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Inside Politics

Biden's First Veto Blocks Socially Conscious Investing Ban; Manchin Slams Biden On Veto, Says W. H. Prioritizes "Radical Policy"; Manhattan District Attorney Weighs Historic Indictment; Trump, GOP Allies Target Manhattan DA Over Hush Money Probe; Today: L. A. School Workers Union Begins 3-Day Strike; Biden To Designate Two New National Monuments. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 21, 2023 - 12:30   ET



NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If you look at some of the polling on it, most people seem to think it means being aware of social injustice. And so I think average Americans think it's probably a good idea to be aware of social injustice.

And so, you know, I think this is going to be a big part of 2024 discourse, the Republican primary. I don't think it necessarily translates into a general election. And I also think it's very hard to paint Joe Biden, who's 81, who's an older white man, as captive of wokism.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And it's interesting in the sense that so Biden does this veto yesterday, and the Republicans say he's siding with his woke friends against these investment roles. But at the same time, he signed legislation that would declassify information about the origins of COVID and he sided with Republicans in nullifying, essentially the city of Washington, D.C.'s crime bill.

So he was woke for an hour during the day, and then he was something else during the other hours of the day. To Nia's point --


KING: -- he makes it hard to label him.

MATTINGLY: Look, I think this is a very underappreciated element of his presidency, but also his candidacy in 2020 is that he's very, very difficult to pillory or pin down in kind of the traditional caricatures that the opposite party would like to tag him with their most effective things to rally their base or animate their activist side of things.

The President isn't that person. There are plenty of reasons to attack him on policy ground. Whatever your issues are ideologically, he is not on the far left of the party. And I think what's also interesting is, you know, there's been a bunch of stories written over the course of the last 10 to 15 days about how he's pivoting to the center or he's sharply moving and kind of doing a triangulation type thing. He's really not. His views on D.C. crime bill and his decision to veto that very much tracks with where he's been on this issue. I was not at all -- I was more surprised that the White House took so long to acknowledge the fact that once this got to his desk, he was going to look at it and say, absolutely not. No chance in heck.

On climate issues, he is more to the left perhaps, than people would expect. The ESG rule, which is something Wall Street has used for a number of decades now in terms of risk assessments and analysis, was something he would never veto. That's -- he would never sign off on. That was obviously something that tracks with his agenda.

And so I think the idea that he's very difficult to put into a box and utilize as a caricature from a political standpoint is part of the reason why he's been both elected president and also why he had an effective first two years.

KING: And it's also one of the reasons where he gets the idea that there are certain people out there who are going to have to whack him from time to time in his own party. Jon Tester voted for these rules. Joe Manchin voted with Republicans on these rules. Joe Manchin after the president's veto, says, "The administration continues to prioritize their radical policy agenda over the economic, energy and national security needs of our country, and it is absolutely infuriating."

The ESG rule will weaken our energy, national and economic security while jeopardizing hard earned retirement savings of 150 million West Virginians and Americans. Manchin's point is that if you the E, the environmental part of ESG is investment managers can say, do we want to invest in this company because they're big on fossil fuels?

Are they on the cutting edge of climate change? Are they 10 or 15 years from now? Are they a viable business? Manchin's protecting coal, fossil fuels, West Virginia.

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes, absolutely. And what House Republicans are actually doing and Senate Republicans by pursuing these, I mean they think they're kind of catching Democrats and got you votes. But really if you look at them ESG, the D.C. crime bill, there's probably another one coming up on water infrastructure.

It's -- they're allowing Senate Democrats in very vulnerable states and races to distinguish themselves from their own party and say, I'm bipartisan, I don't agree with the Democratic's liberal policies, vote for me again in a way that they otherwise wouldn't be able to. They're really doing them a favor right now.

MATTINGLY: Can I also say too, what happened with the D.C. crime bill when the president -- the president's ability to give Senate Democrats cover on that. He came, made the announcement that he was going to let it through, to not veto it during the closed door lunch. And within probably about two or three hours, seven, eight, nine Democrats came out and said, yes, no, we're totally with that.

