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Now: Supreme Court Deadline In Critical Abortion Pill Case; White Man Charged With Shooting Unarmed Black Teen Who Went To Wrong Address In Kansas City; 84-Year-Old Charged With Shooting Teen Still Not In Custody; Today: $1.6B Dominion-Fox News Defamation Trial Begins; McCarthy Pleads For House GOP To Back Debt Ceiling Plan; Key House GOP Hold Out On McCarthy's Debt Ceiling Plan; McCarthy Won't Say If He'll Support Santos' Reelection Bid. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired April 18, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS. I'm John King in Washington. Very busy day in the news. Thank you for your time. Right now, a Supreme Court deadline in a critical medication abortion case. A decision on whether to take a pregnancy ending drug off the shelves, but now happen at any moment.

And this hour, an overwhelming show of solidarity for a black teen shot for ringing the wrong doorbell. The man who pulled the trigger twice is still not under arrest. Attorneys Ralph Yarl's family say, that's an outrage and that the reason is black and white.

And the Florida governor versus the House of Mouse (ph) bill. Ron DeSantis threatens retaliation against Disney with rival amusement parks. Even he says maybe a state prison to crowd Cinderella's castle, others eyeing the 2024 Republican nomination, say Governor DeSantis is doing harm. The GOP is less government free markets brand.


GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU, (R-NH): This has gone from kind of going after a headline to something that is devolved into an issue, and it convoluted the entire Republican message. I just don't think it's not good for Governor DeSantis. I don't think it's good for the Republican Party. This does not help the team and I just want the team to be able to win.

When he took on Disney, there was a symbolic motion to that. But now this is kind of going a tit for tat right because it's not going as he had planned. And so, my message is, let's focus on -- if you want to be the president, let's focus on issues that affect this country.


KING: Back to that a bit later. But up first, it is trouble one here on the East Coast meaning, we are one minute past that all important deadline for the Biden Justice Department, an abortion pill drugmaker, an anti-abortion doctors to turn in their homework to the Supreme Court. Today's deadline is in a critical case about abortion access, specifically whether the drug mifepristone can still be prescribed. If so, up to what week of a pregnancy and whether it can be ordered through the mail.

Let's get straight to CNN's Joan Biskupic. She is here. Joan, what do we know about this?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: 12:01 I can tell you where the filings are, and I can tell you where your justices are. OK. Both sides have now submitted their filings. Biden administration did it last Friday, the challengers have just come in. Biden administration is pleading with the Supreme Court to extend its postponement of lower court rulings in this case, saying it is causing FDA chaos.

The challenges are saying it's the FDA's approval of this abortion medication that was problematic. Allow these judge's orders from the lower courts to go into effect and block women's access to the drugs. The justices, meanwhile, are still on the bench right now. John, I just came from the court. They're still hearing oral arguments. They're going to leave the bench in about an hour and a half or so.

They'll look at these filings and they'll probably look at some other filings that will come out in from the Biden administration and the drug manufacturer Danco that will tell them again, they're pleading with a longer postponement. Then what we'll hear from is the justices either late today or tomorrow. I would think John, just realistically, likely tomorrow, they've had such a compressed schedule to think about this. I think they're going to -- they can't give it serious consideration at this point.

I think we're looking at them to lengthen the postponement to either have the Fifth Circuit, which now has the case to consider the merits of these arguments, or for them to schedule it themselves to take it up, or frankly, to outright deny the Biden administration and say, these lower court orders that would mean ultimately the FDA approval of the drug stays into effect, but women's access to it is seriously diminished. And we will know that probably in about 24 hours, John.

KING: Probably at about 24 hours during the business hours tomorrow, but it's at 11:59.

BISKUPIC: Yes, they've given themselves a deadline -- and let's hope that they don't just like your students doing homework that you refer to take until midnight tomorrow night.

