Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

House GOP Plans To Look Into Hunter Biden, China, Border, Federal Investigations; George Santos Under Fire From GOP In Congress, NY District; Sinkholes, Landslides, Floods Plague Rain-Drenched Parts Of CA. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 11, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There's absolutely nothing wrong with aggressive oversight. On neither party does enough of it when there are guys in the White House. So that's just a fact. So -- but there's a difference between aggressive performance review and performance art. What are we going to get here?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Welcome to the next two years. That's what I was thinking as Carrie was talking. This is no surprise. This is exactly what they said they're going to do and they're going to continue to do it. This is what they say their constituents want. They're going to throw a lot of stuff up and this is just going to continue for a while. And what this is what they can do because legislatively they're going to go nowhere, right? They can pass the bill to cut IRS funding 10 times. It's going nowhere. So this is what they see is their deliverables and they want to have these hearings and -- this is -- they're going to be following through. I mean this is what they're chomping at the bit to do.

KING: And they say and this is the situation where the question will be and we had some of this from Democrats during the Mueller investigation, are they too far out of the skis? Are they too far out ahead of the facts? Chairman Comer says he wants to know if the President's been compromised. He wants to know if Hunter Biden's international dealings and Frank Biden, the President's brother, also uses the family name. There's no question about that. There's just no question that they have traded on the Vice President's name or Senator Biden's name. He's now President of the United States. What's fair and what's out of bounds when it comes to oversight of the President's family and the finances?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So a lot of this, when it pertains to his family, is clearly in the political realm and I think especially the fact that the prior Congress led by Democrats went after the former President's taxes in particular. So you have this financial piece that was looking at his family businesses and then there were other criminal investigations in other parts of the country, New York, et cetera, that were looking at his family business. So this family piece I do think has this incredible political lens on it.

However, there are other aspects of the congressional investigations that are going to take place that I think have actual policy implications and deal with issues. So for example, the look at the tech companies and how the tech companies like Twitter engaged with the administration to potentially limit or the allegation is that they limited information coming out. That bigger issue of content moderation and how tech companies interact with law enforcement and intelligence community agencies, those are issues that there are members of Congress and there is more of a public appetite for understanding how that type of thing works.

KING: Another committee is going to be investigating what the Republicans call weaponization of the government against people, including the Justice Department. Again, it raises questions of potential conflicts of interest or I don't know what the right phrase is? Jim Jordan refused to subpoena from the January 6th Committee. Kevin McCarthy, the speaker, refused to subpoena from the January 6th Committee. They criticized the FBI for investigating Donald Trump and the insurrection. Your eyes, you know, just listen to the January 6th testimony for all those people. They're not Democrats, the people who work for Donald Trump about the conduct. But Jim Jordan says this.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): We don't after anyone. We just want it to stop. And we want to respect the First Amendment to the Constitution that the greatest country in the world has. That's what this committee is all about.


KING: I respect the First Amendment, but what does he mean by we just want it to stop? Meaning you can't investigate people Republicans like?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, they are going to go after folks. They're going to go after the FBI. They're going to look into these investigations into Donald Trump. You know, a lot of this stuff kind of grew out of the kind of fever swamps of right wing television and some of them are conspiracy theories. And in so many ways this is now a committee that has lots and lots of money. We don't know what members are going to be on there, but they are going to be able to sort of investigate these conspiracy theories and try to essentially make them true. And that's what we're going to see --

KING: And again, this is where it gets difficult because we are trying to have an open mind about these things. We also know a lot of things the Republicans said during the campaigns which make you understandably skeptical of whether they care about the facts or whether they care about politics. But some of the investigations Hunter Biden, the origin of COVID, China, a lot of bipartisan support for this new special China committee, the Department of Justice and the FBI, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the southern border, those are legitimate issues, all of them in some way for legitimate oversight. The question is it oversight or is it politics?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And I think that graphic was really interesting because I think that graphic also represents the tough choices that the White House is going to have to make in terms of what they genuinely and fulsomely cooperate with and what they don't. We don't think they're going to have a blanket no cooperation policy with House Republicans as they investigate.

Obviously, if and when there is an Afghanistan investigation launched, I think we will be watching that very closely to see what kind of information the administration provides. But the White House also doesn't want to engage with things like Carrie pointed out that are in the family realm and do seem very political. So the White House strategy here and how they cooperate with, for example, bipartisan investigations on China and compared to Hunter Biden investigations will be something that we will be watching very closely.


KING: And this will depend largely on the chairman, right? It was interesting, yes, it was interesting watching Chairman Gallagher yesterday. He's going to have this new China committee, thanking the Democrats for giving him such bipartisan backing. That seems like it could potentially be one. Obviously, the China challenge, whether it's economically, whether it's national security, is a giant question, a generational question. That one seems like it actually may have real legs to it.

