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Kinzinger: "Fear For The Future" Of Country If Trump Isn't Charged; Biden To Promote Infrastructure, Bipartisan In KY Visit; George Santos To Join Congress Tomorrow As Weab Of Lies Thickens. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 02, 2023 - 12:30   ET



EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: The further revelations that we receive on the January 6th front. I think for many people, especially on the right, that 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.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And to that and Adam Kinzinger, one of the two Republicans who agreed to serve on the committee and one of the few Republicans you could maybe run out of fingers trying to fill the two hands who say, you know, that the Committee's work should be taken seriously and the voters should look at the details. He says, point blank, ball is now in your court Justice Department. And I think this.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL), JANUARY 6TH COMMITTEE: If he is not guilty of a crime, then I frankly fear for the future of this country because now every future president can say, hey, here's the bar, and the bar is do everything he can to stay in power.


KING: The question is, you know, Sarah noted, this is the closing chapter now, the January 6th Committee putting up more of the public record. And the Committee did a remarkable job again of getting people close to Donald Trump, not partisan Democrats, not Trump critics, people close to Donald Trump to lay out the facts here. The question is, as one chapter closes, meaning the Committee is what does come next from the Justice Department as we move into this New Year, and again, Donald Trump is a declared candidate for president.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, the Select Committee has its limits too, right? I mean, there's only so much they can do, their Committee on Capitol Hill. They don't have the power to bring charges that is up to the Department of Justice. Now, they did make criminal referrals, but the Department of Justice is under no obligation to pick those up. But what I will say is that it seems like, especially with the hearings last summer, it did put pressure on the Justice Department to look into this stuff seriously. And all indications is that they are. KING: And you made the point, Jackie, about, you know, look, you know, Republicans aren't -- Donald Trump is a much weaker position now than he was a year ago. Republicans are openly looking around for alternatives, yet he is still the most powerful force in the Republican Party. In a very well reported AP story, they say Trump's campaign is, quote, a failure to launch. Michael Biundo, a Trump campaign advisor, says there was a movie called "Failure to Launch." I think that's what Donald Trump's process of running has been so far. He had the announcement, and he hasn't done anything to back it up since then.

Usually when you announce you want at least a spurt of momentum to get you going, it increases fundraising. You get some local coverage. We're a year away from anybody voting in a Republican primary or a Republican caucus. But this has been if you were a campaign strategist and you look at Donald Trump from announcement date to today, you'd have to say, oh, bad.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's another quote in that same piece saying that one of the reasons he declared is because of all the legal issues he's having and also because of Ron DeSantis, one of someone who's shaping up to be one of his chief rivals for the nomination should he decide to run his strength and his wins in Florida following the 2022 midterms.

That said, time will tell, and it is a long time between now and to your point. Those votes start being cast. Whether he starts ramping up that campaign now that we're in 2023, you know, and whether that will make a difference, we'll have to see.

KING: I think, between now and Easter, whether it's the Georgia State investigation, the Justice Department investigation, we're going to learn a lot more about the legal pieces of this.


I want to show you some live pictures right now. President Biden on the tarmac going up the stairs of Air Force One, getting ready to come back from his holiday break, waiting the new world of divided government here in Washington.


KING: Right now, you see right there that's moments ago, the President of the United States heading up the stairs. He is beginning his trip back to the White House after ringing in the New Year in the U.S. Virgin Islands. After days of golfing, dining, and some family time in St. Croix. The President returning to a very new chapter of his presidency here in Washington, Republicans take control of the House tomorrow, and the President is determined to cast them as the problem, and himself is always open to reasonable compromise.

To that end, the first big Biden event of the New Year will be a Wednesday trip to Kentucky to promote bipartisanship and infrastructure spending. And Biden will be joined at that event by the Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us now from St. Croix. Arlette, what is the President's plan to begin the New Year, especially with the new divided government?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, President Biden is hopping on that plane and heading back to Washington to that new political reality of divided government. And for the start of the week, he is planning to make bipartisanship a key messaging push as heads to Kentucky, where he will be joined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, as well as the Republican governor of Ohio, Mike DeWine.

They will be there in the state to promote the bipartisan infrastructure law and the funding that that will provide to a bridge that connects Kentucky with Ohio. Now, this is part of a messaging push that we're expecting from the President and the White House in the coming weeks. His advisors say he will be touting a lot of those bipartisan accomplishments heading into the State of the Union address in the coming months. Of course, last year they saw bipartisan wins not just on infrastructure, but also when it came to semiconductor investment here in the United States, as well as a host of other issues.

But really what the President has also done is asked his team at the White House to start identifying some members of Congress that they could work with in a bipartisan way. They really are zeroing in on two key groups Republican -- moderate Republicans who have shown a penchant for bipartisanship in the past, as well as incoming Republican freshmen who flipped districts that Biden had won back in 2020. But even as Biden is hoping for this ideal world of bipartisanship, he is also keenly aware of the resistance ahead as Republicans are set to take control of the House tomorrow.

