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Inside Politics

Tyre Nichols' family gets bipartisan standing ovation; Romney scolds Santos for trying to shake President's hand; Biden says ban assault weapons now; Turkey Earthquake death toll surpasses 11,800; Zelenskyy makes his first visit to UK since Russia's invasion; Lockerbie bombing suspect pleads not guilty; LeBron James breaks NBA's all-time scoring record, passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with career score of 38,390. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 08, 2023 - 12:30   ET





JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS' (voice over): RowVaughn and Rodney Wells, you see them there, received a bipartisan standing ovation in the House Chamber. However, the prospects for Congressional action and significant police reform appear dim.


KING: Our great reporters are back at the table. That is a fair statement, right? They tried to do this after George Floyd. George Floyd's family was there a year ago. Tyre Nichols' family there now. But --

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Yeah, even harder to do it now, obviously.


HULSE: With the House Republicans in control and the Senate has lost some of its deal makers on the Republican side. It's unfortunate, I just don't see any real prospect for something like this happening. There's a big difference between Republicans and Democrats about how police should be held accountable, that were insurmountable the last time. I think you'll see both parties really position themselves around this but a real compromise.

KING: You mentioned position. Again, this speech was crafted smartly politically, whether you agree or disagree with the president at home, thinking about the re-election campaign, thinking about Republican attacks that the Democrats are going to "defund the police." Joe Biden has never wanted to defund the police but he made that crystal clear last night.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I know most cops and their families are good, decent and honorable people, the vast majority. And they risk their lives every time they put that shield on. But what happened to Tyre in Memphis happens too often. We have to do better, all of us in this chamber, we need to rise to this moment. You can't turn away.


KING: You see the Speaker standing up behind him. That was a place where all the Republicans stood up as well and the president says most cops are good cops. We still have to deal with this issue.

HENDERSON: No, I think -- I think that's right and not a lot of I think momentum passed out of the Democratic controlled Chamber, stalled in the Senate. There is progress to be made on the state and local level and there is some of that going on, but listen, there say problem and you have this family now joining the family of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner. And the reality is this will likely have to keep happening for something to actually finally happen.

I mean, in some ways, we saw that with gun control and something a little bit happened under Joe Biden's watch. But what it took, unfortunately, was these massive killings of people before congress was actually moved to act. So, a real I think human moment, and I think you are going to probably see more families, unfortunately, at the State of the Union address and more calls for something to be done on the federal and local level.

KING: Yeah. We'll get to more of it later. But in the Republican response, the new Arkansas Governor Sarah Sanders who used to be Donald Trump's Press Secretary, said after years of Democratic attacks on law enforcement and calls to defund the police, violent criminals roam free. It's an argument Republicans try to make to their base. Is it an argument, can you make against Joe Biden? He's the architect of the 1990's Crime Bill that liberals to this day revile.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah, liberals hate that bill. It's a tough argument to stick to Joe Biden specifically because Republicans have tried this before. They tried this in 2020; they tried in the midterms. But more broadly, the argument that crime is running rampant, that cities are dangerous and not enough is being done, that is an effective argument and I think has been effective against other Democrats and I think it's something (INAUDIBLE) Republicans. I mean this was a -- is a remark from Sarah Sanders that really, if President Biden at least at some moments sought to talk about unity and sought to think about places you can work together, her speech was the opposite. It was all entirely focused on Republican concerns, catering to the base Republican attacks.

KING: And there are a couple of arguments that the president would argue, Democrats would argue, should be bigger issues, but in -- especially with the Republican House, is simply not going to happen. But the president making clear in his speech, he would like congress to do things and also threatening vetoes if they sent him legislation he didn't like.


BIDEN: Ban assault weapons now. Ban them now, once and for all. In ten years, that ban was law, mass shootings went down. After we let it expire in a Republican Administration, mass shootings tripled. But already more than a dozen states are enforcing extreme abortion bans. Make no mistake about it, if congress passes a national ban, I will veto it.


KING: Not only his position, but positions that play very well in the suburbs, which is what 2024, like 2020, is going to be all about.

HULSE: Yeah. The -- there's Republican members of the House wearing pro-assault weapons buttons (ph) around Capitol Hill. So, I think that tells you the prospect for an assault weapons ban. That's just not going anywhere. I mean, lot -- this won't -- these -- and the abortion bills won't reach the president.

KING: Right.

HULSE: Because obviously, the Democrats can block them in the Senate. But I think, you know, you are exactly right. He knows where the sweet spot is that he needs to be talking to, and he did a good job at it last night.


KING: Alright. Again, ahead for us, more State of the Union moments and some of the fallouts. Senator Mitt Romney scolding embattled Congressman George Santos. Plus, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders gives a combative Republican response. And Senator Rick Scott quickly firing back at the president. He's running a new ad starting today, firing straight at the president's State of the Union argument.



