taliban martyr. And this from one of Donald Trump's most trusted aides, "we all look like domestic terrorists now." New transcripts in the January 6 committee revealed a real time reaction from Trump insiders, senators and others as the mob laid siege the United States Capitol.

Up first for us, though, who's on first routine among House Republicans, except it isn't funny. Because of the giant issues the country faces as Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats yield to the new and narrow GOP majority. Today, Kevin McCarthy's title remains House Republican leader. By this time tomorrow, his hope is to be the Speaker of the House to wield the gavel, to be second in line to the presidency.

But despite years of planning and campaigning for this very moment, McCarthy is still short votes, and even some of his allies see McCarthy's math problem is getting worse despite weeks and weeks of concessions to his Republican critics. Sunday, that's yesterday, McCarthy made even more concessions that would weaken the speaker's powers and he signed the letter detailing those concessions this way.

Kevin McCarthy speaker designate. The immediate response though was dissension, even mockery, nine Republicans the mix of current and incoming members saying McCarthy's promises still are not enough. And there are more than nine GOP holdouts at this hour. If every eligible vote is cast, McCarthy can only afford to lose four. So, you get the math at home. The stakes go beyond the obvious disarray among the House Republicans. Congress remains paralyzed until someone takes the gavel. The drama points toward unprecedented dysfunction tomorrow, a potential first ballot failure for the first time in a century and crippling embarrassment for the new Republican majority.

Listen this morning. This is Bob Good, a leader of the never Kevin faction, pledging to push Republicans to the break.


REP. BOB GOOD, (R) VIRGINIA: He's part of the swamp cartel, and I think you'll see on the second ballot an increasing number of members vote for was a true candidate who can represent the conservative center of the conference.


KING: Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill, CNN's Lauren Fox is there. Lauren out, wow. The math problem for Kevin McCarthy better, worse, same?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's really in the exact same place. In fact, I just got off the phone with one Republican Ralph Norman, who told me he is still a no on Kevin McCarthy. He was one of those five never Kevin votes, who is saying this morning that he still has not seen enough from McCarthy to turn around and vote for him tomorrow on the floor.

That leaves McCarthy short the votes and it leaves McCarthy's allies reading for a floor fight that is really coming around once in a century. That is the last time we saw multiple ballots on the floor of the House of Representatives in a speaker's race.

Like you said, there are many things that Kevin McCarthy has tried to do over the last several weeks to try and win over some of those conservative holdouts. So far, nothing he has done has changed the arithmetic for him tomorrow.

One of the things he tried to give them yesterday was lowering the threshold of the number of Republicans it would take to go to the floor and request a vote to oust the speaker. That number right now just a majority of the conference, but he's saying he would be willing to take it as low as five, John, that still wasn't enough including for one Republican Matt Gaetz, who was on the call who said he was still a no. John?

KING: Fox, kicking us off from Capitol Hill, a dramatic 24 hours plus ahead. Lauren, thank you. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona, Margaret Talev of Axios, Jackie Kucinich of The Boston Globe, and CNN's Eva McKend.

So, Kevin McCarthy agrees to lower the threshold to remove the speaker to five members, five members can demand a vote to remove the speaker. He has said no virtual or hybrid hearings. He has said no more magnetometers outside the House chamber, no more fines for mask or security protocol violations.

Bill will be posted for 72 hours. Everyone gets time to read it. Does he have anything left to give? And if you do, the nine who signed the letter, plus the other five who were already on record that's at least 14. He can only afford to lose four if everybody votes.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes. The math problem is only getting worse for him. It's not getting better. Despite all of these concessions, despite essentially giving away the store, he's still not moved any votes. And in fact, new members signed on to that letter that you're referencing the nine of them saying they're not sold yet. So, this is a big problem for McCarthy. He doesn't have a lot left in his back pocket.

There's one thing he could potentially do, which is lower that motion to vacate threshold from five down to one, which is what the conservatives have been seeking initially. He said he didn't want to do that. He said he didn't want to budge at all. So that would be a massive concession. Even five is already a massive concession for him.


And even then, there's no guarantee that would get him the votes. In fact, lawmakers on a conference call yesterday were pressing him, will this get you the votes if you cave on this and there was no answer. McCarthy couldn't give an answer. McCarthy asked Matt Gaetz, if I went down to one, would you vote for me? And he again when it gives an answer, so a lot of uncertainty heading into tomorrow.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: At some point, if he does gain the speakership, though, it's like he's really speaker in name only. He's essentially powerless. And you know, not that the devil needs any advocates here, but I would say, you know, for someone who is an institution of Washington, it makes sense for him to face some sort of challenge, right, it shouldn't be a coronation. But I think the problem for him and for the conference is look at who is challenging him, right? It could be a completely debacle.

