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Inside Politics

Hours Away: Critical White House Meeting On Debt Ceiling; Today: Biden, McCarthy Hold Talks To Avoid Catastrophic Debt Default; WH: Biden Determined To Hold Line On Clean Debt Ceiling Increase; 8 Dead, 7 Hospitalized After Texas Mass Shooting; Gunman's Social Posts Reveal Obsession With Nazis, Mass Shootings; Authorities Looking Into Domestic Extremism As Motive; Now: Jury Deliberating In E. Jean Carroll Trial Against Trump; Trump Awaiting Verdict In Civil Rape & Defamation Trial. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 09, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Very busy news day. Thank you for your time. Five min, one room. The stability of the global economy on the line. Today, the White House is the stage for debt talks and what happens could set the country on a path towards paying its bills or on a path towards financial chaos.

Plus, heartbreak and waiting in Allen, Texas. A family cut down from four to one, two school aged sisters robbed of their futures. We're learning more about the victims and more about the shooter who slaughtered them. His fascination with guns, his swastika tattoo, his misogyny as police stay curiously quiet.

And Donald Trump's civil case goes to a New York jury, after contentious closing arguments that focus on credibility and Mr. Trump's refusal to show up. But up first for us in just hours, a White House meeting that will help answer this question and Washington still work.

The stakes for today's big sit down could not be higher, the full faith and credit of the United States. The roster pulls together the biggest players, President Biden, the Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

The task to start steering away from a debt ceiling iceberg sitting three weeks or so away. The stalemate is over something you, American families in good times and bad face all the time; paying the mortgage, the car loan, the credit card bill, but here in broken Washington, this is somehow hard. Today's huddle breaks a month-long play -- month's long play by both sides to weight the other out. This afternoon, we get an initial read on just how entrenched both sides are.

Let's begin at the White House, go live now to CNN's Arlette Saenz. Arlette, it's a big meeting, but there are relatively small expectations. ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Progress has been made on at least one front and that is getting President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the same room together to talk about the debt limit. But aides on both sides are not expecting any type of major breakthrough. And officials from the White House have said, heading into this meeting that they don't view this as a negotiation.

Now, this is the first time that the two men along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries are sitting down in the same room together in 97 days after that meeting in early February, and both sides still remain dug in on their positions.

President Biden is insisting and will hold firm to his line, that there should be a clean debt ceiling increase without any conditions attached to it. He is going into that with the backing of the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. But then on the Republican side, the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is still holding firm on his calls for a cleaned -- for an increase of the debt ceiling with spending cuts attached.

You'll remember the House passed that bill just a few weeks ago. And he's also coming into this with a report, with the support of Republicans in the Senate, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. But really this marks a key test for both President Biden and House Speaker McCarthy as they are dealing with these power dynamics of an era of divided government as the U.S. economy could be at risk of potential default.

KING: Arlette Saenz, kicking us off live from the White House. Very big day there. Arlette, thank you. Let's bring the conversation in the room and with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, USA Today's Francesca Chambers, and Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post

Arlette laid it out very smartly. They're both sides sort of dug in, waiting to see if the other one will blink. Just to remind people at home what's at stake. This is the treasury secretary, and she says just about everything.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: That's something that could produce financial chaos would mean that Social Security recipients and veterans and people counting on money from the government that they're owed contractors. We just wouldn't have enough money to pay the bills.


KING: Again, every American family has to do this, whether times are great or times are tough, but the government is having this stalemate. Arlette says the president is not ready to negotiate. Is he prepared Francesca to come to the table and say Mr. Speaker, you give me a clean debt limit bill, and I will sign a piece of paper that says I will agree to some spending cuts that we will begin negotiating the minute you pass this. Will he do that?

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, USA TODAY: Well, not that the White House has said, John. Yesterday I asked Karine Jean- Pierre, the White House press secretary, when the president would imagine those spending talks that they say will be separate to began and they didn't really have an answer to that just at some point you in the future.


