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Inside Politics

McCarthy Looks To GOP's "Five Families" To Avoid Debt Default; NYT: Trump Goading DeSantis "With Rude Nicknames"; GOP Primary Heats Up, Hopefuls Prepare To Take On Trump; Top Governor To Nominate A Governor; Portions Of GA Special Grand Jury Report To Be Released Thursday; At Least 134 Suspects Being Investigated Over Construction Of Buildings That Were Destroyed In Turkey Earthquake; NATO Chief: Russia Sends Thousands More Troops For New Offensive; Lawyer: Trump Used Folder Marked Classified To Block Phone Light. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 13, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And so let's just -- let's just go. You see them up up on the screen there. Yes. Garret Graves is a top McCarthy ally, call him the leadership family. He's representing the leadership and there. Dusty Johnson is the chairman of what they call the Main Street Caucus, Patrick McHenry, the Financial Services Committee Chairman, David Joyce, Republican governors' group, Scott Perry, the Freedom Caucus, they tend to be the more conservative members.

So far in this piece, Eva, this is Dusty Johnson. "There's a level of trust and engagement within the Five Families that I've not seen in the previous four years. We're working really well together." Ralph Norman of South Carolina among those who was not going to vote for Kevin McCarthy back in the beginning, but ultimately did.

"We're trying to get to the framework. We all want buy in. There's a sense that us to group putting something out and other group put something out." They don't want that. They don't want to have you, you know, propose this, she proposes that. The question is you can start a conversation, can you get to the finish line?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Right, I would expect optimism from some of those key negotiators there. And ultimately, Speaker McCarthy is speaking to a concern that was voiced by Republicans that power needed to be decentralized, that everyone should have a role in these key negotiations.

But the problem for Republicans is going to be a landing on what exactly these cuts will be. This is a party that has, I think, like to branded them -- brand themselves on austerity. But then when you get to the nitty gritty, and actually naming the programs, we just have not seen, I think, a political willingness to go that far.

KING: And Republicans get a lot more fiscally conservative when there's a Democratic president. Just a funny coincidence in town. The Democrats believe they have the upper hand here. This is the Senate Majority Chuck Schumer saying, I dare you. Put it in writing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MAJORITY LEADER: We have a clear position. Do it clean, do it without brinksmanship, do it without this risk of hostage taking where things could blow up. He will not even say what he wants to cut. Now, I'll tell you why. He can't pass a plan with cuts. His heart right will demand the kind of deepest cuts that his more mainstream Republicans won't vote for.


KING: Senator Schumer is not wrong about the complications in the House Republican family. Here's my question, though. Can he keep the Democrats? Can he keep the Democrats who -- in Trump's states, like a Jon Tester from Montana, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, who have to run in 2024? Can he keep them from saying, let's do this clean. We don't want any kind of spending cuts?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's one thing that we're starting to see already, whether it's Senator Joe Manchin, who has said that he's fine with negotiating and trying to encourage President Biden to negotiate even though the vast majority of Democrats, which is probably what Majority Leader Schumer is speaking to do want to do this clean.

And also economists, whether they work for the U.S. Chamber or elsewhere have also said they think it should be a clean increase versus tethering it to any kind of cuts. In terms of like Republicans and what they in the past have said they want to cut, there's a long history there.

I mean, Paul Ryan, when he was Speaker very much wanted to turn Medicare into a voucher system. And Republicans in the past has said over and over, they want to cut entitlements, which includes Social Security and Medicare.

So I know that Speaker McCarthy says that isn't on the table this time. But that's also why President Biden feels like he has this upper hand. It's because of this long list of history and trying to push Republicans to the name exactly, very specifically what they want cut.

KING: And yet it is not that far down the road where both Medicare and Social Security do need solvency help. They just do. This is Senator Mike Rounds, a Republican who says if we're having this political fight, we're not going to get to the substance.


SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R), IDAHO: There's a golden opportunity in a bipartisan way to put a Social Security on a long-term plan that would make it better in the future than what it is today and to ensure its longevity. But you do that by managing it. You do that by actually talking about it and not, you know, doing dog calls every time somebody says let's try to address managing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: He's blaming the President for dog calls now. But, you know, the only way to do this in the past anyway has been a bipartisan commission, right? But you have to go into it with an open mind, meaning, you know, Democrats would have to go into it that maybe some programs would be trimmed a little bit, but Republicans would have to go into it thinking maybe we need new revenues to pay for all this.

We don't have that situation right now. And with the President highlighting this so much, is it -- am I dumb to believe that this is going to have to wait until after the next presidential election?

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Oh, if then, you know, this is this is a conversation that comes up from time to time about how to make Medicare and Social Security long lasting and strong, which I think everyone agrees they want it to be. But that is not an easy fix. It's not the kind of thing that can be negotiated between now and June when the debt ceiling comes up.

And there -- and is sort of a wasteland of bipartisan Commission's that have tried to find an answer to this challenge. But as a senator says, you know, the middle of a partisan fight about the debt ceiling is probably not the place where that's going to happen.

