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Inside Politics

Rep Omar Speaking Ahead Of Vote To Oust Her From Cmte; McCarthy To Speak As House Votes On Ousting Omar; Feds Investigating If Santos Ripped Off Navy Vet; Santos Dodges CNN Questions About Bio, Federal Investigation; House Votes On Removing Rep Omar From Foreign Affairs Cmte; Gov Sanders To Deliver GOP Response To State Of The Union; Hunter Biden's Legal Team On Offense With Aggressive Strategy Shift; Sources: FBI To Search Pence's Indiana Home. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired February 02, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello everybody, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. You're watching a fiery speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. That is Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. The House is about to vote to kick her off the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

She is speaking right now saying, yes, she's a Muslim. Yes, she's a refugee. Yes, she has said some controversial things, but she says she's a proud American and her views should be considered by Republicans and Democrats alike. Let's listen?


REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): Louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been. So, take your votes or not, I am here to stay, and I am here to be a voice against harms around the world and advocate for a better world. I yield back.


KING: Again, Ilhan Omar speaking a fiery address a defiant speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. The Republican led House is about to vote to kick her off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She says it is retribution. She says it is unfair. She says it is un- American. But she says it is no surprise to her, tracing Donald Trump's support of the birther movement. The Republicans who said Barack Obama as president was secretly a Muslim.

Let's get to our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. Manu, this vote, you just heard the defiance from Congressman Omar. The vote that will take place in moments is a key test of the new speaker Kevin McCarthy. He has a very narrow majority. And many of his members are a little squishy about this.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question about it. He can only lose four Republican votes in order to allow this - for this to succeed to kick her off of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. And he has been moving behind the scenes over the last several days to shore up concerns, concerns about this tit for tat that has occurred after Democrats moved to Republicans off of their committee assignments.

Last Congress, McCarthy vowing, there was some retribution of sorts for Ilhan Omar ever since that happened here, and a lot of Republicans agreeing with them, but some concern about it. But behind the scenes, McCarthy has locked up the votes. He has indicated that he has made sure that his members are in line.

Just moments ago, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, who was - one who had said that she would oppose this because of her concern about the precedent this would set by setting, kicking off another member of the committee expanding the precedent from the last Congress. She said she's actually going to vote for this because she got an agreement from the speaker to figure out a new process going forward to allow members to appeal any effort to try to kick them off of the committee.

There's going to be some language change to the resolution here. And that's one reason why and there's Congressman George Santos here. Mr. Santos, can you explain? Did you set up a fake GoFundMe account to try to defraud and cheat a veteran out of $3,000?

So, can you explain what that happened? Mr. Santos, why does he have text messages? Why does he have text messages saying that you set up this fake GoFundMe in crown? Mr. Santos, you're facing a federal investigation here. This is very serious. Can you explain to your voters and your constituents what happened with this veteran? The conversations that you had with him.

Mr. Santos, you have a chance to clear up the fabrications from your career, you made up where you worked from Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, why did you make up those? Why did you make that up, Sir? Can you explain that to voters here? Are you going to resign? Is there anything wouldn't be better for your voters if you resigned your seat in Congress, Sir? Mr. Santos?

So, as you can see, John, we're covering various issues here at the same time. One, Ilhan Omar, as we're talking about here, one serious issue. Another one, George Santos, the congressman from New York. The Republican who is embattled of course, facing numerous investigations, a federal investigation, one of which, that we learned about yesterday to look into allegedly setting up a GoFundMe account, a fake GoFundMe account and scamming a homeless veteran out of money $3,000 or so.

This investigation that appears to be happening out of New York, tried to ask him about that. If he actually did that, not of course, not answering that question or about all the other fabrications from his life. So, John, that's one issue.

The other issue about to happen here on the House floor of the House about to vote to kick off Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. There is a belief among the Republican leadership, they will have the votes to do just that here, as many things are happening here developing at the same time here. John? KIG: I'll kind of come back to that in just a moment. To the news part of it. Connect the dots for me here. One of the reasons Kevin McCarthy the speaker has stood by George Santos so far, is because in that vote that's about to happen. Guess what? Kevin McCarthy needs George Santos's vote, correct?