HULSE: Yes, it was a strong vote. Democrats spoke in favor of it. But I think a lot of this is going to depend on who is named to these committees. Let's see who's on the Weaponization Committee if it's some of the more credible Republican members or some of the more far right members. And, you know, to me, this is all upside down world, too, in some ways. Here's the Republicans going after the Pentagon and the FBI.

These are usually the defenders of the Pentagon and the FBI. It's always been the Democrats and the progressives over the years, right? So it's a really odd phenomenon to me to watch.

CORDERO: There's real bipartisan interest, I would just add, in the China Committee, in particular in the national security community. I think there is a huge question on this weaponization of the federal government committee that is going to take place, whether or not there is Democratic participation in that. And I think that will add a lot to whether or not there's credibility in how that committee --

HULSE: I do think Democrats watched what happened with the September or the January 6th Committee and we're like, well, that's a lesson to be learned.

KING: To be there, to be there. We're at early stages, we'll keep an eye on it.

Up next for us, you don't want to miss this, George Santos facing new calls to step down, this time from his backyard.



KING: More trouble today for newly elected Congressman George Santos. Just moments ago leading Republicans back home on Long Island in New York, demanding the congressman resign.


JOSEPH CAIRO, NASSAU COUNTY GOP CHAIR: George Santos' campaign last year was a campaign of deceit, lies, and fabrication. He's disgraced the House of Representatives, and we do not consider him one of our Congress people. Today, on behalf of the Nassau County Republican Committee, I am calling for his immediate resignation.


KING: Here in Washington as you can see, Congressman Santos immediately swarmed by reporters asking if he will quit. His answer, quote, I will not. Also moments ago, the House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, other top Republican leaders, no answer at all to that question, should Santos resign?

Our reporters are back at the table. Carl, you've been at this a long time up on Capitol Hill. This is a problem. The cynic says Kevin McCarthy didn't deal with it before the Speaker's vote because he needed Santos' vote. He's speaker now. Will they deal with this? Will he tell him to resign? That's a risk. It's a risk. It would be a competitive district if they had a special election. Democrats would have a chance to narrow the Republican majority even more.

HULSE: I would say it'd be a very competitive district in a special election if he resigns. The Republicans have said they're going to handle this internally, but I think that's going to be hard to sustain when you have the Republicans back home saying you got to go. I think their worry back home is they could lose this seat forever if this is allowed to continue. Already the Democrats are taking aim at these Republicans who were elected in New York face -- going to face a tough time in a presidential year, and, you know, this is -- he's cannon fodder as far as the Democrats are concerned. In fact, I would say the Democrats want to keep him around, right, because it's a great message for them so.

KING: Right, he's a poster child. This is today's modern Republican Party. The guy lied about just about everything. There are questions about campaign financing, and yet they want to keep him there, which is why leading McCarthy supporters maybe not going as far as yet as saying he resigned, saying, do not put this man on any committees.


REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WI), SELECT COMMITTEE ON CHINA CHAIR: I don't think he should be on any national security committees, but that's for leadership to decide. I'm not on a steering committee.

REP. WARREN DAVIDSON (R-OH): He certainly hasn't earned my trust. I mean, when you look at his background, if the kinds of lies that he told don't merit an ethics investigation, it really will make everyone scratch their heads.


KING: Again Kevin McCarthy is now the speaker. Again, cynically maybe he needed that vote or didn't want to risk that vote, so he let this play out this far. Will he lead? Will he make a decision? Will he at least answer the question, sorry, I'm going to put him on committees, sorry, I won't call him to resign, at least give us answer as opposed to walking away.

KIM: The committee question is an interesting one, but in terms of what Kevin McCarthy does as it relates to Mr. Santos' standing in Congress, he needed his vote for speaker. He may need it again in the future. We do have that Damocles kind of hanging over Kevin McCarthy with that motion to vacate mechanism being valid for this Congress where any one person can call for ousting the speaker. So I think it does seem that what Scalise said yesterday, where they say they're handling the matter internally, they'll try to stay as mum as possible.

And I think the fact that there are investigations in New York State, potential federal investigations, a potential House Ethics Committee investigation, we'll see where that goes. I think that does give Kevin McCarthy an outlet to say, well, we're going to defer to these ongoing probes. Obviously those can last for a very long time, George Santos may not be a member by the time, those even start to get going. But that's kind of the way out for McCarthy here.


HENDERSON: Yes, and maybe one of the easiest thing would be to limit his membership on committees, particularly national security committees, which people seem to be wanting to keep him at arm's length. They have no reason to trust him. I mean I think if Kevin McCarthy comes out and asks him to resign, it would be a shock in so many ways. But the other thing is, why would he resign? If you're George Santos, he's got, you know, sort of a dream job. He makes some, you know, a good bit of money, you know, he essentially won. His lies worked to get him this far. So I think if he comes out, you know, Santos would likely ignore him. So what's the point?