KING: And the President told Speaker McCarthy, I'll talk to you about spending cuts but only after you raise the debt ceiling. Is there any way the Five Families can agree on that, keep it is two separate approaches?


ZANONA: I mean we'll see, that's what they're trying to figure out right now. I do think that the goal right now is to put up a plan that would rates -- raise the debt ceiling in exchange for some spending cuts. But like I said, putting that to paper is a lot harder and putting your face in front of these cuts of potentially popular programs, it'd be difficult for some of these moderates to swallow.

MCKEND: And whether they realize it or not, John, restructuring, reforming entitlement programs, that ultimately is a translation to getting rid of Social Security and Medicare. Whether they're not they're clear on that yet. That's where it leads.

KING: That's why the conversations began. We will track them.

Coming up for us, Ron DeSantis, faces that conundrum, fire back at Donald Trump or take the high road. It's a storyline that could play out fairly soon as we head deeper into the 2024 cycle.



KING: The 2024 Republican presidential field gets a second entry this week and several other prospects are taking important steps toward candidacies as well. The former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is scheduled to declare her intentions on Wednesday. Haley, you might recall she was Donald Trump's first ambassador to the United Nations will be the only declared Republican candidate other than her former boss.

Trump so far anyway, seems more concerned about the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was pulling together his own campaign team. Trump has repeatedly disparaged DeSantis in recent weeks in the New York Times reports one big question as DeSantis gears up is whether and when to return Trump's fire.

This from that story, quote, "For months, Mr. DeSantis has pursued a strategy of conflict avoidance. But now he faces the pressing question of how long this approach can work. Mr. Trump has spent weeks trying to go and Mr. DeSantis into a fight with rude nicknames like Ron DeSanctimonious."

Our great reporters are back with us. That story also notes now he's calling it meatball as well. Apparently, it is interesting. Trump has posted a couple things about Nikki Haley saying she promised not to run if he was running. She's disloyal. But he seems much more concerned about Ron DeSantis.

And if you look at the polling, this is cited at 5:38 in The New York Times today as well. Ron DeSantis in the 30s ranks pretty good historically, if you look at candidates, you're early in the race, especially a guy who's never run before.

KEITH: Yes. And if you talk to voters and you say, who do you want to be the Republican nominee? They often say Ron DeSantis. If they express discomfort with Trump, you say, OK, then who you're looking at? Ron DeSantis. The name rolls off of voters' tongues at this point.

I will say that it is an interesting challenge. Hillary Clinton, when she ran against Trump, often responded to his daily slights and controversies. And in some ways, it was the only way that she could get any headlines at all was to respond to him. And her policy message got completely lost.

Joe Biden took a different tack. He really did not engage Trump in the day-to-day insults. He just didn't go there. And, you know, the coronavirus pandemic sort of helped with that enabling him to ignore Trump, but he did. And that obviously worked out better for him. But a primary is a different beast than a general election. And you've got to figure Ron DeSantis is looking at all, you know, of the wasteland of candidates from 2015 to 2016.

KING: And so this is from -- I posed the question at this table I noticed as well as is Ron DeSantis. The next Donald Trump or is he the next Scott Walker. If you roll back the tape to 2014, Scott Walker was very popular getting a ton of attention on Fox News, came out ran for president and it was not successful.

The polling graph we showed you, DeSantis has very high numbers for this early in a campaign, goes back to, you know, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Ted Kennedy, very well-known names there. So that's a good number for him, which is why Nate Cohn smartly writes to the New York Times say, "What sets Mr. DeSantis apart from Mr. Walker? To be blunt, how many people already say they want it to be president? Overall, DeSantis has 32 percent support. Mr. Walker, in contrast, was in single digits, had 7 percent."

So there is a difference in the numbers. The numbers can still be very different from standing on a debate stage where forgive me but Trump, you know, little Marco, lying Ted, low energy Jeb. He's the human chainsaw.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, and right now there doesn't appear to be that much daylight between Trump and DeSantis. I mean, policy wise, they lean very to the right DeSantis, sometimes more to the right than Trump. But one area, we were just talking about Social Security and Medicare.

One area that Trump hit a lot of his Republican challengers on in 2016 was Social Security and Medicare saying I'm not going to touch this at all, which was a departure from the GOP, you know, policy points at the time. And that's something that he's probably going to hit DeSantis on, again, as well as Haley, as well as a lot of these other Republican potential challengers, because they all have a history of voting for cuts or changes to Medicare and Social Security.

KING: And so the governors were in town this past weekend, Republicans and Democrats. Spencer Cox is the new Republican governor of Utah. It's clear he doesn't want Trump. The question is who should it be? He likes governors.



GOV. SPENCER COX (R), UTAH: Sununu, DeSantis, break record.


COX: Asa is a good friend. All of those guys --


COX: Former governor, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would love a governor over anybody that serves in that building across the street in the Capitol.

COX: Every day of the week.