RAJU: Yes, he does. In fact, that's one big reason why he has not called on him to resign. Now, McCarthy did tell us yesterday when he came back from the White House, it he has quote, new questions about Santos. And that was one reason why he supports the decision of Santos to get off of those two-House committees that he had made that voluntary decision to step aside there.

But McCarthy would not say what those new questions were. Whether they're about his campaign finances, which of course, appears to be part of this investigation into him going forward. But McCarthy has so far not called on him to resign.

Even though we've heard Republican after Republican back home, New York Republicans, including some in the delegation here in the House, asking for his ouster. McCarthy is still not going that far, not just because he needs the votes for Ilhan Omar or even to get elected speaker.

But also, John, as you know, if he stepped aside that would be problematic, could flip - that district could flip to be democratic, and the tightening McCarthy's already very narrow majority.

KING: Manu Raju, live for us on Capitol Hill. My friend whatever they pay you, it is not enough. And Congressman Santos is new to the building. He's going to learn where the stairs are. You could figure that out right there. Let's bring the conversation in the room. With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press.

So, we can show you the House floor. They are now voting. This is the full House voting on whether to remove Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It is a big act. The Republicans say Democrats did it. Now we're coming back to it.

Dana Bash, you've covered Congress for a long time. Number one, you know what Manu - you know the job Manu is doing, which is spectacular. Asking the right questions of the right people. There will be people out there saying, you know, why you asked these questions of George Santos. While he's been elected, and he won't answer questions that need to be asked.

This vote. This vote. There were qualms from a number of Republicans say OK, Democrats did this to Marjorie Taylor Greene, Democrats did this to Paul Gosar. But they were evicting her from the committee because she said some controversial reprehensible things, antisemitic things, which she has apologized for. There is a difference even some Republicans say and yet it looks like this vote was succeed. DANA BASH, CNN CO-ANCHOR, STATE OF THE UNION: Yes. I mean, listen, she sat right in this chair where I'm sitting for our show on Sunday for State of the Union, and she admitted to ignorance on a lot of the tropes that she was parroting, and said that she learned from it. You talked about Republicans who - some of whom, three of whom actually had said that they would vote with the Democrats. They wouldn't kick her off the committee, and now they have flipped back.

We haven't talked a lot about some of her fellow Democrats who were and still are very unhappy with the statements that she's made. Right before she went on to the floor, Congresswoman Omar joined in co- sponsoring a resolution with some moderate Democrats and Jewish Democrats, specifically recognizing Israel as America's legitimate and democratic ally and condemning antisemitism, which might sound like a no brainer, but it was untold after many, many weeks of negotiation to try to get her there. So that some Democrats, all Democrats likely will feel comfortable in voting the way they are right now - for her basically.

KING: Forgive me for interrupting. She wants to vote play out. You can see Congresswoman Omar staying right there on the floor. She knows what's about to happen. She wants to be there as it happens. She wants to stare down the Republicans as they vote to kick her off this committee.

And I'd mentioned Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Democrats kicked her off committees because of some reprehensible things she said, and she turned it in her lane of American politics into celebrity. She raised a ton of money out of it. Here's my question.

Let's listen to Congressman Omar first. She seems very determined, fine, you're going to do this to me, guess what, I'm not going away. I'm going to have even a louder voice. And here in this speech, she very pointedly talked about leaving war torn Africa, coming to America as a refugee. She says that should make her welcomed as an American. Instead, she says this Republican Party wants to shun her.


REP. OMAR: I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. And interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?


KING: She will not be on the foreign affairs committee most likely by the end of the day, but she seems quite determined to have even a bigger platform.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. And listen, she'll be on other committees. Her voice probably will likely get stronger and more prominent, very passionate and powerful speech when she talks about her journey from Africa. She was born in Somalia and came here ever as a refugee.

