Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Veteran Claims George Santos Took $3,000 Meant For Dying Dog's Care; Biden Allies: "D.C. Elite" Making "D.C. Noise" Over Docs; U.S. Prepping Massive $2.5B Military Package For Ukraine. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 19, 2023 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Details now on what could be a new low even for the constantly lying Congressman George Santos. A military veteran says Santos helped him set up a GoFundMe with the goal of helping his sick dog. The veteran says Santos stole the money.


RICH OSTHOFF, U.S. NAVY VETERAN: Do you have a heart? Do you have a soul? And he probably would lie about that. I mean, I don't want you to ever hurt anybody like you hurt me again, George. He doesn't deserve to be where he's at. He doesn't deserve a government pension.


KING: Rich Osthoff, who you see there, says he tried to confront Santos to get the $3,000 and it didn't work.


OSTHOFF: I hurt him a little bit when I told him that I didn't think that he was legitimate and that I thought he was, like you mentioned before, mining my dog and my friends and family's hearts for their money. That was the most offensive thing he'd ever heard.


KING: Osthoff says his dog, Sapphire, died six months later and that he had to panhandle for the money to put his dog down. Our reporters are back with us at the table. We've talked about George Santos repeatedly. He's lied just about everything in his life. When I heard this story, what struck me is this is the kind of thing people around the country don't hold Congress in terribly high regard. They think all politicians are sort of, you know, shaving around the edges a little bit. This is the kind of thing that might break through. The question is, will it convince the republican leadership, this guy has got to go?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: So this is the kind of thing that definitely will break through nationally. But we know already that the constituents, the people in Long Island, the people of New York are very fed up with George Santos. They want him out of there. But the Republican leadership has shown no will to do so. And I don't know if a dead dog is enough to convince them otherwise. It just seems like there's nothing at this point because so much has been said and nothing has moved them to criticize him publicly, let alone move to remove him from coming.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: There's a pragmatism, right? We've spoken about this, I think, many times that Kevin McCarthy, Republicans have a really slim majority in the House. They cannot afford to lose George Santos. That, you know, seat is extremely competitive. So there's a sense already from Republicans in New York that this is a -- that he is liability in terms of being able to win this seat again in two years. Would any Republican be able to win this seat in two years? But I think there's the, you know, there's a question of what Republicans in New York want, and then there's the question of what Kevin McCarthy in leadership amongst Republicans in D.C. wants.

TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: And in D.C. He's already been given committee assignments in the House, you know, leadership is stopping short of calling for his resignation. We saw the White House yesterday was asked about this, and even the White House has put it on Republicans to figure this out. They said it's a Republican matter. It's their conference to deal with this. But at this point, it's unclear if anything on his resume is even true at this point.

KING: Right. Which gets you to this paradox. I want to make clear Congressman Santos denies this. He says, I have no clue what he's talking about. The crazy part is, anyone that knows me knows I'd go to hell and back for a dog, especially for a veteran. That's what the Congressman says. The problem is, can you believe anything George Santos says, right? Sometimes he's going to say something that's actually true. But he's lied about his resume. He's lied about where he worked. He's lied about where he went to school. He's lied about his GPA. And it turns out this about his mom in 9/11. Listen.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): My mom was a 9/11 survivor. She was in the South Tower, and she made it out. She got caught up in the ash cloud. My mom fought cancer until her death.


KING: Immigration records newly uncovered show that his mom was in Brazil between 1999 and early 2003, despite that. So if you're lying about your mom and 9/11.

PARTI: Yes, I mean, saying that there's a credibility issue or a trust issue is really putting it mildly at this point. I mean we just don't know what else he's lied about, what else is going to come out. But, you know, for now, he's still in Congress. KING: He is. And the former New York Congressman from the same area of New York, Pete King, moderate Republican, was in Congress for quite some time, very important Homeland Security Committee after 9/11. So the 9/11 thing, I bet, burns Peter King quite well. Truth is, Mr. Santos is hurting the House that many of us love, dragging down the Republican caucus to a shameful place. As long as Mr. Santos remains in Congress, he's the dead man walking, will be unable to get anything done for his constituents. The question is, Peter King is from a different generation of Congress. Does this new leadership listen?


MITCHELL: And I think, I'm sure, well, I'm pretty convinced that behind the scenes, the new leadership would want nothing more than George Santos to decide he's going to resign and go quietly. But it looks like there's very little incentive for George Santos to do so. He's getting a nice salary as a member of Congress right now. He's getting a lot of notoriety right now, whether it's positive or negative. And so it just looks like there's an impasse until Republicans are willing to publicly call for him to step down.