HULSE: To get a member out who doesn't want to leave in a short time you got to bluff.

KING: Well, I was going to come back to that, you know, as you mentioned. I just want to read this from the Democratic leader, the minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries. When will House Republicans decide it's time for disgrace Congressman George Santos to go? The Democrats clearly see this as a pinata and a reflection that why are they defending this guy who lied about just about everything? But when you wrote about the new rules the other day, smartly Kevin McCarthy can say this is being handled internally. He can try to say, look, we're doing the right thing by referring him to the Ethics Committee. But have they watered down that process?

HULSE: Yes, that's not even set up and running. I mean, yes, this I mean, as we all know, these ethics investigations take forever. I mean, it would it's easily would take the two full years. I mean -- if he doesn't want to go, there's not much they can do to get him out of there.

KING: They could refuse to seat him.

HULSE: Well, they could have done that --


HULSE: But they needed those votes. I mean, it's a thin majority.

KING: They needed those votes.

Still ahead, some remarkable news about the Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin. And also this too much, too fast, epic rain amid a fierce drought and it's not over yet. Live to California, next.



KING: Let's share some incredible news now from cardiac arrest to going home. Today, the Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin is out of the hospital. The team tweeting just in the last hour, doctors say it is safe for Hamlin to continue his rehab at home. Hamlin, of course, had been hospitalized since collapsing during that NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals back on January 2nd. That's fantastic news.

Now to some sad news, right now, thousands of people forced from their homes as storms continue to pummel California. Take a look at this video out of Fillmore. That's about an hour outside of Los Angeles. You can see the power of the rushing waters on full display. We'll get you those images, I promise. Also, incredible images in Los Angeles as a sinkhole opened up, swallowing vehicles. Several people had to be rescued after getting trapped in that hole.

Our Veronica Miracle joins us now live from San Francisco with the latest. Veronica? Technical issues with Veronica --

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some areas have seen up to -- can you hear me, John?

KING: Veronica, take it away.

MIRACLE: OK, OK. Sorry about that. Yes, yes, John, thank you. You know, some areas have seen up to 35 inches of rain. In the last two weeks, there have been five atmospheric events, and in the next 10 days, there is expected to be four more. There has been no relief for areas all across the state, not just in Northern California, but also Central and Southern. And so what's happening is that the soil is just drenched and there's no opportunity for it to dry in between these storms. And that's exactly what you're seeing here.

This is just a small example of what's happening all over the state. We're standing in a roadway. Half of it is covered in mud and dirt. The hillside has completely washed away. You see, a tree has been uprooted all of these plants and the vegetation has fallen here. The soil has just turned into mud and these are creating very dangerous situations, 17 people have died due to storm related accidents.

If you take a look over here right behind me, you can see right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, massive waves and all of this crashing in here into the rock side and the hillside here. So we're seeing these conditions all over the state. It is very dangerous. Thousands of people are under flood watches and warnings. People are being asked to stay at home and including, not drive. It just takes six inches of rain for cars to be washed away.

And so many rescues are happening because people are stranded as they're going about their day. And there's just a fire hose of rain that has swept all across the state.

Now, on the flip side of this, the only good thing that is coming from this is because here in California, it has been years of historic drought. And so all of the reservoirs are filling up and the snow pack has reached historic levels, 30 percent of the snow pack is funneled into the water system here for California. So if there is anything good that comes from this, it is that there will be water for the state after years of historic drought, but, of course, creating very dangerous situations here because there has been no relief. John?

KING: No relief. Those pictures are stunning. Veronica Miracle, appreciate you dealing with the conditions and the technical issues as well. Veronica, thank you.


Up next for us, the First Lady having outpatient surgery today to remove a skin lesion discovered during a routine cancer screening. We'll give you an update, next.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, the President and the First Lady still at the hospital, this as Jill Biden at that hospital to undergo a medical procedure today. Doctors removing a skin lesion that was found during a routine skin cancer screening.

A new ad oddly highlighting a Republican feud, the Republican Senator Rick Scott, running a T.V. spot touting his failed challenge to the Senate, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.


SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): People told me not to run for Republican leader against Mitch McConnell. They said I wouldn't win. I knew it was going to be hard, but we got to start somewhere. It's time for Republicans to be bold, speak the truth, and stop caving in.


[13:00:13] KING: The Illinois Democratic Governor Pritzker signing a new law banning the sale of military style guns and high capacity magazines, that law coming six months after a gunman killed seven people with a legally purchased assault weapon at a 4th July parade in that state.

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