You know, listen, there does seem to be a pattern from Republicans in terms of targeting people. And I think she was alluding to that. She talked about, obviously, interestingly, being from Africa. That was if you remember what Donald Trump said about Africa, calling it a country, not a continent, but there does seem to be a path.


I don't know sort of targeting brown people, targeting immigrants, targeting of the other essentially and that seems to be a what she is saying this is reflective of, it's a reflective of some of the things that the Republican Party has done over these last many years. And she's saying, she's not going anywhere. She's standing there. As this vote is happening, and she's going to be around and she's going to be powerful voice.

KING: It's interesting because what we just saw Manu, trying to interview a congressman who owes the American people, owes his constituents back in New York answers. When people come to town, often they make mistakes. Ilhan Omar has made mistakes. That the question is, can they build because I get forgiveness from their members?

You mentioned the Jewish Democrats who had huge qualms about a - not just qualms, that's an understatement. Huge objections and opposition and anger that and what she said in the past, Dan Goldman is also a new member of Congress, but he's not new to Washington. He's familiar with this. Listen, what he said earlier today about yes, yes, she has said things that offend me and more, but?


REP. DAN GOLDMAN (D-NY): Look, as a proud American Jew, you know, I'm not thrilled about the antisemitic comments that she and many others have made. But this is just clear retribution that Kevin McCarthy agreed to in order to become Speaker of the House.


KING: Everyone will have their views on what this is. But it also comes in the very early days of this new Congress and new divided government. The speaker just met with the president yesterday. They both emerge say, we're going to try to have a respectful conversation even though we disagree completely. But how will something like this affect the tone? The Democrats or the Republicans are already, the gap of trust, the gap of respect is pretty wide. Does this make it worse?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I mean, I don't think it makes things better. And I think the difference between someone like Ilhan Omar and her comments and Marjorie Taylor Greene like we discussed. And what she has said, Ilhan Omar has shown remorse and apology for those remarks. I don't recall Marjorie Taylor Greene ever having remorse or apologies.

And instead of being punished in this Congress like the way she was previous Congress and how Congresswoman Omar is being punished now, Marjorie Taylor Greene has parlayed it into a position of power. She is a major counsel to Speaker McCarthy. So, that is another difference in the way that the two parties have approached this. KING: That's a great point to make. And again, we're watching this vote and we'll bring you the final tally when it is done. The vote being cast right now, likely to be quite a party divide to remove Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Again, we'll bring you the numbers when they are final.

Up next for us though, Hunter Biden's new strategy. He's asking state and federal prosecutors to investigate critics. He says are illegally weaponizing his personal data.




KING: This news just into CNN, Republicans announcing today, their choice to respond to President Biden State of the Union address next week. It will be the newly elected Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Sanders says, she's grateful for the opportunity to detail what she calls the GOP's optimistic vision for the future.

Let's bring the conversation in the room. This an interesting choice. She has been governor for a month, and we just showed the photo of her standing at the White House lectern. Republicans might like her as the chief defender of Donald Trump. She also stood at that podium time after time after time after time and lied for Donald Trump. And now she's going to respond to the president State of the Union.

HENDERSON: Yes, listen. You know, this is a big wet kiss (Ph) to Donald Trump in so many ways. I don't think most Americans have very fond memories of her unnecessarily because of how she conducted herself behind the podium. We know what she seems to want to do in Arkansas, a lot of sort of anti-woke stuff, drag queens are terrible and black history shouldn't be taught in a certain way in school. So, those are sort of, I think probably will be some of the highlights or lowlights of her address to Biden. Well, this is an interesting choice. And I think it tells you where the Republican Party is.

KING: It's part of it. You mentioned that Trump will like this because he's loyal to Sarah Huckabee Sanders is part of this, that they look around for a governor. They don't want somebody in Washington, and they don't want to get involved in 2024. So, you can't pick Ron DeSantis, or you can't do this. Is that maybe?