KING: One of the most remarkable State of the Union moments came just before the president entered the House Chamber.


KING (voice-over): Senator Mitt Romney surprised, you see it here, to see the freshman congressman and serial liar George Santos in an aisle seat. Romney told Santos he didn't belong in the congress. Santos had some words back. The Utah Senator later calling Santos, "sick puppy."

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I didn't expect that he'd be standing there, trying to shake hands with every senator and the president of the United States. He shouldn't be in congress. And they're going to go through the process and hopefully get him out. And -- but he shouldn't be there and if he had any shame at all, he wouldn't be there.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are you disappointed that Kevin McCarthy has not called on him to resign?



KING: Our reporters are back at the table. This has become a daily, if not hourly, distraction for the Republicans. And yeah, there's George Santos in one of the coveted aisle seats, trying to shake everybody's hands.

HULSE: Democrats loved it, I think.


HULSE: I think a little reflection of the difference between the House and the Senate too, right? In the Senate, how dare you, right? You've got a little bit of that. And I think, you know, Mitt Romney has with President Trump and in other instances spoken out against this kind of thing. And he would like to see his fellow Republicans do it. We were watching as he -- as Santos stood there and like, what's actually going to happen here. I think the Republicans would have probably been wiser to push him into the back.

KING: Yeah, you see the president there just landing in Wisconsin. Coming down the steps of Air Force One. He's in Madison, Wisconsin for the traditional post-State of the Union tour. We'll see if he talks to reporters. As we do, I just want to -- again, Mitt Romney saying if George Santos had any shame, he'd just be in the back of the room.

HENDERSON: Isn't it (ph)?

KING: Instead George Santos tweets, "Hey, Mitt Romney, just as a reminder, you will never be president."

LUCEY: It just, the hits just keep on coming.

HENDERSON: Yeah. Listen, it seemed like George Santos was like, let me kind of step back, he got off the committees, but there he was. Kevin McCarthy obviously needs him in the House, the slim majority that he has, it doesn't seem like he's going to push on him to resign. But it does seem like this is becoming a problem for Republicans. He's becoming, again, kind of the face of the GOP. And Kevin McCarthy might want to kind of pull him aside and say, "Maybe kind of lay low, Mr. Santos."

KING: I think he has tried. I think the Speaker originally needed the votes and then encouraged him to step off his committees. With that came the, you should probably just lay low, but it's not going to happen. We talked a bit about this earlier, the Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders on the job just shy a month, delivered the Republican response last night. Often these addresses try to speak to the country, present your alternative to the president in power, in this case the Democrat in power. But Sarah Huckabee Sanders seems to be talking very narrowly to the Republican base.


GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R-AR): He's the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can't even tell you what a woman is. Whether Joe Biden believes this madness or is simply who weak to resist it, his administration has been completely hijacked by the radical left.


KING: Fact-check, bizarre?

LUCEY: Right.

HULSE: You know, these are notorious things, anyway, to pull off the rebuttal. Obviously, I think she has national political ambitions and is setting her -- trying to set herself up for that. It was pretty dark.

LUCEY: Yeah, everything that was interesting -- sorry, in addition to really playing to the Republican base, she made it a very clear generational argument. She spoke about the fact that, for (ph) she's the youngest governor, President Biden is 80, called for a new generation of Republican leadership. Not clear what that means in terms of 2024 and her former boss President Trump if there's any message.

KING: Right. Or she paid a tribute to him in the speech.

LUCEY: Yeah, she did, so.

KING: On a trip he made to Iraq and good for the Commander-in-Chief at that time, Donald Trump for visiting troops in Iraq. Most Commanders- in-Chief do that. It was just kind of an odd --

HENDERSON: Even though she is young, she sort of has these kind of retro ideas about America, right? I mean, she's going after drag queens. She's going after ethnics (ph) and saying it can't be in any documents in Arkansas. I don't think it is anyway. Going after CRT, you know, they're really trying to tag Joe Biden as a member of the woke mafia. Joe Biden is 80 years old, he's a white male. It's very hard to do that I think. But they are going to keep trying.

And I think it doesn't stick as easily to Joe Biden as it would have to like, Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama. But this is kind of what Republicans have done. I think it's less and less effective, going forward. I think culture wars have worked for them in the past. I think they're not as effective as they used to be.

KING: I think the question is, who's your intended audience?


KING: If you want to appeal to a niche and raise money from a niche, it can be very effective. If you want to become a president of the United States, less so perhaps. Another drama is the fight -- again, you're watching the president on the ground in Madison, Wisconsin -- it's between President Biden.


It's Rick Scott, the Republican senator from Florida, it was his social security plan the president was referencing last night. He said he wasn't going to name names. Well, Rick Scott instead of taking offense or instead of saying I've moved away from my plan, says "Bring it on, Mr. President" with this ad. The president is about go to Florida, Scott's state. Here's an ad.