KING: Scott Perry, one of the Freedom Caucus members, one of those who's skeptical, nothing changes when nothing changes. And that must start from the top, time to make the change or get out of the way. What does that mean, though? That that's my question. Is for the insurgents against Kevin McCarthy.

You know, look, he's had to concede the store. He looks weak. He's still stronger than any other candidate. In the race, though, he still has more votes than anybody else right now. What do they want? Is there anything that they want, or they just want to humiliate Kevin McCarthy?

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: That, bingo, it's that. Some of the frustration, I think from this group with McCarthy is that they see him have as too much of a conciliator. And I think at one point in Kevin McCarthy's career many years ago, that would probably be a fair characterization. He's a Republican from Bakersfield, California. It's really hard to be a Republican in the state of California. He came out of the legislative system. He comes from a place of compromise, that actually makes sense for a House speaker to be in that role. But he hasn't been that Kevin McCarthy in many, many years because as the Republican Party has changed, he has had to change with it.

I think we're at a real, this is going to be a real exercise in American democracy here. We're going to see something play out unless something changes dramatically in the next few hours. That hasn't really played out since 1923. And that has sort of epically played out during the Civil War era.

There is really only a couple moments in the history of the United States, when a fight like this has gone public, when a small group like this has forced multiple votes, and this group that is holding together cannot get their own guy. For them, Kevin McCarthy is as good as it gets.

Who could it be if it wasn't Kevin McCarthy? It could maybe be Steve Scalise, who's also 57 years old, who also comes from a similar experience as Kevin McCarthy does politically and who has the moral high ground of having been a victim of a political shooting, domestic terrorist shooting directed against Republicans.

So, he has a claim to argue for bipartisanship and for compromise, an even stronger claim than Kevin McCarthy does. I have thought up until this moment that McCarthy would get it because nothing else makes sense. But at this moment, this might not have been---

KING: Yes. Scalise is standing behind McCarthy, although he knows for well. He doesn't need to say anything. That he is one of the two or three people who might emerge, and he would be the most likely because of his position and because of his credibility on both sides, both to his right and to his left, if there is a left in the House Republican conference.

Brendan Buck, who worked for Paul Ryan, for John Boehner, up on Capitol Hill wrote this in the New York Times. A self-serving powerplay by a small group of Republicans threatens to make a mockery of the institution and further cement the notion that the party is not prepared to lead. The agitators' objective isn't to win the speakership for one of their own, it is to weaken Mr. McCarthy or whoever emerges as the next Speaker of the House. The embarrassment indeed may be the point.

That is the question. Do these - whether there's 15, whether there's 20, whether it's a number roughly somewhere in that ballpark? Do they have any interest in governing? Or are they looking here to just be the House of protest?

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the place that they're in that the House Republicans are in. When you look at larger Washington, it is sort of a - when you are in the, the only one who have the one lever of government. They do kind of play that oversight, throwing a wrench in that is modern politics in the way that the Democrats are doing business because they don't want to legislate, because they don't want policies that they don't agree with becoming law.

That said, I think one of the things that you're hearing from Republicans like Brendan Buck, like those who might be on the outside, but understand how the inside works. They're saying, you guys are letting the Democrats are the ones who are winning right now, because you are - yes, because you are the ones who are causing so much embarrassment, and not allowing anyone to be a standard bearer.

ZANONA: And it is just remarkable taking a step back, tomorrow should be a day victory. House Republicans are claiming the House majority and that it's being completely overshadowed by this drama.

KING: Which gets you to the point is like, who are they and what do they want in the sense a year. You mentioned something like Brendan Buck years of experience on Capitol Hill, a reasonable you'd call him in establishments over Chamber of Commerce type Republican. When the insurgency people like him, they say I will do the opposite because he's the enemy to them.

Listen to Bob Good. You heard a little bit of at the top of the pro very conservative from Virginia. He says, we will have another candidate, just wait.



GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CHANNEL CORRESPONDENT: Who is that? Here we are in the 11th hour, there are no names. Give me a name. It's not Andy Biggs. Andy Biggs isn't going to win.

REP. GOOD: I'm going to resist for a few more hours what I have resisted in the last several weeks because as, you know, if we were to put forth a name right now over the last few weeks, that person would have suffered all the attacks and retaliation and all the threats for---

JENKINS: Since you don't have a name, I mean what---

REP. GOOD: Griff, you'll see that name tomorrow on the second ballot.

JENKINS: How is he? Is it, could you envision Steve Scalise elevating from majority leader?

REP. GOOD: And out tomorrow on the second ballot, Griff.


KING: So, there's a promise that we will see it tomorrow on the second ballot. I get and understand, don't put the name out today because then the harpoon start flying, but do they actually have somebody? Is there somebody? Has Scalise been whispering? Is there some candidate whose name we don't know? Somebody who says, first I'm for Kevin, but if he fails, then you may turn to me.