KING: I suspect you'll be right here tomorrow as we walk through this maybe get worked in the court. Joan, appreciate the hustle back from the court. Now to anger in Kansas City, and another huge story today. Just moments ago, look at this. Students at Staley High School leading a walkout. Their classmate Ralph Yarl is at the center of a case that is both tragic and troubling.

Today, two felony charges filed against an 84-year-old man who shot Yarl, and who is still not in police custody. The 16-year-old who went to the wrong address was shot twice. And prosecutors say, they have no doubt there is a quote racial component to this. Yarl who was black was trying to pick up his siblings from northeast 115th Terrace.

But he made a mistake, ringing the doorbell at Northeast 115th Street. That's the home of 84-year-old Andrew Lester. Lester who is white unloaded two bullets into Yarl through a locked glass door. The man later told police he felt scared. Lester now faces charges that could keep him in prison for the rest of his life. This morning, Yarl's aunt says the shooting will scar her nephew forever.



FAITH SPOONEMORE, RALPH YARL'S AUNT: There's a major part of route that died on Thursday. What wrong went through? Like, he lost a part of himself that day.


KING: CNN's Lucy Kafanov live for us on the ground in Kansas City. Lucy, what's the latest?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the family of that young boy is demanding answers. The community here is demanding justice at the high school where Ralph Yarl -- 16-year-old Ralph Yarl is a student, hundreds of his classmates walked out and what they have been describing as a peaceful unity march. Classmates described him as a sweet kind boy, loved by teachers and classmates alike. He was described as very smart but humble. He never bragged about it.

The focus now is when this 84-year-old suspected shooter is going to turn himself into police custody. Lester is facing two charges. One is criminal action, armed criminal action which could get them three to 15 years behind bars. The more serious charge which is first degree felony assault that could see him as you point out spent the rest of his life in prison.

Now this incident unfolded on the front porch of that home behind me. According to court documents, Lester told police that he had just laid down on his bed the night of April 14 when he heard the bell ring. He said that he grabbed a 32-caliber revolver. He went to the front door, opened one of the doors to check to see who it was. He described seeing a stranger who was approximately six feet tall, pulling on the storm door.

Now Lester told police that he thought this was -- thought this was somebody trying to break into his home that he was quote, scared, scared to death of Yarl's size and so he shot twice through this door. Lester told police that no words were exchanged, but Yarl told police in an interview at the hospital that the man said quote, don't come around here.

Yarl is recovering at home. He is miraculously alive despite being shot in the head and in the arm. His family says though this road to recovery -- to recovery is going to be incredibly long, not just the physical injuries but the trauma from being shot at for ringing the door trying to pick up his siblings. John? KING: Lucy Kafanov on the ground for us in Kansas City. Appreciate the live update, important update, and those pictures from that school protests are quite moving and overwhelming. Let's get some important legal insights. Now the former federal prosecutor Elliot Williams is with us, and the retired LAPD police Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey. She's also the author of Black and Blue: The Creation Of A Social Advocate.

Let me start with you, Sergeant Dorsey. You just heard Lucy laying this out. I'm going to read you this is from the probable cause statement released by the detectives yesterday. Lester stated, it was the last thing he wanted to do, but he was scared to death due to the male size and Lester's age and inability to defend himself. That is the statement given by the shooter, Mr. Lester. Listen to the aunt of this teenager saying, doesn't make any sense. Listen?


SPOONEMORE: I doubt Ralph is even 170 pounds. Ralph is not even six feet. Like, Ralph, when you see Ralph, in all of the pictures that you have seen on social media and everywhere else. I don't see how you see fear. I don't know how you can see fear when you look at that kid.


KING: The charges, Sergeant Dorsey, tell us what the prosecutors think. But there is a stand-your-ground law, and you would assume the defense would say that Mr. Lester felt threatened. How do you see this as someone who's investigated such things?

CHERYL DORSEY, RETIRED LAPD POLICE SERGEANT: Well, listen, by the police chief's own admission there is a racial component. We know that to be true. There was a young black child in a predominantly white neighborhood according to reports, who had a probably in Mr. Lester's mind, no business being in that community. And he had the temerity to come to his door and ring his doorbell.