KING: Right. And they don't want a special election now because a Democrat might win it in this climate. They just want it to hang on long enough and then they will primary him. If he lasts two years, the Republican runs again, the Republicans will primary him and try to deal with it that way. We'll see.

Ahead, some brand new CNN reporting, team Biden says full steam ahead for 2024. That despite the new special counsel investigation into the mishandling of classified records.



KING: Bringing some new CNN reporting now on team Biden, which sees no reason to pause its 2024 reelection timetable because of that new special counsel investigation into mishandling classified documents. You see the headline here, the new CNN reporting detailing how Biden's top political advisers believe there will be no long term political harm from the documents crisis. Their colorful take, it is mostly D.C. elite making D.C. noise. CNN Isaac Dovere joins us now to share this reporting. They're making a bet here that the special counsel will be done in a couple of months. It will show bad, maybe stupid, but not nefarious. Full go. Not even a pause on the campaign plan?

EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: No. Look, first of all, the campaign plan that they have been preparing and we don't have a final decision yet, but that they are preparing for is sometime after the State of Union, which is scheduled for February 7th. We'll probably see the President do some travel around that afterwards. And then in a period after that, we will likely see a reelection campaign announcement.

They tell me that decision, though again, not final, the decision making hasn't been affected by this, nor has the time frame that they're talking about. Importantly, they're taking this investigation seriously. They're not saying the investigation is nothing, but they're saying all of the politicking that gets built around it is just another example of what they've seen many times over the last four years of things where there's a lot of news, a lot of Republican attacks, a lot of Democratic anxiety, a lot of allies who are quoted saying they're doing it wrong. It's not going to work out. And they say, look, he got the nomination. He was elected president. He got all these bills passed. The midterms were in a mess. This is probably going to be like that.

KING: Right. It's an interesting point because Joe Biden has been written off, counted out and go back 40 years. Never mind last two or three years, go back 40 years and fast forward it. Andrew Bates, the White House spokesman quoted in your piece, look back from shortly before the President launched his campaign to now, the accuracy rate of pundits' negative predictions about him or his strategies is dismal. Fact check true. Fact check true to that point, the question is the special counsel investigation classified materials we're in a different realm here. Do they get that? Isaac says they take the investigation seriously, but they seem to think not even let's just hit the pause button instead of late March or early April, maybe May.

KHALID: I mean I think the point about this being D.C. noise only I kind of rolled my eyes out a bit because that's not entirely true, right? Like Quinnipiac came out with polling, I believe, after the special counsel was appointed up to through the weekend, I believe, and it was a majority of the American public that they polled who thought that this was a serious issue. I believe that they thought, you know, he did act inappropriately.

Now, to be clear, a majority did not think that this is a criminal issue, right? And there is, I think, a differentiation between how the public viewed what happened with Trump in classified documents at Mar- a-Lago. But I sort, you know, dismiss the idea that it's entirely D.C. noise. That doesn't seem to pan out with what we're seeing in polling.

PARTI: I think the potential problem here is that Joe Biden for the last few years has positioned himself as the competent one, the one who would bring calm and, you know, forget the chaos of the Trump administration. Does this special counsel and, you know, in case it snowballs into something bigger, does that tarnish that brand that he's been building? That can Republicans make that argument that if you're so competent, why were there also these classified documents?

So, you know, Democrats have said that there's obviously a distinction between the Trump situation and his, which is obviously the case, but they have to sort of explain that. And when you're over explaining, is that an issue you want to be talking about at all, then? So I think there are still some danger zones, but for now they feel like it's going to be a sideshow, as they've put it to me.

KING: And one of the reasons I think politically they can feel confident or at least not alarmed might be a better way to put it is because of the midterms, because of the policy successes from the Democratic perspective over the last two years, you did not see any serious Democrats poking around saying, I might challenge Joe Biden. Jim Clyburn, who remember back when everybody said Biden was dead politically, helped deliver the South Carolina primary that made Joe Biden the nominee and then President, Jim Clyburn says, let's go.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): I'm only even for President Biden. Anybody with the kind of record that he's got, anybody that has turned the country around the way he has passed it more progressive legislation than any president since Lyndon Baines Johnson.



KING: That is a great asset to the President when you have people of stature in your party who have solid relationships with key constituencies in your party saying, OK, this is serious. We got to wait it out, cooperate, let it run its course, but we're OK?

MITCHELL: I think so. I mean, we know that Biden does have a strong record to run on, and we know that Biden is ready to make that case. He's already started making that case. But there are downsides, you know. I do think the path is clear for President Biden as long as he wants to run for a reelection, Democrats are going to allow him to do so. But that doesn't mean it won't still be a battle. That doesn't mean that he won't face questions about these documents and about anything else that Republicans can find to attack him throughout the campaign.