Infuriated House Democrats -- CAYGLE: Yes.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: -- very much, and you guys have done great reporting on this --

KING: Yes.

MATTINGLY: -- very much felt hung out to dry on this, I think with good reason to some degree. But his ability to come in kind of for the role we were discussing and say, you know what? No, I'm going to let that one go. I think that that needs to pass, gives those lawmakers that Heather's talking about a lot of covers sometimes.

KING: We'll watch this out in place as well March 2023, but a lot of maneuvering, shall we say, about next year. When we come back, Donald Trump and his Republican allies take aim at the Manhattan district attorney. So who is Alvin Bragg? We'll take a closer look next.



KING: Let me show you these pictures. This is just moments ago. Pictures from Palm Beach, Florida, not far from Donald Trump's Mar-a- Lago. You see a wall of Trump flags and American flags. Supporters of the former president out there in public. A show of demonstration as we wait, of course, as we wait for the week.

Donald Trump predicted he would be arrested, indicted today. That has not happened as of now. But let's take a look at the case and the prosecutor involved in this potential charges against Donald Trump. Remember that the issue here is not new. It was in October 2016, right, before the presidential election.

The Trump attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, wired $130,000 to Stormy Daniels or Stephanie Clifford. This is her screen name, adult actress. Donald Trump elected president. The Manhattan District Attorney at the time started looking into this. This was Cyrus Vance subpoenaing the Trump Organization.

In 2021, Cy Vance said he would not run for reelection. And Alvin Bragg was elected as the new Manhattan district attorney. Remember one year ago, we were having a conversation because some prosecutors in that office resigned. Resigned because they were unhappy with Bragg in his early days, believing he was not being aggressive enough, not prepared to move forward with an indictment of Trump.


So where are we now one year later? Well, Alvin Bragg, using a grand jury -- Alvin Bragg -- to look at this even more closely. He's the DA now. He worked in state and federal prosecuting jobs before that. He was also a private attorney representing, among other clients, Eric Garner's family in that big civil suit against New York City. He's a graduate of Harvard Law. He is 49 year years old. He has had success both in his current job and in his state job, working for the state attorney general in previous investigations of Trump and the Trump Organization. A big charity fine, fine here for misusing a charitable foundation.

This is when he was with the state attorney general's office. The Manhattan District Attorney more recently in 2022, Trump Organization guilty on all counts in a New York criminal tax fraud case. So he does have a history of looking at Trump and his finances.

The question now is, will he try to bring a case? And we know among the issues, did the Trump Organization falsify its business records to cover up essentially the hush money paid to Stormy Daniels? And was that part of a campaign finance violation? Can you have a crime to support another crime? That is what would elevate this case.

Just last month, CNN's Brynn Gingras pressed the prosecutor. Do you have a timeline here?


ALVIN BRAGG, MANHATTAN DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The last thing I want to do is run afoul of any rules or in any way negatively impact our investigation. Our investigation, you know, is, you know, important work to be safeguarded. And, you know, I understand the significant public interest in it, but there are sober bedrock principles that prevent me from talking. And they're in place for good reason to protect the sanctity and integrity of our investigation.


KING: That's the prosecutor. There are great reporters back at the table saying he has to be careful in what he says. Someone who has no such limitation placed on him is the former president who has been pumping out fundraising emails about this in the -- throughout the weekend and throughout early part of the week.

Racist Soros funded prosecutor. George Soros globalist cabal of thugs. George Soros bought and paid for prosecutor. Soros funded prosecutor. George Soros did give some money to an organization that gave some money to Bragg's campaign.

But again, it's like woke, it's pulling the levers of Trump's base when the prosecutor, some would say he's talked too much about this, but especially at this moment has to be very careful.