And so, we know that this suspect looked out and saw this black child became fearful of his black skin and decided the only thing that made sense for him to do was shoot him. He was so fearful of this black child that he opened the door to shoot him a second time, all unreasonable, all nonsensical and it stinks to high heaven.

And why is this man not in custody. He's a menace to society. There could be another black child right now walking in that neighborhood who he might see fear and shoot. If he'd looked like me, he'd be in custody. I promise you.

KING: Elliot Williams, Sergeant Dorsey makes a point in the sense that why he was questioned, then released. There was a discrepancy at first about how long he was kept in. But you have the charges filed. Why at least not a court appearance whether you -- whether you arranged for bail and whether you think he's not a flight risk. That's one question. But why is -- why does the community not get the satisfaction to see that the process is playing out?

[12:10:00] ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's perplexing John, and it's probably a quirk in Missouri law that allows defendants to be out. Now I know that there's a 24-hour period while they're conducting an investigation after an initial meeting with an individual where they allow the person to be released, it is a little bit perplexing that they haven't brought him in. I would assume they would schedule something very quickly and get him to answer to the charges.

KING: And Sergeant Dorsey back to you on a potential factual dispute here. And the probable cause statement says, Lester, the man who owns the home and fires the gun, stated no words were exchanged during the incident. And the male had not said anything prior to pulling the door handle versus the teenager advised he did not pull on the door. And this was the first time coming to the residence.

I understand your perspective on this. You made that quite clear. But from a police perspective, fingerprint tests of the door handle, is that enough to resolve this factual dispute? What would you do?

DORSEY: Well, that's certainly something that can be done, and it may very well occur. But of course, now that this suspect has fired shots and an injured gravely, a young man, he's got to come up with a story to justify this unreasonable use of deadly force. And so, if he was as fearful as he says he was, he certainly had options. I understand this as a stand-your-ground state, he's inside. His door is closed, he's secure.

KING: So, walk us through the law Elliot, in the state of Missouri, states have these laws, they're different depending on the state. Sergeant Dorsey makes a critical point. First shot was fired through a glass-doors, the door was locked. Mr. Lester then opens the door and fires a second shot. That does not sound like standing your ground. But what does the law say?

WILLIAMS: Look, stand-your-ground laws are often very comprehensive and provide protections for people who have firearms and use them. Here he would -- he would need to establish that he reasonably believed that the use or imminent use of violent force was coming his way.

Now, a couple of the facts even of the ones that aren't in dispute that number one, he's standing outside. Ralph Yarl was outside the door. Number two, the shot comes through the door. Number three, it's not till the doors open. And Yarl was on the ground that Lester fires the second shot.

You just -- it's a stretch to say that he was in fear of the imminent use of force at that moment. But even setting aside the fact that Missouri does have this protection for gun users or gun owners. It simply isn't the case here.

KING: The facts seem well beyond the lines. Elliot Williams, Sergeant Dorsey, appreciate your insights. Today, we'll of course stay on top of this investigation. And again, those pictures young people across the country are the answers to these questions about gun violence. Those demonstrations were something else. In a moment, we're going to go live to the courthouse in Wilmington Delaware, where a historic defamation trial is about to begin. We're live on the ground as Fox stairs down a billion-dollar case, $1.6 billion. Plus, Kevin McCarthy makes a plea to his fellow Republicans, but many emerge unhappy with the House speaker's debt ceiling strategy.




KING: Happening now in the Fox News trial, a fight over opening statements before they've even started. Dominion voting systems has accused Fox News of spreading lies and conspiracy theories about its voting machines that of course, after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election.

The court as this trial goes on could hear testimony from the network's highest-ranking executives, including possibly Rupert Murdoch, and from prominent hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. CNN's Danny Freeman outside of the courthouse in Wilmington, Delaware. Danny, what's the latest?

