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Inside Politics

Trump Makes First 2024 Campaign Stops In NH, SC; DOJ Tells GOP's Jordan It Won't Provide Most Info He Wants On Biden Classified Docs Probe, For Now; Secy Of State Blinken In Israel Amid Outbreak Of Violence. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 30, 2023 - 12:30   ET



KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So we're starting to see the pace of this investigation really kind of restarting, kicking into a new year this year, all after the DA's office won a conviction of the Trump Organization entities last year for tax crimes. John?

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: All of the money, I guess, would be the question there. Kara Scannell, I appreciate the update. Keep us posted as it plays out. This coming as Donald Trump now is road testing his 2024 pitch and promising to prove wrong those who say most Republican voters will be ready to move on. Two weekend events, one in New Hampshire, one in South Carolina, Donald Trump's first campaign travels since his announcement two months ago, the former president seemed determined to rebut Republicans who want new blood atop the ticket.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This campaign will be about the future. This campaign will be about issues. Joe Biden has put America on the fast track to ruin and destruction, and we will ensure that he does not receive four more years.


KING: But Trump, being Trump, rattled through a litany of his trademark grievances.


TRUMP: They're going to restore election integrity, we have to. You go to New York, nobody ever gets prosecuted. I'm the only one they go after. Sending people that are killers, murderers. They're sending rapists, and they're sending, frankly, terrorists. We have a woke military that can't fight or win. And the wind turbines are all made in China.


KING: Our great reporters are back with us. Interesting to watch, because we haven't seen him out since his announcement, so you see him and hear from him. If you are a mainstream Republican who thinks we lost 2018, 2020, and 2022 because of Donald Trump, to hear that last part has to make you cringe.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. You're not sure. And so, you know, we know what the dynamics of this are. If this ends up being a field with 18 candidates, it probably plays to Donald Trump's strengths because he still has a part of the base. But he -- that kind of middle of the base, the part of the base that's more pragmatic and less kind of core ideological or moved by those arguments. They want to see if there's a better alternative early on, and it's very early on still. Ron DeSantis, you know, has taken the spot as that guide. But there is only one announced candidate, and we are seeing a flip flop of the dynamics.

The last time around, in 2016, where the primary was underway and Trump came late to the game and, you know, down an escalator, and there it is. And now he's the first guy in the water. And everyone else is like, I'm going to take my time and let this play out for a while.

KING: But when he joined last time, he quickly started getting on the debate stage. And I called him the human chainsaw. He just took out, you know, men of considerably more political experience, campaign experience, and that was Trump. And you can tell he's trying to discourage people this time as well. You mentioned DeSantis, so let's just show it. This is a University of New Hampshire poll taken just last week. Ron DeSantis, 42, Donald Trump, 30.

And then the others are way down, Nikki Haley, 8 percent. The Governor of New Hampshire, 4 percent. Liz Cheney, 4 percent. But in his remarks as he traveled, Trump at the moment seems to be thinking a lot about DeSantis and Nikki Haley.


TRUMP: Nikki Haley called me the other day to talk to me, I talked to her for a little while. But I said, look, you know, go by your heart if you want to run. She's publicly said that I would never run against my President, he was a great President. Florida was actually closed for a great, long period of time moment, you remember he closed the beaches and everything else? You know it's -- they're trying to rewrite history.


KING: That was a calm Donald Trump essentially telling them and anyone else thinking about getting in?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think one of the biggest untested challenges against Donald Trump for other Republicans trying to weigh if they're going to get into this race is how do you come at him? Do you come straight at him? Do you ignore him? Do you pretend that he's not in this race? You know, he's happy to discuss by name other candidates who are thinking about running, including disclosing, you know, Nikki Haley told me she never run. This could be disloyal if she goes ahead and does that. I think it's just unclear what strategy actually works when you're trying to come up against Donald Trump and it's untested. And if somebody doesn't get in the race soon, we just won't see how that's going to play out until we have --

KING: And that's the key point. Who? Who's next? Right? Who's next? You know, that DeSantis is building a team. Haley is building a team. Mike Pompeo is building a team. Others are building a team. Looking at it, including the governor of New Hampshire, a Republican, they hold the first primary. Chris Sununu, he says, thinking about it.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): I don't have a timeline. I mean, obviously, folks are talking about it, but I really don't have a timeline. I'm spending a lot of time naturally trying to grow the party as Republicans. The government is not the solution to cultural issues, and we have a cultural problem but the big, heavy hammer and to solve that problem.


KING: That's a sitting governor, often a strength for, you know, presidential candidates of both parties. Someone who's been an executive, you spoke recently to a former governor, Asa Hutchinson, just left the Arkansas governorships. He said, quote, there's a consensus, there will be alternatives to Donald Trump. And he stressed I should be in each of those conversations. Well, to guarantee you're in each of those conversations, you have to say, I, Asa Hutchinson, declare my candidacy. When?


FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Which he doesn't want to do yet. He still says that he hasn't made a decision on that, but he did indicate that he will do so in the next few months. He says he thinks that he has to do that in the first half of the year. And I spoke to Chris Sununu recently also. He also said that he's is considering it, but currently he's traveling. And the reason that he did the interview, he said, is because I asked. And so he says people keep asking and that's why he keeps talking about it, but that he's not necessarily in yet either.

TALEV: But there is a dynamic here, and that is that as long as the other candidates are presumed that they will get it at some point, but are not in this early primary is Donald Trump against himself and Donald Trump against law enforcement of various investigations. The minute other people enter the race, it becomes these candidates against one another. It dilutes that negative focus, and these candidates are counting on, to some extent, Trump to erode his own standing before they get it.

KING: Right. And so how do you make that calculation of how long can you wait to let that play out? But you got to build a team. You got to raise money. It's hard. It's a daunting organizational task and financial task. We will see. Just into us, the Justice Department refusing to hand over some key information to the Republican Oversight Chairman up on Capitol Hill. We'll explain after this.



KING: More news just in the CNN, the Justice Department now telling the House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, it will not provide most of the documents Chairman Jordan has requested about the special counsel's probe into President Biden's handling of classified documents at least for now, DOJ says.

In a letter obtained by CNN, the Department says it needs to complete its investigation first. Our CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams joins our panel. Sometimes this is a no, go away. Sometimes the first no is the beginning of a negotiation, noteworthy. We'll get to the politics in a minute. The House Republicans want to know about Joe Biden. They're not asking about Donald Trump or Mike Pence, shocking. But just on the process here, is this a flat no until the special counsel is done and DOJ is done or is it, let's talk?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It most certainly is not a flat no. And frankly, the most important words in your intro there were at least for now. I signed letters like this throughout my entire time in the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security. Look, Congress sort of tends to see itself as because we have background checks and because we're the Congress for the American people, you can just trust us with information. This is active evidence in a criminal investigation, and a lot of the people being investigated or looked at don't know they are, right? It's not just about the president. It's record keepers, it's assistants and so on. You don't want to risks spooking witnesses and so on. It is private information for now, but in almost every circumstance they end up finding some agreement at the end and turning something over but just not today.

KING: And so if you go across to the Senate, which most people in Washington think is more adult than the House, most people, people were saying, you have the Senate Intelligence Committee, which operates on a bipartisan basis, and you have Mark Warner, who's the chairman because the Democrats run the show up. Marco Rubio is essentially the co-chairman of that committee there. They too say, we want to see this record. And to Elliot's point, they say we are the most sensitive committee in the chamber. We need to know. Listen to them.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA), CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Our job is not to figure out if somebody mishandled those, but our job is to make sure there's not an intelligence compromise. The notion that we're going to be left in limbo and we can't do our job, that just cannot stand.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), VICE CHAIR, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: And it's not about being nosy, you know, here's the bottom line. And if, in fact, those documents were very sensitive, materials were sensitive, and they posed a counterintelligence or national security threat to the United States, then the intelligence agencies are tasked with the job of coming up with ways to mitigate that.


KING: It sounds reasonable, if you will. They say they're just trying to do our jobs as national security been compromised. But can the Justice Department say, we'll cooperate with you because you sound like an adult, but we don't trust the House, so we won't cooperate with them? Can't happen, right?

FOX: Well, no, but this is a very different ask, I think, from these chairmen in the Senate than what we are seeing in the House of Representatives. And that is because they want to know about the documents themselves and whether or not any state secrets were spilled in the way that these were handled, not how they were handled, not who was involved in the handling of these documents, not what Joe Biden did or didn't do. They want to know specifically what is this information and we need to make sure that national security isn't compromised. So I do think there's just a slight difference in what these folks are all asking for.

KING: Right. If you listen to Senator Rubio and Senator Warner, it's about the substance and about national security. Again, we'll see how it plays out. The Senate is not perfect either. But this is James Comer. Who's the new chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, he wants to see some of these two. And again, they want to know all about Joe Biden. There's a similar issue, much more serious, most people would say, about a guy named Donald Trump but.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You've also talked about how you worried about the same situation with the Trump family. Trump had 300 plus documents in Mar-a-Lago. Why don't you have that same concern? I mean, there are visitors going in and out of Mar-a-Lago from different countries, including China. There's been a Chinese spy who was arrested at Mar-a-Lago, and it was in an unsecure location at Mar-a- Lago. So would you apply that same concern evenly across the board?

REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY), CHAIR, OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: If someone can show me evidence that there was influence peddling with those classified documents that were in the possession of President Trump, then we would certainly expand it.


KING: A, why does it have to be influence pending? And B, Chairman Comer knows the Justice Department got a search warrant because they had, A, testimony from a witness, and B, video evidence from surveillance cameras that there was something wrong happening at Mar- a-Lago.