BASH: Yes, that's part of it. But they also have some really, really interesting new members. If they're looking for somebody who was just sworn in of their own House majority who have fantastic backstories once his company is just coming to mind, who was born in Mexico, and is a proud Republican now representing the Tucson area and Arizona, and there are others like that.

But you're right, this is a very deliberate decision to pick somebody who's not only female, not only a governor, but somebody with a very famous name and a very famous role previous to bring to being governor. KING: The interest as we play out. All right. Now, we're going to move on to this. New more, much more aggressive strategy from the president son Hunter Biden's legal team. Remember, Hunter Biden is under investigation by the US Attorney in Delaware.

Now his lawyers are trying to change the narrative. They're asking state and federal prosecutors to investigate conservative activists, including Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani over Hunter Biden claims, those folks and others illegally weaponized his personal information, purportedly found in a laptop that Hunter Biden left at a Delaware repair shop.

Now the letters do not acknowledge the laptop belongs to Hunter Biden. But it is the first time the president's son publicly acknowledged the personal data does belong to him. CNN's Evan Perez joins our panel.

I'm baffled by this one. Abbe Lowell is part of Hunter Biden's new strategy. He has represented a lot of political clients, if you will, over the years and he is aggressive. He is a boxer if you will. But what are they up to here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, knife fighter, right? And I think what he's trying to do, Hunter Biden is trying to change, he's trying to turn the tables really on these people that have really spent the last four years trying to make him the punching bag, trying to use him as a political cudgel really against his father.


And, you know, I think, you know, certainly for the last few years, whenever we tried to do stories on what we're in the contents of this laptop, you didn't hear very much in response from them. So, now they're saying that these people committed crimes, they want the state attorneys general and the attorney general in Delaware and the Justice Department to investigate these people.

But it does represent this huge strategy shift, because they know now that Republicans have the gavel, they're going to be doing hearings, they're going to be doing investigations, and it allows them to try to take the fight to the Republicans.

KING: Do they perhaps know something about the actual federal investigation. We'll get to the House Republicans and the oversight or whatever they want to call it investigations in a minute. But it's just seems striking to me from a legal standpoint, when you are under investigation by a U.S. attorney, that you essentially turn and say, look at the people, look at the people accusing me, not me.

PEREZ: Right, exactly. And I think that's one of the things they're trying to do is they're trying to say, hey, before you close out this investigation, before you perhaps maybe bring charges, right, which is something we know is being considered. Maybe you ought to take another look at what happened to my personal information. Why aren't you charging these people? Weren't you investigating these people before you come after me? KING: But a timing question, Seung Min Kim. The president delivers his State of the Union address next week. We are in the early days of a divided government. Joe Biden is preparing to announce his 2024 reelection campaign. Hunter Biden in the news. Hunter Biden aggressively in the news. Is that what they want at the White House?

KIM: Well, you know, he's going to be the news one way or the other, obviously, with the focus from House Republicans on him. And I think a lot of it is that he is, you know, you not only fight these in the actual courts, but oftentimes you find them in the court of public opinion.

And I think there, I wouldn't be surprised if Hunter Biden's team has seen some of the polling and the public sentiment out there that said, you know, the American voters would like for Congress to focus on actual issues, rather than, you know, investigating the president's personal family.

And maybe perhaps they're trying to capitalize, capitalize on that be much more aggressive. But you know, I'd be very interested in like asking the White House, what are they thinking, that they're not going to answer, but it'd be interesting to hear what they say.

KING: So, listen, listen to that point, because the House Republicans just yesterday started their investigative hearings. It was about the border yesterday, was about COVID spinning, but they promised perhaps in several different committees to get to Hunter Biden, and these Republican chairman Republican leaders say they want to find the facts. But if you list it, it also seems like they already have their conclusion.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): There's a lot of evidence on the hard drive that would suggest that Joe Biden knew very well, what his family was involved in.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): James Comer has exposed a lot of this already. And his committee is going to still be finding more of it regarding the Hunter Biden laptop, which really shows things that Joe Biden himself was doing.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): This is the focus on the Judiciary Committee, the political nature at the Justice Department and the linkage now to what was happening with the Hunter Biden story.