HENDERSON: No, I think that's right. And you obviously see Trump, they are sort of stirring up the base and in some ways using, I think, what some would call anti-Semitic tropes when he mentions Soros in that way and you saw other people do the same thing.

Listen, I think if you talk to most people about all of the cases and scrutiny that Donald Trump is facing, they probably would be surprised that this case has gone as far as it has gone and that he could be indicted over this case. And some people say maybe it's a weaker case, given the other things he's facing.

But here we are, and we'll see what happens. We'll see if there actually is an indictment. We don't know yet if there is an arrest. We just don't know how this would progress. But Alvin Bragg has been somebody very much in the spotlight, controversial at times because of the way he ran and some of the policies he's wanted to enact around reforming bail and lessening some penalties for some crimes.

But here he is in the spotlight, and we'll see what he's going to do. We do know that he's going to remain a target of Donald Trump and his supporters, and we hope, you know, for safety for him and everybody involved in this.

KING: And his supporters is a key point. The Speaker of the House this is just today, he's at a House retreat in Orlando saying that, you know, Donald Trump is being unfairly politically prosecuted.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The tough part is with a local DA playing in presidential politics. If that starts right there, don't you think it'll happen across the country?


KING: Now, Republicans who say the Democrats or the deep state weaponizes the government using their power, essentially, to try to put their thumb on the scale in this investigation. Senator Rand Paul goes as far as saying this. "A Trump indictment would be a disgusting abuse of power. The DA should be put in jail."

CAYGLE: Yes, I mean, I'll be honest, we've seen some pretty remarkable statements and actions from Republicans just in the past few days. We saw three top committee chairmen in the House, you know, call for Alvin Bragg to testify and turn over documents. We haven't even seen an indictment yet, you know?

So for them to accuse Democrats of interfering in things they too are trying to interfere in a criminal investigation, you could argue. And it's interesting, we've seen the same line from all of them. They've been remarkably united as Trump's defenders, as the former attorneys, and things. They're saying, this is what normally would be a misdemeanor. This was seven years ago.

Why are they going after him on this? Things like that. But we'll just have to see. As Nia-Malika said, there are three other more serious, one could argue, investigations into Trump. Is this the line that they're going to keep and the defense that they'll keep if those get more serious?

KING: It is a key point, people -- well, this is -- these six, seven years old, you go back even older than that, you go back to 2016, this payment. Trump tried to steal an election. Trump tried to steal a country, essentially, that's pretty publicly known. Are there criminal charges there?


Those are the investigations people think are more worthy, if you will. And yet, the Wall Street Journal editorial board, Phil, essentially reminding Democrats of the history here, and this is about Alvin Bragg. "He would subject the country to a trial that would be a media circus for the ages. Democrats have used legal investigations and impeachment against Mr. Trump for six years, each time, it has failed to knock him out."

That is, Democrats do sometimes privately worry that if this case is brought and you cannot prove the novel legal theory, essentially that the records were falsified and then you had a campaign finance violation, that does it play into Trump's hands that I'm being persecuted.

MATTINGLY: I don't think sometimes. I think -- I would almost go as far as, say, the majority of Democrats that I talk to now here in Washington. Look, they're not involved. They're not in New York, they're not involved in the case. And I think that's really important here.

These people aren't involved in the case. They don't know what the indictment should it come --

KING: Democrats or Republicans. Right.

MATTINGLY: Democrats or Republicans. And please, everybody, keep that in mind as you frame things going forward. But I think there's just a lot of concern and part of that's PTSD of everything the Journal just laid out there, that he consistently not only bounces back, but seems to oftentimes come back stronger.

But I would also note that particularly in the second impeachment after January 6, it was Republicans saying, let's just move on. It's over. He's about to go away.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: And how did that work out for them? The vast majority of them agreed with the reason for impeachment and yet voted against impeachment. So I just think keep all of those dynamics in mind. And also, we don't know what's going to happen.

KING: Right.

MATTINGLY: We just don't know. And I think that's important. And that's not being uninformed. That's being humbly aware of the last eight years of constantly being wrong about everything.