ZANONA: So, as we reported at CNN, they have asked this group of hardliners have asked Steve Scalise, including Jim Jordan if they'd be willing to run. Both of them said no, as long as Kevin is in the race. And as far as I know, Steve Scalise really hasn't been making moves behind the scenes. He knows he can't.

But I think the general wisdom is that if McCarthy pulls out or if senior Republicans walk up to him on the floor after multiple ballots, and say, listen, we gave it a try, it's not working. You need to step aside. I do think Steve Scalise steps up and he's the automatic front runner. But in a chaotic situation like this, anything goes, other people could jump in, you just really don't know.

KUCINICH: And then you have the issue, should McCarthy's step aside. You have the rules package potentially being renegotiated because there are Republicans who are the more moderate Republicans, saying they're not going to support rules that Kevin McCarthy has negotiated, if it is not him. So, this will just throw everything into turmoil. Even if he does step aside, it's going to be quite the show this week are shaping up to be.

KING: Government spending, the debt ceiling vote coming up ahead, your government that you're supporting the war in Ukraine. It's not just about Republican drama, whatever your politics at home, it's not just about Republican House drama, this is an important moment for the country. We'll continue to stay on top of that.

Up next for us, though, some new details about the suspect in a simply horrific attack on police near Times Square. We're now learning the FBI spoke to that suspect just weeks before the New Year's Eve incident.




KING: We are learning disturbing new details about the suspect accused of attacking police with a machete in Times Square on New Year's Eve. Forces tell CNN that suspect 19-year-old Trevor Bickford, you see him there was interviewed by the FBI in mid-December. After he said, he wanted to travel overseas and was willing to die for his religion. He was subsequently placed on a terrorist watch list.

Police sources say Bickford carried a diary, where he expressed desire to join the Taliban and his hope to die a martyr. Authorities are discussing whether to charge the suspect federally or under state law or possibly both.

Now to another crime drama. This one in Idaho. The suspect in the killing of four college students is expected to waive extradition at a court hearing tomorrow. The lawyer for 28-year-old Bryan Kohberger says his client is eager to be exonerated as soon as possible. Kohberger facing four counts of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Ethan Chapin, Xana Kernodle, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves. CNN's Veronica Miracle joins us now live from Moscow, Idaho. This case, obviously it's been shocking. What is the mood now as these court proceedings prepare to begin?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, here in Moscow, Idaho, there's such a tremendous amount of relief. We've seen people dropping off gifts at the police department because they are so relieved after 7 tens weeks. Now, back in Pennsylvania, as you mentioned Kohberger Bryan, Kohberger the suspect will have an extradition hearing tomorrow. And his public defender says, he intends to waive extradition. If that happens, he could be back here in the state of Idaho as early as tomorrow, possibly it could take a couple of days.

We asked the police chief what that process looks like. And he said for security reasons they're not going to be revealing that information. But right now, his attorney says that Kohberger, when he was apprehended was quite shocked. He was calm when he spoke to his client. Kohberger is also criminology graduate student at Washington State University. And his public defender said, it's very clear that he is intelligent and knows exactly what's going on throughout this process.

Kohberger's family has also released a statement through that public defender saying that words cannot express how sad they are. They're praying for those four families that have lost their loved ones. They also say, they support their brother and son, and they want this to play out in court. And before they make any assumptions as to what exactly happened.

And to that point, what happened. What is the motive? Is there a possible connection to these victims? That's information that we are told will be revealed once that probable cause affidavit is unsealed. And that can only happen when Kohberger comes back here to the state of Idaho, which should be happening sometime this week. John?

KING: Critical proceedings to come beginning tomorrow. Veronica Miracle, thank you for the reporting from Idaho. We know you'll stay on top of this. Next for us, the January 6 committee drops dozens of new transcripts included in them, details showing Rudy Giuliani wanted eye popping payments to lead Donald Trump's post-election legal team.



KING: The former President Donald Trump starts this new year on a rough note and that is putting it mildly. A declared candidates for president yes, but no campaign events as yet, as the former president remains holed up at Mar-a-Lago. His tax returns now public after a year's long court battle. And those tax returns raise a host of questions about his wealth and about his ethics.

And now, a new wave of transcripts from the January 6 committee is revealing more details about how the former president still in office then orchestrated the plot to overturn the 2020 election. CNN's Sara Murray joins us now live. With a closer look at what are we learning, Sara, from those transcripts?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, a big batch of transcripts last night and some new tidbits including the amount of money Rudy Giuliani wanted for his post-election that legal fees. He apparently asked for $20,000 a day. This is something Rudy Giuliani has denied.