DANNY FREEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, John. Well, the latest right now is that court is in recess for lunch. But a few things have happened since this morning since court opened up this -- at this time. So first, is that at 11am, the judge was able to swear in finally the 12 jurors who will be deciding this case and deciding if Fox News did indeed defame Dominion voting system. Of those 12 jurors, six men, six women and according to our reporter, Marshall Cohen who is been inside the courtroom. Nine of those 12 people appear to be people of color.

Now, I want to get to those opening statements. You said earlier this morning, there was a bit of a conflict, both sides, they had objections to some of the slides that were going to be presented opening statements by the opposing sides. Well, I'm told that those concerns and those objections have been taken care of, they were taken care of right before the recess, which just happened.

So now, all signs are clear to head into opening statements this afternoon. So, what's going to happen now is that the jury is gone. The court has recessed for the moment, everyone is going to come back at 1:30. And then we're going to start this trial in earnest and hear these arguments by each of these sides.

Again, at question $1.6 billion. That's what Dominion is hoping to claim in damages from their defamation claim against Fox News. Fox News says that number is inflated. Fox News says that they did not have any actual malice when reporting on parts of the 2020 election. But that's all going to be left up to these 12 jurors who were selected earlier this morning.

And John, this trial, basically, can last up to six weeks. So, the judge said to the jurors, try not to research anything, try not to talk about this, but get cozy because you're going to be here for a while.

KING: They're going to be there for a while, hearing a fascinating case, a giant test of our business, democracy, truth and more. Danny Freeman, live outside the courtroom. Appreciate it very much. Moving on to a big story here in Washington. Right now, Kevin McCarthy is talking to Republican unity. Well, it met cold reality today. Members from all corners of his narrow Republican majority are not happy with the speaker's plan for the coming debt ceiling showdown with President Biden.

Now negotiations will continue. Kevin McCarthy allies believe ultimately, an agreement will be reached, but the speaker wanted a quick consensus to strengthen his hand in negotiations with the White House. He did not emphasis on not get it this morning.


REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): I still have more questions and answers. At this point, I won't be supporting anything unless I have all of the information well in advance to make that -- to be able to make that decision.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): As there are a number of really critical details that we've still got to work out before making a final decision, not to vote.

REP. Tim Burchett (R-TN): I'm open to it, but I'm still -- I got to tell them I'm still a 'no' vote.


KING: With me to share their reporting and their insights, CNS's Jeff Zeleny, Heather Caygle of Punchbowl News, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs at a New York Times. Heather, the speaker was talking confidently yesterday, saying it's important that we prove we're unified, so I can negotiate with the president. Problem?

HEATHER CAYGLE, MANAGING EDITOR, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yep, no. This is what happens when you have a five-vote majority, right? And you already have more than five people saying, I'm not going to vote for this until I see more. That home away from home, you just showed the house basement of mine.

What we learned today was this, this package, whatever it's going to be, it's probably going to have to go even more right. There's even talk of trying to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act in this. You kind of get into some wonky there because that would actually raise the cost of things.

So, what we hope to see in the next few days is them put out something they hope to vote next week because the House is on recess the week after that. But it's definitely very unclear right now whether he can get to 218 and what happens.

KING: And this is a reminder of how hard it was for him to become speaker and give him credit, give him his due for surviving that vote. But every big issue, he's a hostage, essentially, because you can only afford to lose three or four votes.

This is Kevin Hern, who's the Chairman of the GOP Study Committee, which is a very conservative group of lawmakers, who says if the speaker knew this was coming, everybody knew this moment was coming for him to walk in today and not have a better plan as well, a failure of leadership.


REP. KEVIN HERN (R-OK): It's about leadership. And if we can't lead, then we have a problem. You have to remember we've been talking about this for 89 days. I mean, in the business world, you'd no longer be leading your company, if it took you 89 days to talk about the obvious.