KING: Right. And it's a key point in that many of the Republicans who are beating up on the prosecutor now, saying, this is a witch hunt against Donald Trump. Would then privately whisper to you, they wish he would go away --


KING: -- so they would stop --


KING: -- having to talk about this. So we don't know a lot, but we will find out in the days ahead.

Happening now, a strike in America's second largest school district. Thousands of workers walking off the job demanding higher pay, and they say, more respect.



KING: More than half a million students out of school today as thousands of workers in the nation's second largest school district are on strike. This was the scene in Los Angeles. Union members hit the picket line after negotiations on a new contract failed. The union demanding higher pay, better treatment and more staffing.

CNN's Nick Watt live for Los Angeles. This plays out for us, Nick. Tell us what you're seeing.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are on the move right now with the picketers. They are -- they've had picket lines this morning for about the last five hours, starting in the dark, in the cold, in the wet. They are protesting right now.

Outside a school complex, normally has about 4,000 kids in it. Today, of course, there are none. Now, I've just checked in with both sides, the district and the union. No updates on negotiations from either of them. But the school district says that their board is meeting right now.

As you mentioned, the union wants more money. Basically, they say that the average pay of their members in this district is about $25,000 a year. That is below the poverty line here in Los Angeles. So they want more money. They also want more staff, they want better conditions.

They have been negotiating for nearly a year now and they haven't got close. There's still a separation on pay and a couple of other issues. So there were supposed to be last ditch talks last night, those never even happened because of an argument over. The union says the talk should have been secret and they are annoyed with the school district for leaking that information to local media.

So we hope that there will be some kind of resolution. But for now, three days, half a million kids not in school. John?

KING: Nick Watt, the kids in the middle of this as the negotiations hopefully will resume. Nick, appreciate the Yeoman's work, especially in the tough climate conditions out there. Appreciate it very much.

Still ahead for us, the White House about to get, yes, little dose of rock and roll. The boss visiting the White House.



KING: Topping our political radar today, President Biden taking steps to protect more than a half million acres in the southwestern United States from development. He's designated two new national monuments. One near El Paso, where the writer Jack Kerouac said he had, quote, the most beautiful sleep of my life. The other in southern Nevada.

That one, the Avi Kwa Ame Monument, would be the largest monument Biden has designated so far in his presidency and the second monument created to protect Native American history. Michael Scott would think this is pretty boss. The rock and roll legend Bruce Springsteen do at the White House today alongside The Office star Mindy Kaling. Both and tons of others among artists set to receive National Medals of Arts from the President.

Other honorees include another famous Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the world renowned fashion designer, Vera Wang and the Empress of Soul, Gladys Knight. The White House briefing room getting a bit of British flair yesterday. A soccer or as the rest of the world calls it, football, took center stage.


JASON SUDEIKIS, ACTOR, "TED LASSO": Take this opportunity to take at least one question. Yes, sir. Familiar face. Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trent Crimm. Fake journalist, I'm sorry.

SUDEIKIS: Yes, Trent, nice to see you.


KING: That's "Ted Lasso," also known of course, as the actor Jason Sudeikis, the cast of the hit comedy having a little fun in the White House Briefing Room. The reporter asking the question, Trent Crimm is known for hitting Ted Lasso with hard hitting questions in the show.

The cast at the White House for an important meetings -- to meet with the President and the First Lady to talk about a very serious topic, mental health.


SUDEIKIS: If you can ask for that help from a professional, fantastic. If it needs to be a loved one, equally as good in a lot of ways because it's sometimes you just need to let that pressure valve release.


KING: Tonight on CNN, this programming note CNN primetime. Days after the former president said he would be arrested. CNN's Pamela Brown taking a close look at Donald Trump's legal woes, from election interference to mishandling classified documents to the hush money payments. What happens next?

"Inside the Trump Investigation" airs tonight live, 09:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. Thanks for your time today in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now.