KING: Arlette Saenz for us in St. Croix. Arlette, I covered the White House for 10 years. I don't ever remember having a backdrop that beautiful behind me. That is remarkable. That is remarkable. Enjoy your trip. Get home safely. Have a little fun before you come.


Let's bring the conversation back into the room with our great reporters. Let's listen just a little bit. This is very quick. The President was leaving church yesterday, and he was asked, you know, look, you're coming back to Washington. Republicans will control the house. They're going to investigate your son. They're going to investigate you. They might impeach some of your cabinet members. They might try to impeach you. The President says, looking forward to it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Happy New Year, Mr. President. Any resolutions?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good year next year. Looking forward to it.


KING: I guess what is he supposed to say in part, but it's fascinating, actually. Mike DeWine, the Republican governor, just reelected by a huge margin in the state of Ohio, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader in Kentucky, going to stand with the President at his first big event of this year, that is them poking House Republicans, giving House Republicans, I'm not going to do it on television a certain signal just as much as the Democratic President is right?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's 100 percent true. And for Biden, it is a good place to be. He ran the first time arguing that he could reach across the aisle and bring people together for compromise. The only successes that he has to start the year with are successes that were, even if marginally, so bipartisan. And, you know, Democrats and his base were really against bipartisanship when Donald Trump was the President. But now that Joe Biden is the President, now that Republicans are about to take over the House, that bipartisan message is going to play very differently.

There are a couple of other areas where he will need to be able to muster some form of bipartisanship to get stuff done. China is one area where there's actually the desire for it among some Republicans. Ukraine is tougher. It's going to be a very bloody difficult winter in Ukraine with Russia's war, and there are many Republicans who don't want to support Ukraine anymore, but Biden is very committed to it.

But I think against this backdrop of the infighting that we were talking about, Kevin McCarthy's problems, whoever the House Speaker becomes, all the investigations, the efforts to investigate Biden's son, for Biden to be able to argue that he's more focused on bipartisanship is going to be a strength --

KING: Reasonable grownups. The President is trying to stand with, you know, again, Mike DeWine, who he served with in Washington before he went home to run for governor, Mitch McConnell, who has a lot of policy differences with the President but as a key ally, you mentioned Ukraine. McConnell and the President like this when it comes to Ukraine. The President can look in the rear view mirror. He did pass a gun reform pack in the last term. It's modest but it's a big deal to get anything through the House.

And the infrastructure law, he's going to talk about. The CHIPS bill, which is to help American manufacturers, semiconductors and others, the PACT Act, climate health bill, the president has that list of accomplishments he wants to talk about, and he has to talk about it because with the House Republicans, he cannot assume he's going to get anything major done for the next two years, period.

MCKEND: He does. He certainly has to focus on where he can make progress. He is certainly much better positioned than he was even just a year ago. But it's not all that surprising that Senator McConnell, President Biden, going to take this opportunity for a photo op on infrastructure. They have a history of working together, a working relationship, and I think it just makes news now and it's I think, noteworthy now just because of the polarizing climate that we're in. But ultimately, it is mutually beneficial.

ZANONA: Yes. And McConnell's gotten a lot of criticism for his infrastructure vote. This is him saying, I don't care about the criticism, like he's embracing it fully. I think for Biden, his best bet is that the GOP primary field gets messy and brutal and ugly and that Republicans on Capitol Hill in the House are just engulfed in chaos for the next few years and he can stay above the political fray and argue that he's the adult in the room. And I think with this event, with McConnell, he's really setting that tone.

KUCINICH: I mean, you mentioned Ukraine, that's a heavily divisive subject within in the Republican in the House Republican Conference. So there's going to be that division is going to play to the President as well. And, you know, if you're looking what's going on we talked about this in the earlier block if you're watching what's going on in the House, wouldn't you be all smiles if you're Joe Biden?

KING: At the moment? Yes. We've had divided government many times. It's tradition, really, if you look at it. Think about it, the President gets his Congress and then it gets divided. You first elected, your party wins, then you get divided government. We'll see how this one works out. Interesting to say, at least.


Up next for us part of that, the liar coming to Congress, new details we're learning about Republican George Santos and his very fabricated past.


KING: George Santos due to be sworn into Congress tomorrow. As more and more lies from the New York Republican come to light, some in his party are not happy and say Santos should consider stepping aside or at least consider mounting an aggressive and painfully honest rehabilitation effort.


REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX): This is troubling in so many ways. Certainly he has lied repeatedly. He's certainly going to have to consider resigning. He can try to politically write it out. We've seen that happen in Washington, D.C. or he can take the tougher choice, which is, I think, look own every lie that he's made, apologize to everyone and anyone for as long as it takes.


KING: But from Kevin McCarthy. Crickets McCarthy's title is House Republican leader, but he has said not a word about Santos or the shame he is causing the Republican Party. Our great reporters are back with us. Let me start there. Kevin McCarthy has to view this as embarrassing, bad for the party, but he needs Santos vote to be speaker and Santos, for all his lies, was smart enough to publicly say he would vote for McCarthy in the middle of all this.