KING: Again, you know, the legal investigations, Hunter Biden now making specific legal accusations against some of his critics, those are substantive matters of the law. A lot of politics here.

HENDERSON: A lot of politics, a lot of conspiracy theories, as well, we'll see what these investigations are going to find out from the DOJ's perspective and the Oversight Committee, DOJ saying they're not necessarily going to cooperate with this. But listen, I think if you're the White House, you're probably glad that Hunter Biden is fighting back at this point, Joe Biden can't really do it. Democrats don't necessarily get it, do it. So, if you're the White House, you know, push back against the folks who are making all these claims against your son or you're glad that Hunter Biden is doing it at this point, because he has been such a big target in a growing target. I mean, these conspiracy theories have kind of grown and metastasize over the last couple of years.

KING: All right. We're going move on to another question of law and orders. A lot happening in the news today. This just into CNN, the FBI now plans to search the Indiana home of the former vice president, Mike Pence. Evan Perez, still with us.

Again, just for context for the viewers at home, they're probably aware of this. Pence, Donald Trump first, President Biden and Mike Pence all have had classified documents turn up in places they don't belong, including at Pence's Carmel, Indiana home, but he said they were found and then immediately turned over by everything we know publicly, did the right thing and not in bringing them there. But once he discovered them, now what?

PEREZ: Right. Well, I mean, this is something I certainly I've been hinting at in the last few days that we expected that this was going to be the next thing. Certainly, because you know, Mike Pence's team want to try to get this wrapped up. They don't have a special counsel, unlike President Biden, who is now the subject of a special counsels' investigation.

Of course, Donald Trump is also the subject of special counsel investigation. Nobody wants a special counsel. So, if you are Mike Pence, you want to cooperate and make this as painless as possible. One of the best ways to do that is to invite the FBI to come consensually, do a search of a home in Carmel, Indiana, which he just moved into recently.


So, it probably is an easy search to do. He also has an office here in Washington, a think tank office, which they would want to do that as well. So, it's something we've been watching, we've been waiting for, we thought might happen perhaps as soon as today, and you know, I think it's going to happen in the next coming days because for Pence, you want to try to get this story wrapped up as soon as possible.

BASH: It's not just because of his special counsel because he wants to run for president, which is the one other thing that the three of these individuals have in common.

PEREZ: The reason why he doesn't have a special counsel is because he has not declared.

BASH: That's interesting.

KING: So, helped me then, how does Merrick Garland process that question in the sense that, look, the facts between Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Mike Pence, Trump is over here, Pence and Biden to the best of our knowledge. Facts can change, or over here, in that they discovered these documents in their houses, they raised their hands and said, let's go through this.

So, but Merrick Garland felt he had no choice but to name the special counsel. In the president's case, President Biden's case because Donald Trump's had declared candidate, President Biden is a presumed candidate, Mike Pence is sort of in a never Neverland unlikely candidate, but he hasn't been that far forward yet. So, is that enough for Merrick Garland to say, OK, we clear this up quickly, we're done, or does he have to do it anyway?

PEREZ: Well, no. I mean, because of those facts, Mike Pence, right, is that does not present the same conflict of interest in the Justice Department's view of these facts. So that's one reason why, you know, again, if your Pence and you want to - you're trying to maybe get ahead of the calendar here, you want to try to get this wrapped up.

And right now, you know, the Justice Department is doing this internally, with the FBI, they don't need to go to a special counsel. And it is very, very possible that they can wrap this up. Of course, people at the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are not happy because they think he should be treated equally with the other two.

KING: Now, they're not happy.

PEREZ: You cannot make everyone happy at this time. At the same time, nobody, it's impossible.

KING: You'd brought this script to, I never mind, just leave it there. Up next for us. This is a very important story, global story new American military access to bases in the Philippines, Beijing calling it a provocation. The Biden White House says it is a necessary response to Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and across the region.