DOVERE: And look, one of the points that was raised to me, though, is you look at the midterms. Everything that happened at Mar-a-Lago with the Trump documents was we knew about it going into the midterms, and it wasn't really a factor at all, even in the midterms, which was weeks afterwards. Special counsels can be weird. They can blossom into all sorts of things. But if that's the model, if the Trump documents is the model we're using politically on this, then it does give some justification for where the Biden people are on thinking about where the politics of the Biden documents.

KING: I was covering the Clinton White House during the Lewinsky. Just what is the mood in the room? You know, Karine Jean-Pierre had a couple of rough briefings. People are asking her to answer questions, and in her defense, some of the questions she can't answer, some of them she probably could have a better answer for, some of them she can't answer. But what is the moon in the building?

KHALID: I mean I think that there's a frustration, I can say, generally speaking out, I'm not over generalizing amongst many reporters because there has been, I think, a sense that the White House has not been as forthcoming as journalists would like with the information and the timeline. I mean, the first batch of documents were discovered shortly after the midterms that was not disclosed until CBS broke the story.

PARTI: And I think in terms of the staff, things have changed so quickly from early this year when they were riding high on, you know, inflation easing, approval numbers taking up, and now they're in a totally different situation.

KING: Right. And so you will test the older inner circle around Biden has been through some of these and other administrations, some of the younger people, it can cause a little bit of jitters.

Up next for us, more firepower, the United States now finalizing yet another weapons package for Ukraine.



KING: The United States now finalizing a massive 2.5 billion military aid package, new package for Ukraine. Sources telling CNN this package could come before the end of this week. And for the first time, we'll include coveted striker combat vehicles. Let's bring in CNN's Alex Marquart. He is live with us to walk through the latest. Alex, I'm just going to show our viewers, what the new aid package that what we know of striker combat vehicles, Bradley fighting vehicles, some mine resistant ambush vehicles, ammunition for rockets and artillery systems. It's a big package. It's a heavier package than before, but it doesn't have everything Ukraine wants.

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is a big package. It is one of the biggest, John. We expect it to be $2.5 billion. The top line in this new package is really the striker combat vehicles. That is an armored fast, nimble wheeled vehicle that will allow Ukrainian troops to be protected as they move across the battlefield. This comes on the heels of the largest aid package just a couple of weeks ago, in which Bradley fighting vehicles were announced for the first time.

The U.S. gradually escalating the type of weaponry that it is sending to Ukraine. We -- they had the high mars last year, then recently the Patriot missiles, as the Bradley's, and now the strikers. And this does come the U.S. believes at a critical moment, the Bradley's and the strikers together will really give Ukraine a more significant mechanized capability, as Russia is expected in the coming weeks and months to perhaps try to mount a spring offensive.

These armored vehicles will allow Ukrainian troops to press forward, to carry out offensives and to try to take back territory from the Russians. John?

KING: And as this plays out, there's a debate, Alex, in Europe, a debate, tell me if it's a split. This is a German leopard tank. The Poles have them, for example, and they say, we'd be happy to give them to Ukraine, but we need German permission. The Ukrainians from the Defense Ministry all the way up to President Zelenskyy have said, tanks, thank you for everything you've given us, but we want tanks. Walk us through this.

MARQUARDT: Yes. Notably, in this latest package, we don't believe that there will be American tanks. And that's because the U.S. doesn't believe that its main battlefield tank, called the M1 Abrams tank, is suitable for Ukraine. It's huge. It's 60 tons. It's a gas guzzler. It's difficult to maintain. It's technically complicated. But the U.S. does want Germany to allow a much better suited tank that it produces, the Leopard 2, to be sent to Ukraine. Not just Germany sending those tanks themselves, but allowing those European countries that have the Leopards to send those tanks as well. President Zelenskyy clearly frustrated at this situation, frustrated at Germany. Take a listen.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE (through translator): We shouldn't compare when someone says, I will give tanks if someone else will also share his tanks. I'm strong in Europe, and I can share if someone outside of Europe will contribute as well. I don't think this is the right strategy.



MARQUARDT: And John, the U.S. convinced that they can get Germany to the point where they will allow those tanks to be sent. John?

KING: Important conversations about that as the week continues. Alex Marquardt, thank you. We'll be right back.



KING: A case of mistaken identity under oath. Newly unsealed deposition transcripts reveal Donald Trump confused a photograph of E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her or his ex-wife, Marla Maples.

Appreciate your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you tomorrow. Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.