TALEV: Yes, what can I possibly add to that? It sort of speak for itself, right? I mean, there is a -- there's a highly political and a highly performative aspect to the public request, the public posturing for these things. But I think whether it's the House or whether it's the Senate, whether it's just the GOP conference or whether it's bipartisan leadership, the committee chairs and rankings in Congress in both chambers are doing what you would expect them to do.

They are trying to get as much as they can so that they can take a piece of this action and reveal things for whatever reasons. And the Justice Department is doing what its role is, which is to try to firewall off the stuff that's truly sensitive and that if it got into the wrong hands and became politicized, could actually jeopardize, right, their investigation.

I would say two differences, one, we know, I think, a lot more about the documents in Donald Trump's possession because of the warrants. We know almost nothing publicly. The public knows almost nothing about the Biden documents. So there is a public desire, I think, to have at least a basic understanding of what some of that is. But the other is, Congress plays a role investigatively in bringing things to the public's attention so that the Justice Department in some cases, can take the ball and run with it.

The Justice Department has taken the ball and is running with a lot of things at this point. So I don't think Congress is needed for that part of the airing of this.

KING: And the White House gets a cushion for right now being able to say, just -- call the Justice Department. Don't ask the White House when the Republicans that Congress ask for things, right?

CHAMBERS: Except when it comes to the political aspect of it, which they've accused Republicans of trying to politicize it, and the White House is trying to turn the table on Republicans and saying, but wait a minute, Donald Trump has said that he has tapes of Mar-a-Lago. He has security camera footage. So why don't you ask for that as well as what you're asking for from us?

But what you said, Margaret, about Americans and how they're proceeding is there was polling over the weekend that showed that 67 percent of Americans think that they both mishandled this information, and so they're not drawing some of the distinctions that you are, partially because they haven't seen the documents.

KING: We'll see how this one plays out.

When we come back, America's top diplomat meeting with a familiar face in Israel today, this as violence rages across the region.



KING: Right now, the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken is in Israel. It is his first visit to the country under the new Netanyahu government and it comes after a weekend of terror across the region. America's top diplomat calling the violence quote, a horrifying surge. Let's go live to CNN's Hadas Gold live for us in Jerusalem. Diplomacy or hand wringing?

HADAS GOLD, CNN JERUSALEM CORRESPONDENT: Probably both. I mean, this visit was set to be prickly even before the events of the last few days because as you noted, it's the first time that Blinken is meeting not necessarily with Netanyahu, who's an old face here, but his new government is the most right wing in Israeli history. And the Americans have already said that they are going -- they decided they're going to judge this government on its policies, not on the personalities. Because some of the personalities were once considered the extreme right wing fringe of Israeli politics and now they are in positions of power. But this visit got a new sense of urgency over the events of the last few days as you noted.

Last week was one of the deadliest days for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. And then you had that shooting on Friday evening outside the synagogue in northeast Jerusalem. And then another shooting Saturday morning also outside of the old city of Jerusalem. And Antony Blinken making a call really for everyone to try to do anything they can to really deescalate what's really become a boiling situation here. Take a listen.


ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We're urging all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm to deescalate. We also remain committed to supporting religious coexistence and diversity, including in Jerusalem.


GOLD: And what's really interesting, Benjamin Netanyahu, in his remarks, alongside Blinken, he skirted around the tent situation on the ground, instead saying that he wants to expand the Abraham Accords because he believes that by adding more countries to normalize their relations with Israel, then that will help open the path up to a solution, he said, with the Palestinians. John?

KING: Hadas Gold at a tense time in Jerusalem. Appreciate the live report. Thank you.


Ahead for us, CNN spots a very much in the news, lately visitor leaving the new House Speaker's office. We'll tell you who, next.


KING: Topping our political radar today quote, yes, I did, that short straightforward answer this hour from the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to CNN questions about whether he met with the confirmed congressional liar George Santos. CNN spotted Congressman Santos leaving the Speaker's Office earlier this morning. Santos telling our reporters he remains unbothered by a House Ethics Committee probe into his campaign.

More than two months after she lost, Kari Lake still thinks she could win the race to be Arizona's governor. A judge ruled against the former Republican candidate's attempt to overturn last year's election result, saying, quote, speculation is not evidence. But Lake telling a campaign-style crowd last night at a rally, she'll keep fighting.


KARI LAKE (R), FORMER ARIZONA GOV. CANDIDATE: It was rotten. And our election needs to be thrown out and redone. We want a new election.


KING: The man accused of breaking into former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco home and bludgeoning her husband Paul with a hammer made a bizarre phone call from jail to a California news station. David DePape ranting about far right conspiracy theories and says he has zero remorse.


DAVID DEPAPE, PELOSI ATTACK SUSPECT: I have an important message for everyone in America. You're welcome. I want to apologize to everyone. I messed up. What I did was really bad. I'm so sorry I didn't get more of them. It's my own fault. No one else is to blame. I should have gotten better prepared.



KING: DePape facing federal and state charges, he has pleaded not guilty. Appreciate your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. Hope to see you back here tomorrow. Casey Hunt picks up our coverage right now.