KING: I mean, that last part right there, it just remind you that at any moment, it just takes one and you just need a few friends to bring a vote to the floor to challenge McCarthy's leadership. So, to Heather's point going to have to move more right, even though you have a Democratic Senate, Democratic president who won't accept what they want to do.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: For sure. And we should remind people that is a comment from a conservative Republican there, but no one who's even on the farthest right of the spectrum here. So, look, we should point out every time we talk about this. The debt ceiling is not about current spending. It is about the bills that are coming due from previous administration.

So, it's actually more than 89 days. It's a lot more than 89 days this has been building. But this is without a doubt the biggest test of the McCarthy speakership era. And we don't know how the movie will end. We certainly don't know how they will get to the end, but you're right, the House isn't the only player in this. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also watching this very carefully before allowing House Republicans to take care of the negotiations if there are any here.

But again, Wallstreet, what I've been most surprised by and all this, we've seen many of these in every administration really, Wallstreet really thinks Washington will come to some kind of a deal and agreement and they're not blinking yet. We'll see if that can continues to stay, because if it doesn't, that could push some movement on both sides.

KING: Right. McCarthy was up there yesterday trying to make that point, trust me, I'll figure this out. The question is, can he? And from the White House perspective, the president -- McCarthy says the president should negotiate now. The president says, put your plan in writing. You have my budget. I think these should be separate issues. I'm happy to talk spending cuts with you. But only after we raised the debt ceiling. The Wall Street Journal essentially putting on McCarthy this burden. Mr. Biden wants to run out the clock until the debt limit is reached, then predict a cataclysm and assume the GOP majority will panic and pass an increase without any reform.

The trillion-dollar question is whether Mr. McCarthy can keep his narrow majority together. If he fails, he'll bring a rubber knife to an ally fight. At the moment, at the moment the deadline is next month, sometime maybe early June. So, McCarthy has time. But at the moment, he does not have his party together.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And remember, the longer you wait here, you also allow the White House to continue to basically say, look, the debt ceiling should be raised. This is their argument. The debt ceiling should be raised without any conditions. We're waiting for their budget proposal. And the more you wait on that, it allows the White House to say, well, what are you going to cut?

That's been really the main line of messaging from President Biden for the past few months now. If they're not going to answer the question and put the budget proposal forward, then you can look to pass statements and pass proposals and basically say that they would cut Medicaid or Social Security, that has been their line and messaging here. And the longer that you wait to put a budget proposal on, you can expect the White House and Democrats to continue to lean into that messaging.

KING: And the unpredictability, the quicksand of McCarthy's position highlighted yet again yesterday, is when George Santos, the pathological liar who's a member of the House conference. But whose vote McCarthy needed to be speaker back at the beginning, announced even though most Republicans want him to go away yesterday, actually months ago, but go away. And as you would run, seek reelection in 2024. The speaker was asked about that and said this.



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST, THE SEAN HANNITY SHOW: Oh, I'm sorry. We thought we had said on there. At two Republicans stay strong and say no debt ceiling increase, unless we get A, B, C and D. Is that going to happen?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): That's exactly why we're meeting our conference mode has to otherwise we can't get there.


KING: That's my bad. That's not me. That's McCarthy talking to Hannity last night about the dedicatee get everybody together. But on the Santos question, George Santos is going to seek reelection. McCarthy said, I didn't know he announced. We'll wait and see who else file. They want somebody to primary him. They hope to take him out of the primary. But it is just a reminder that the Santos drama, I could use a stronger word, but it's lunchtime or earlier on the West Coast. He has nowhere to go. He has no slack.

CAYGLE: No. And every vote really does count, which is why we've seen Santos hang on as long as he has, quite frankly, with all of these epics questions surrounding him, you know.

KING: We shall watch. Up next. Democrats have problems to facing a major roadblock. Republicans won't provide the votes needed to temporarily replace the ailing Senator Dianne Feinstein on a key committee. That leaves Biden judicial nominees in limbo today and there are other democratic math problems just down the road of it.