ZANONA: Yes. And you have to wonder if that's part of the calculation here for Kevin McCarthy. I doubt we'll hear anything from McCarthy about Santos. It could happen after he gets the Speaker's vote, or doesn't, depending on what happens. But, yes, he needs every vote he can get. So that definitely speaks to why they've been silent about Santos. But they can't avoid this forever. Reporters going excel, we're going to be pressing them on this.

And there's a question about whether the House Ethics Committee is going to investigate question about whether he's going to get Committee assignments, question about whether lawmakers are actually going to take this guy seriously and work with him on bill. Those are the things we're looking at.

KING: He's lied about his religion. He said he was Jewish. He's Catholic. He's lied about his education. He's lied about where he worked. He said he had no criminal record. He was charged with embezzlement in Brazil about a decade ago. He said his mother was a finance executive. She cleaned homes. That's an honorable profession. Why not just say, my mother works hard to support her family, but he lied about that. You went up to his district in Nassau County, talked to some voters who, you know, again, it's not a scientific sample, but their congressman is a liar. They think this.


TEODORA CHOOLFAIAN, VOTED FOR GEORGE SANTOS: The ability to deceive us is just so troubling. This man should not be allowed to be in office, and we all know it.

TOM ZMICH, GEORGE SANTOS SUPPORTER: He admitted he lied. And most Christian people believe in forgiveness, maybe not forget, but move on.


MCKEND: So that second man there is actually a former congressional candidate. So he knew him. He knew Santos personally. A small world in Queens and Long Island of Republican politics. But that first woman worked closely with Santos on the campaign trail and really trusted him and believed him and felt completely duped and kind of embarrassed, right? So a range of responses there. But, you know, also I spoke to a Jewish community leader who said, listen, if given the opportunity, I wouldn't vote for him again, but I don't feel compelled to tell him to step down.

So I think that the people in the district are still trying to process this. There are some that are still, they think, aligned with him on the issues, on how he would ultimately vote and are considering, I think, overlooking these many issues. Although how can they even take with certainty how he's going to vote on certain things that he said that he would if he lied about his personal biography?

KING: He faces campaign finance investigations. There are one or two county prosecutors looking at things. Among the things when it comes to campaign finance show dozens of expenses listed just below the FEC has a threshold. If you spend $200 on something, you have to provide the receipts. There were countless you see right there, 199.99. It seems like too much of a coincidence to have 37 of those. KUCINICH: His lawyer doesn't seem to think so, who's been the one defending him. But, yes, there are just -- there are so, there is a virtual zappos of shoes that are waiting to drop with the investigations currently into this soon to be member of Congress, assuming he gets that far tomorrow. But it really is -- there are -- there is a limitation to what can happen here if he doesn't resign, and it is will and ultimately be up to his colleagues in the House and to voters down the line whether he can stay.

TALEV: And here's where worlds collide. If George Santos is seated and takes office as a member of Congress, and Kevin McCarthy were able to cut a deal where he gets to be speaker. If he agrees to a concession where only one member can end his speakership, then George Santos has Kevin McCarthy over a barrel for as long as they both want to stay in the positions they're in.

KING: How's this resolve itself? Look, you know, the Republicans have been very good and very loud about telling the Democrats when they have members who act out a line to do something about it. This is beyond anything, sorry, they don't have a direct comparison here. This is beyond the pale.

ZANONA: Sure, but as we've seen, Kevin McCarthy has very little appetite for punishing his own members. So even though they might come out and criticize what he's done, I don't think they're actually going to punish him.

MCKEND: How can you even question him, though, on the Hill? You have to, you know, take that everything that he says could possibly not be true.

KING: You watch his votes. You ignore them otherwise, that's the only way to cover him. Unless he wanted to come full for it, as Congressman Brady said, the retired congressman said, just lay it out, take the pain, take the hits and lay it out and see how the voters back home react. We shall see.


Up next, the Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitman, sitting down with CNN, her candid take about the men heading to prison now for plotting to kidnap her.


KING: Topping our political radar today, a large number of Russian soldiers apparently killed in a New Year's Day attack inside occupied territory. Both Ukrainian officials and the Russian media say a strike kit housing for conscripts reportedly positioned right next to a cache of ammunition. Ukraine claims Russian casualties in the hundreds. Russian media puts the number killed at 63.

Quote, a judicial system cannot and should not live in fear. That's the message from Chief Justice John Roberts in his annual report on the judiciary. The Chief Justice drew attention to safety for judges and justices, but he bypassed other controversies facing the court. The Michigan Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, sworn in for a second term yesterday on Sunday, just a day after two men involved in the plot to kidnap her and assassinate her were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Listen here Whitmer are sitting down with CNN Kaitlan Collins.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I'd be lying if I told you I'm unfazed by it, 19.5 for one of the organizers of the conspiracy to kidnap and kill me. That is a significant sentence. I think it's important to understand I'm an ordinary person. I've got an extraordinary job. I have served in extraordinary times. I'm a mom, I'm a daughter, you know, I'm an average person who is trying to serve my state.



KING: Go inside the rise and fall of a political firebrand. The CNN original series Giuliani: What Happened to America's Mayor? You can see it right here, Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. Abby Phillips takes over right now.