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Inside Politics

McCarthy Empowers Far-Right In Push To Earn Speaker's Gavel. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 09, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: More now in the new Republican majority and the people to watch, maybe more closely than others, as Kevin McCarthy tries to get his footing as speaker. One is Donald Trump. He helped switch key votes in the end, and McCarthy made clear after he is grateful. Another is the Pennsylvania congressman, Scott Perry. He tried to help Trump steal the 2020 election, and his actions are part of a Justice Department investigation. Yet Perry will not rule out serving on a new House committee to investigate what Republicans claim is overreach and abuses by the FBI and the Justice Department.


REP. SCOTT PERRY, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: Well, why should I be limited? Why should anybody be limited just because someone has made an accusation? Everybody in America is innocent until proven otherwise. And I would say this, the American people are really, really tired of the persecution and the instruments of federal power being used against them.


KING: Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But is it not a conflict of interest if your name is part of an investigation? I'm not going to use the legal language people use, but they want to see his text messages. We know he tried to help Trump install a new Attorney General, replace the acting Attorney general at the time with somebody, and he's going to be on the committee that investigates what they believe to be overreaches by the investigators.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 2020 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, I don't have much more to add to that. We know that he's not going to be the chair of this new select subcommittee. It's going to be Jim Jordan. So, he won't lead it. But, yeah, I don't know how House Republicans are going to deal with it, although they do have a totally different take on what is the weaponization of the federal government. And the things that they are going to be investigating in January 6 is not one of them.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: And we should also point out that they have a really broad scope. That was one of the things that they were debating when they were trying to figure out some of these concessions. They got a huge budget. They got a really broad mandate, so they can use this to go after any federal agency and look into these investigations. And some of these members have been calling for a select committee to look into January 6. Kevin McCarthy said, no, he didn't want to do that. But I suspect that they are going to try to use this committee to go after some of these January 6 probes. And this is where you're going to see a lot of those heated bites.

KING: It is a remarkable moment. Another thing that happened at the very end is Marjorie Taylor Greene, normally viewed as a rebel, but she's on Team McCarthy now because he's promised that he's going to make her a player. He's going to give her committee assignments to get the handful of rebels to just vote present. You see right there, if you look close at that phone, it says DT at the top. That would be Donald Trump. She's trying to hand the phone there to Matt Rosendale, one of the holdouts from Montana. He didn't want to take the call because he didn't want the pressure from Donald Trump. Listen to Marjorie Taylor Greene describing her big role here.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R) GEORGIA: He yelled at me on the House floor, telling me, don't you ever do this. I was so surprised. I couldn't understand. I was holding out my phone, saying, it's President Trump. He wants to speak with you. You know, President Trump endorsed, I think, all 20. He had talked to them multiple of the 20 during the course of the week, urging them to vote for Kevin McCarthy for speaker because we have a great agenda.


KING: It has not been a good stretch for Donald Trump. The 2022 Midterms Republicans did not do anywhere near as well as they thought, and Trump shares a fair amount of that blame. But there you have it again. Last January, Kevin McCarthy blamed Trump, said Trump was responsible for January 6. Then, he went to Mar-a-Lago very quickly, said, never mind, I want to be speaker. I need your support. Turns out that was, "correct." Strategically, it helped in the end, but Kevin McCarthy has yet again, at a time many Republicans trying to shove Trump away. Big hug.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's as if there's no other option, right? And that's because I don't think there's any other option like you're in now, right? He is too important to critical members of your conference to be at any other place. Did I think that necessitated Kevin McCarthy's first words after becoming speaker of the House, being to thank, in grandiose terms, Donald Trump for all the things that happened in the world? Probably not, but that's where they are at this point in time. It's almost like once you're in this deeply, you have no other choice.

To some degree, though, I'm a little skeptical of the idea that this dramatically turned is around his standing, in the sense that these are his people, these 20, as Marjorie Taylor Greene said, they were all endorsed by him. They are all huge advocates for him. Still took him 14 votes to get everybody together. [12:35:09]

And as Margaret Taylor Greene was saying and Mel's reported throughout the course of the week, he was calling them, he was staying in touch with them. Did help turn them in the end? I don't think there's any question about that. Is that as big a deal as I think some people are framing it? No, I don't think it.

AYESHA RASCOE, NPR HOST, "WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY" AND "UP FIRST": I think that's the thing. I mean, if you're Kevin McCarthy and you're saying that, oh, Trump may have got him over the finish line, but he allowed him to be humiliated over and over again, like if he really had the power to turn it, why didn't you turn it after the second vote? If I'm Kevin McCarthy I might do this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- until it was already clear that Kevin almost there, that's the other thing.