KING: It used to be, you know, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, it used to be, we got governors, right? But then we had Barack Obama, who was -- Senator Barack Obama, Senator Joe Biden and former vice president to Donald Trump businessman. A lot of Republicans who don't want Trump are counting on one of the as governors to get traction


MCKEND: Right. There's a lot of built in benefits from being a governor, right, in a way just by being governor that is campaigning in itself. You're able to hold daily press conferences about what you're working on. And so I understand why Spencer Cox's is making that recommendation or wants to see a governor assent to be Republican nominee.

But this is also why Governor DeSantis doesn't really have to, I think, engage in this way with Trump right now. He is the governor. He can afford to have this strategy of conflict avoidance as much as possible because right now he doesn't have to sort of get in the mud with Trump. Based on the position he holds.

KING: It's served him incredibly well, so far. The question is, is it last?

KEITH: Well, and he's been able to get in the mud with Mickey Mouse and, you know, one culture war after another after another after another, making headlines and raising those numbers of voters who recognize him.

MCKEND: And I don't think those serve him well in a general election if he does clear the Republican primary, but it certainly works with the base voters.

KING: At the moment, the question will be, when do we get four or five Republicans around the table like this who are standing on the stage and that will get interesting.

Up next, we will soon know more about that Georgia grand jury investigation into Donald Trump's efforts to overturn that state's 2020 election results. We just learned part of that report about to be made public.



KING: Today, a court order setting the stage in Georgia. Circle Thursday on your calendar. That's when a judge will make public parts of a report from that special grand jury that investigated Donald Trump's actions in Georgia after the 2020 election.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz is here with more details. Katelyn, what are we going to see?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, John, the special grand jury's recommendations on who should be charged and why they should be charged for activity that happened after the election in 2020 in Georgia, that is not going to be released just yet. It is in that special grand jury report.

But what we're going to see on Thursday, under this judge's order now is three different things. The introduction, the conclusion of the special grand jury report, and some allegations of possible perjury. The Judge Robert McBurney writes, he writes that, "This report explains concern that some witnesses may have lied under oath during their testimony to the grand jury. Because the grand jury does not identify those witnesses, that conclusion may be publicly disclosed at this time."

So we will see a little bit more in that area. But because this criminal investigation in Fulton County, Georgia continues, John, there's not going to be names named at this time and what we see that is something that could come at a later date.

KING: Sure, sounds like our curiosity will be picked to say the least. Katelyn Polantz, appreciate that. We'll get the latest on Thursday, obviously. Thank you, Katelyn.

Against all odds, get this, people are still being pulled out alive from the rubble of Turkey and Syria's devastating earthquake. That disaster more than a week ago. You can see the widespread devastation. A 13-year-old boy pulled from the rubble after, get this, 182 hours trapped beneath. That in Hatay, one of the city's most severely impacted by the earthquake.

That's the same city where a 25-year-old woman incredibly was rescued after 178 hours. Scenes like this do give moments of hope, but the overall death toll continues to climb right now topping 36,000. CNN's Sara Sidner on the ground for us in Turkey.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, I'm in Adiyaman and we're standing on a bridge, we're elevated. This bridge is perfectly fine. It's steeled, has no problems, but the buildings do. And in so many parts of this city, there are collapsed buildings, they are pancaked and people are furious over the fact that some of these buildings ended up like this and their family members inside.

You are also seeing dozens of families sitting outside in the frigid cold, waiting for any sign of life from their family members, or at this point eight days on even the bodies of their loved ones. They just want to be able to see them again and give them a proper burial.

Now these buildings, you will see some of them are standing and some of them are pancaked. And there is now an investigation into more than 100 people by the Turkish government for poor building practices. People are very upset even here talking about that there was one what they call a bad building that crumbled and crushed the building next to it.

That's actually two buildings. But in many parts of this country, it's indiscernible, you can't tell that there are so many buildings there because they have collapsed in such a way that some of them have simply turned to dust.

There are now more than 35,000 people who have died in the worst earthquake to hit Turkey in about 100 years. John?

KING: Pictures of devastating. The stories even more heartwarming. Our thanks to Sara Sidner there. When we come back, you don't want to miss this. How former President Trump used to folder more classified inside his Mar-a-Lago home?



KING: Topping our political radar today, the start of a new Russian offensive in Ukraine. NATO's chief warns Russia now deploying thousands more troops to the front lines. It comes as Ukrainian officials report a higher tempo of Russian attack, but they fear as a precursor to a dramatic new Russian assault.

A lawyer for Donald Trump says all searches for classified materials that the former president's properties have been completed. And those findings, the attorney says, turned over to the Justice Department. In this latest batch, an empty folder marked classified evening summary. But listen to Trump's lawyer describe how that folder was being used.


TIMOTHY PARLATORE, ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: It was in the President's bedroom. He has one of those landline telephones next to his bed and has a blue light on it and it keeps him up at night. So he took them in a folder and put it over it so that it would keep the light down so he could sleep at night.


KING: Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. The White House briefing expected to begin any moment. We're waiting for more details on those objects shot down over North America this weekend.

Kasie Hunt picks up our coverage right now.