But a former Trump campaign attorney told this to the committee, you know, under penalty, knowing that he, if you were lying to the committee, that would be a crime. He said the campaign's reaction was essentially wow, that's a lot of money. We don't know if we are willing to pay that.


And we also learned more from Ken Chesebro transcript his interview with the committee. He basically took the fifth the entire time. This is someone who is an architect of the fake electors' scheme. He was even asked, are you the Ken Chesebro who's listed on a number of these emails and took the fifth when it came to that question.

Now lastly, we're learning a little bit more about what the former president was up to in the days leading up to January 6. Ronna Romney McDaniel, ahead of the RNC said that Trump called her on January 1, asking what her relationship was like with Vice President Mike Pence.

She said essentially, she didn't know him that well. She said she didn't recall Trump talking to her about the sort of fake electoral scheme then. But after the attack on the Capitol, Trump talk to her again and essentially said something to the effect of Mike Pence had the authority to intervene that day. John?

KING: Sara Murray, important details. Appreciate the report there. Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. Among the things we see as these transcripts come out. One is Mark Meadows, then Trump, Chief of Staff at the White House and email from him. Saying, Rudy was put in charge that was the president's decision.

Now that might seem obvious to people but having the chief of staff put in a written document, that was the president's decision. And one of the things the committee has tried to do is hand the American people but more specifically, the Justice Department proof, proof that this was not, you know, this person was doing this, the president didn't do anything about it. That person was doing something else, the president don't think about it. They have tried to document that Trump was central.

ZANONA: Yes, it was an orchestrated effort from the top starting with Trump. And it's also remarkable, we should point out that this email was handed over from Mark Meadows who handed over thousands of emails, thousands of text messages, even though he did not show up for his deposition.

And I just think big picture here. It is remarkable that the select committee was able to get so much information, they effectively proved their case, despite all the stonewalling, despite all the legal challenges, despite Donald Trump not agreeing to talk to the committee, they were able to go around him and talk to members of his inner circle. And that is why we have so much of the information that we give.

KING: And most Republicans, it's not all, most Republicans continue to just stick their head in the ground or ignore or say this was a partisan committee. When, read the transcripts. These are all people who worked with for around close to Donald Trump. These are his own people laying out these details. Some of them still trying to say we didn't think we're committing crimes, but at least laying out the details.

Among the things we have learned that Donald Trump had foreign bank accounts. I'll get to this - come back to this a second, foreign bank accounts, including one in China from 2015 to 2017, large amount of interest on loans to his children. Tax lawyers say that doesn't make any sense to us. It should be scrutinized. He said he was a very charitable guy. There were no charitable contributions in 2020. I mentioned the foreign bank account, they're in office.

Again, one of the questions here for the American people because he is a declared candidate in the next presidential election is, can I trust this guy? Because right there, the documents prove he had a bank account in China. Donald Trump as a candidate said otherwise.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I was thinking about doing a deal on China, like millions of other people I was thinking about, and I decided I'm not going to do it, didn't like it. I decided not to do, had an account open and I close it, by closed it before I even ran for president.


KING: Lie.

KUCINICH: But these - the other thing about these tax returns also shows he lied quite a bit about, you know, the about his tax returns. He said that he paid millions of dollars in taxes and a debate back with Hillary Clinton, I think. And turns out that was not true, so at least in the, you know, the years that we've seen.

So really, I don't know that this - it's one of these things where you go back, and you look at the people that support him the most, they're going to believe him when he says this is a witch hunt. But this does. When you're looking at Republicans who are looking for another option, you have to think that they're reading this and thinking twice about whether 2024 is the best - if he's the best vessel for their support in 2024.

TALEV: Yes. I think in modern political times, we have never needed the law to require this disclosure because candidates and presidents have always disclosed it. Trump didn't. And his failure to do it. And what has emerged now shows you why it's important. It's really, really important to have the transparency so that you can compare the narrative in the spin to what's actually going on.

Because when you're voting for someone for president or trying to decide whether to reelect them, you should know what their financial conflicts of interests are or what their biases or interests are in other countries. You should know how they are using tax loopholes, how the legislation they are promoting or supporting or helping across the finish line is going to impact their bottom line.

And if there was mandatory disclosure, we would have known a lot more about Donald Trump, when he ran and when he ran for reelection and when he was governing, and we will know more about future presidents. I think it'd be very hard for any candidate to decline to show their tax returns after what has emerged, and I think that's one of the value.

MCKEND: I mean, this is why he didn't want this to come to light right, because he was lying like he was breathing. And you know, now this is indisputable now. I will say though, in terms of the further revelations that we receive on the January 6 front, I think for many people it especially on the right that these don't - these revelations don't move the needle at all. It's really going to come down to what the Justice Department does and if they act on any of these criminal referrals.