KING: Right. So, let's just look right now and we should give these new Republicans the benefit of the doubt. Let's see whether they do essentially a performance review of the government or aggressive oversight that goes too far. The new committee chair we know, James Comer, will be the oversight. They're going to call it the Oversight and Accountability Committee. Not Reform Committee. Jim Jordan, the Judiciary. Very well known. Mike McCaul, Foreign Affairs, a mainline, mainstream conservative. Mike Rogers, Armed Services. Mike Turner, the Intelligence Committee, most of them, most of them Jordan is a wildcard there. Most of them fit the definition of mainstream conservative, let's see. But Comer said today we're not just investigating Hunter Biden. We're investigating Joe Biden. Do they have the discipline to follow facts as opposed to follow politics?

CALDWELL: I was just chuckling because two of their names are Mike or three are Mike or Michael and two are James or Jim. So, they all have almost the same names. But there's going to be a lot of pressure on these Republican chairmen to go where the base wants them to go, where the Trump, where the MAGA wing of the party wants them to go.

KING: Forgive me for interrupting, but that's dangerous because the base thinks Donald Trump won the last election and he did not.


KING: And so, if you want to go, look, there's legitimate oversight of Hunter Biden. There's legitimate oversight of the border. There's legitimate oversight of government spending. Of course, there is. The question is, can they stay in lane of fact?

CALDWELL: Well, what's interesting to me is that some of these Republicans have said that they don't want another Benghazi style committee during the last time Republicans were in control. Of course, that helped McCarthy to lose the last bid for speakership. But -- so how is it going to be any different this time? That's what I don't know. KING: That's a challenge on these new chairs. So, we will watch it. Up next, the Senate, yes, the Senate is also back to work. No chaos like across the capital in the House. But little history and some big 2024 news.



KING: The Democratic senate also had a big first week, but it didn't get much attention because of the Republican chaos across the capitol in the House. Democrat John Fetterman, for example. He's from Pennsylvania. Among the new senators sworn in for six years terms. That pickup expanded the Democratic majority to 51. And Democrat Patty Murray of Washington made some history. The first woman to serve as Senate president pro-temporary.

Our reporters are beck with us. No one paid attention to the Senate. The Democrats added a seat. Chuck Schumer says they're going to get about the business. One of the things that is critically important to the Biden White House is they say, number one, if anybody leaves, nobody in the cabinet has left yet. You can get the appointments through. But more judges, more judges, more judges.

RASCOE: Yeah. I mean, exactly. And they have really, to their credit, they have focused on judges, and they have seen the importance of it after the Obama administration got criticized for that. They are trying to, you know, put a dent in some of what happened during the Trump administration when, you know, liberal judges were really cast aside.

KING: Mitch McConnell made history, too. He's in the minority, but he's the longest serving Senate leader. A very different tone, he showed up with the President last Monday at the Ohio Kentucky border. Very different tone from what we're hearing from House Republicans. That's going to be a drama in its own right.

ZANONA: That split screen last week was remarkable, and I think we will continue to see that. That's the dynamic for me that I'm going to be watching is Mitch McConnell versus Kevin McCarthy, because the Senate is probably going to be working together, jamming things to the House, and then it's going to be up to Kevin McCarthy to figure out what to do. And oftentimes he's going to be at odds with Mitch McConnell.

KING: And guess what, the last election is over. The New Congress's in. So, what are they thinking about? Yes, some policy, but also the next election. So, if you look at the 2024 battleground, one of the big pieces of news last week was Senator Stabenow of Michigan announced she will not seek reelection. That's a blue state there.

Look at this map Phil Mattingly, you have a great piece with your colleagues MJ Lee and Kevin Liptak about President Biden, increasingly seen as almost certain to run for reelection. So, assume he's the Democratic nominee, and this is your Senate map, right? Democrats trying to defend seats in Michigan. We'll see who the nominee is, in Wisconsin, in Minnesota, in Pennsylvania, in Arizona, in Nevada, I could go on presidential battlegrounds with giant Senate seats in 2024.

MATTINGLY: And every single one of them is critical to President Biden's pathway to 270 if or when he decides to announce his re- election. And I think it's also a good window into why, under the guise of this is for the midterms, you saw the Democratic and National Committee spend a ton of money, put a ton of resources into a handful of critical states, all of which had statewide races or really big midterm races, but all of which will build the groundwork for that 2024. It's not just about House seats. It's not just about Senate seats. It's about the presidential as well. A lot of seats up for grabs in 24% of Democrats. They know their majority will be at risk, but having a presidential race there, they think, will help them boost their own turnout.

KING: Divided government is pretty constant and theme in American life. How will this Democratic Senate work with the hard to predict? That a polite way to put it? Republican House?


CALDWELL: I don't know if they're going to work together. A lot of things that the House Republicans are going to do are just going to essentially be messaging bills. They're not going to pass the Senate. They're not going to get signed into law. But the challenge comes on the big things that things Congress has to do, like funds the government, lift the debt limit. Democrats right now are confident that Republicans in the chaos in the House are going to get blamed and that they are going to get punished in 2024. That's another reason why Democrats and President Biden want Donald Trump to stay in the picture, too.