SEN. RICK SCOTT, (R-FL): He wants to close the loophole and raise your taxes. I'm Rick Scott. Biden should resign! I approve this message.


KING: Ron DeSantis is your candidate of choice in the presidential race out of Florida. Rick Scott has been bumped off a committee by Mitch McConnell because he challenged Mitch McConnell and the senate. What is Rick Scott playing here (ph)?


HULSE: Extremely intriguing character because he leaves the senate Republicans, he loses his seat and he tries to become leader and now he's going to get into this fight with Joe Biden. I think if you ask Mitch McConnell, he'd prefer that Rick Scott resign rather than President Biden.

KING: Yes. The State of the Union brings you drama of all sorts. We like to keep track of it all.

Ahead, global stage. We'll go live to Turkey. Crews have been working, look at these pictures, day and night, in plunging temperatures to find earthquake survivors and a miracle. After 60 hours, they are still pulling people out.



KING: The death toll from Monday's catastrophic earthquake in southern Turkey and Syria now rising, get this, to more than 11,800. Rescuers racing around the clock to find survivors. Even 60 hours in, they are still finding people alive. Here's a great example of hope and resilience. These new dramatic photos show emergency workers pulling an 8-year-old boy from the wreckage of a collapsed building. It was buried for more than two days. And it gets even better, moments after pulled out alive, rescuers reuniting him with his mother who was waiting there at the site.

Earlier today, Turkey's president, President Erdogan visiting the area near the epicenter to the destruction first hand as anger grows across the country at his government's response to this disaster. CNN's Salma Abdelaziz is probably seen in an aid distribution center in Istanbul, live for us. Salma, tell us what you're seeing.


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): I know we talked a great deal about the international aid coming in, but I'm here to show you how Turks are helping Turks. This is a huge hangar that's filled with hundreds of volunteers. They formed this human chain as you can see and they're passing these boxes. I can't even tell you the sheer number of donations that have come here. And everything you're looking at, in each of these boxes, comes from individuals, comes from families, comes from residents and businesses, and just average people wanting to help.

I want to just give you a look around here at people packing the boxes, actually filling these boxes with goods right here. What they're filling these boxes with is the basics. Think blankets, think food, think anything that people might need right now who are without homes. They're hoping and we've spoken to many of these volunteers, each of them are so affected by the images they're seeing from that quake zone. Many of them saying to me, "We couldn't just sit at home and just watch while our fellow countrymen are suffering. We had to do something to help. We had to come and volunteer."

Yes, it looks chaotic. So I'm going to keep moving you through here. I just want to give you more of a sense of this hive of activity over here. I think they're packing hygienes and supplies again for people who have nothing on those front lines. Look, John, this is an enormous tragedy, a huge catastrophe. The scope and scale of it is simply too great for the Turkish government to handle. There is absolutely a gap on the ground. And that's what these volunteers are trying to do. They're trying to step in to fill that gap with whatever they can.

I know it looks chaotic here. But they are shouting orders down the speaker and each of these boxes gets loaded up into a truck, sent straight to that affected area. I think we have a truck every hour going out. It's a 24-hour operation here, aims at helping, a complete sense of solidarity.


KING: Salma Abdelaziz, grateful you're there to watch this play out. You do see at times of tragedy remarkable humanity and compassion. That's what you're in the middle of right there, that's chaotic compassion. Salma, thank you so much for that live report.

Coming up for us, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy on his first trip to United Kingdom since Russia launched its war on his country.



KING: Topping our political radar today, you see it right here, the Ukrainian President Zelenskyy right now in the United Kingdom. It's only his second trip outside of Ukraine since the war started nearly a year ago. Zelenskyy meeting with the British Prime Minister and King Charles, and he addressed the parliament just moments ago. Standing with the Prime Minister, Zelenskyy says there's no path to victory without more tanks.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE (interpreted): When you only have 10 NATO armored vehicles against a thousand Soviet armored vehicles, well, what are the chances, you know. And we have no way out. We have to stand firm. We need armored vehicles.


KING: Tonight, President Zelenskyy off to Paris to meet with the French President and the German Chancellor.

Last hour, the man accused of building the bomb that downed the Pan Am Flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, more than 30 years ago pleaded not guilty in US Federal Court. Abu Agila Mohammad Mas'ud, a Libyan intelligence operative, faces three federal charges after 270 people died in that bombing of the American jetliner.

And last night, a coronation for basketball's king. LeBron James now the NBA's all-time leading scorer, hitting a fadeaway jump shot to take the title away from Laker great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Btu the passing of the ball doesn't come without at least a little tension. LeBron and Kareem have at times clashed, including over COVID, but last night, at the Hall-of-Fame center, was on hand to celebrate LeBron who was all smiles.


LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: To be able to be in the presence of such a legend and great as Kareem, it meant so much to me. It's very humbling. Please give a standing ovation to the captain.