KING: It's a fascinating moment. The president has been on the other side of this as vice president, as a member of the United States Senate, does he get it as president, or does he see a place to sneak through?

MATTINGLY: They're -- I know we're on the clock here, so I'm not going to get the full treaties of what I think here. They believe there are opportunities for bipartisanship, unquestionably, not big things like they did in the first two years. But what they also know in what the McConnell visit kind of underscored in the most blatant of terms is they can isolate House Republicans and elevate them at the same time while they try and frame themselves as a bipartisanship working with Senate Republicans, working across the aisle. And those guys just won't get it and won't come along. That helps them politically, and they are keenly aware of that.

KING: It's a fascinating moment. Looking forward to the next weeks and months playing out as we test, everybody gets tested.

When we come back, echoes of January 6 in Brazil. You see the pictures right there. Federal building stormed by supporters of the ousted president because those violent protesters claim, without evidence, the election was stolen. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KING: Frightening scene in Brazil's capital as protesters stormed the country's Congress and presidential palace over false stolen election claims. Hundreds, hundreds of right-wing protesters vandalizing federal buildings and clashing with Brazilian police. It's an eerie echo of January 6 here in the United States. At least 400 people have been arrested in the Brazil protest. The unrest coming just a week after President Lula da Silva was inaugurated. He now vows to punish those responsible for these attacks. CNN's Rafael Romo tracking all this for us and has more. Rafael, what are we learning?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has only been in power since January 1, and he was barely beginning the process of getting his new government up and running. Now he has a full blown institutional and political crisis in his hand. Brazilian officials in the capital, Brazilia, have been meeting today in the presidential palace that just yesterday, as we can see in these images, was under siege. The new president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, met with his cabinet for the first time today to take measures to make sure those vandalized buildings are operational again and also make sure as well, that the security situation across the country doesn't get worse. It's hard to overstate the seriousness of what happened, John.

We just learned that at least 70 people were injured, six of them severely, but no one died, according to the Brazilian Health Ministry. Supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed those key buildings over claims that the presidential runoff election in October was stolen. Bolsonaro lost by less than two percentage points to current President Lula da Silva. And this is the same Bolsonaro, John, who was known as the Trump of the tropics when he was in office. The same Bolsonaro that refused to concede when he lost the election in October. If that sounds familiar, it's because it is.

Steve Bannon, former White House Chief Strategist and the Trump administration has reportedly called the pro-Bolsonaro rioters freedom fighters. And John, one more thing, a nephew of former President Bolsonaro has been identified among the protesters who participated in the storming of the Brazilian capital, mainly because, imagine this, he posted pictures of himself on social media. John, back to you.

KING: History does repeat itself, I guess. Rafael Romo appreciate the live update on that important story. We'll stay on top of it. Thank you, sir.

Up next for us, thousands of nurses, look at these pictures, on the picket line in New York City. Why? They cite burnout and working conditions driving them to the sidewalk.


[12:58:29] KING: Topping our political radar today, more than 7000 nurses in the nation's largest city are on strike today. The crowds overflowing into the street after negotiations between the New York Nurses Association and two private hospitals hit a wall. Nurses telling CNN patient safety is their top concern.


ROY PERMAUL, SURGICAL ICU NURSE: Those patients are double, tripled, even quadrupled of the care they're supposed to get right now from us. So, if you have one nurse that's supposed to take care of two, one nurse is taking care of four patients.

RACHEL BARRETT, ONCOLOGY NURSE: It truly is about the safety of our patients. And, you know, to be completely honest, we have no medical benefits right now. We have no -- we're not getting paid. That's how important is this us?


KING: The Virginia school where a six-year-old boy shot a teacher is closed today as police continue their investigation. As of now, police say they do not believe it was accidental. An eight-year-old at the school shared the moment. He realized he and his classmates were OK.


MARK ANTHONY GARCIA JR., STUDENT AT RICHNECK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: When it happened, the teacher heard it from the first grade, and we all went to the room. And when the cops came, were marching to the gym and were on a --


KING: New Russian shelling today across key parts of Ukraine. That after a ceasefire ended. Ukraine says two people were killed and more than a dozen hurt during that ceasefire. The Kremlin now dismissing rumors of a second Russian military mobilization, but the country is planning. Joint Air Force exercises later this month with Belarus, a key partner of the region.

This quick programming note, the special interview everyone is talking about. Prince Harry sits down with Anderson Cooper. Hear about his split with the royal family, all the allegations, and, yes, all the drama. The Harry interview tonight at 8:00 Eastern. Thanks for your time and INSIDE POLITICS today. We'll see you tomorrow. Abby Phillip picks up our coverage right now.