But even one of the Democratic lawmakers that I talked to recently said that what ultimately would probably have to happen here is that Republicans we need to have a list of the cuts that they want to see, that Biden would need to have a list of the cuts that he would like to see, and then figure out if there's some way they can meet in the middle.

KING: And so that's the White House perspective on Capitol Hill. Speaker McCarthy has surprised a lot of people by keeping his group together, surprised a lot of people by actually passing a blueprint won't go anywhere, but at least a negotiating document. But again, does he get the stakes, right?

This is Shai Akabas. He's the director of the Bipartisan Policy Center of Economic Policy. Policymakers may be playing daily Russian roulette with the full faith and credit of the United States, risking financial disaster for the constituents and the country.

Can Speaker McCarthy accept something like what I just laid out that if you give me a clean debt ceiling, I will sign a piece of paper that says we will negotiate reasonable budget cuts. Can he do that? Or will his caucus say no?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: I will say that most Republicans have said, we're not going to draw red lines, except that they will not accept any clean debt ceiling. So, a deal like that is just not going to work. And you know, it's fair to say and Republicans are starting to point this out as well, that there are not -- there is not enough support from Senate Democrats and House Democrats right now for a clean lift.

So, I'm curious to see what the president says after this, is that continued to be a messaging point, because he can't even have support from his own, you know, House Democrats, there's just not enough support for a clean raise. Some people want to see cuts, or at least a discussion about how to be a little bit smarter on spending.

KING: And Jeff, that's the moment we're at. And we've been through many of these, but non with this cast of people involved, cast of leaders involved in with a tenuous position, Speaker McCarthy and you could argue the tenuous position President Biden is, and when you look at his poll numbers. And so, the question is, you know, the Democrats want to hold out instead of the Republicans will spell out exactly what you would cut because they think that would benefit them politically. But the president faces his own pressure, including from a name that has been quite familiar to him in the last couple of years, trying to get things done. Senator Joe Manchin, who says the president's position, especially since now Republicans control one branch of the government. Joe Manchin says, get over it, Mr. President.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN, (D-WV): It's not rational, it's not reasonable, and it's not practical. And something that it's hypocritical to say that we're not going to do it. Now, when we've done it every time that there has been a split in the party. And anytime there's been a split in one of the houses or from the president, there's always been negotiations.


KING: He's right. In divided government, there has to be negotiations. Or else, nothing gets done. Can the president though, is he an outlier? Is the president -- this president have enough the Democratic Party to hold out for a couple more weeks to see if the Republicans blink first? Or is it time to say, you know what, let's start talking.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I'd be surprised at this afternoon at the meeting, the president said, OK, let's start talking. We've all seen these before. This is the first meeting where both sides will hold their ground, and then the substantive work starts happening behind the scenes. The actual work will not happen in the meeting most likely.

But look, one thing the White House has been hoping all along here that Republicans in the House and indeed the Senate would be fractured, that they would blink, that they would separate. That did not happen. Speaker McCarthy was able to hold together his House republicans and now joined by some 43 Senate Republicans unlikely others in this idea that some spending cuts have to happen here.

So, this is not how the White House was hoping to go into June. They thought that they could really sort of drive a wedge between the very divided House Republicans. That hasn't happened. So, the president, one person pretty quiet in all this is a Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. He is allowing a speaker McCarthy to do it. At the end of all of this, the person who the president has the longest relationship is Mitch McConnell.

So, I think looking ahead in our crystal ball, are those two men of Washington going to sort of help broker some deal, but it will not happen yet. We don't know what's going to happen between here and now. But Joe Manchin is an outlier a little bit, but not as much as you may think, a lot of Democrats are thinking the White House has to do something.

KING: A, it's hugely consequential. B, Manchin among the Democrats in tough races next year. So, for the next couple of weeks, as the politicians decide who's going to blink first. There is already ads, you're going to be sitting at your kitchen table. And yes, you have to pay your credit card bills. You have to write the check as much as it might grumble you. You have to make compromises in the family budget. You're going to see this on television, both sides saying the other guys to blame.


KING: Is there a sense and just the fact check the last the Republican ad there. This is debt. It includes Trump administration debt, includes around (Ph) administration debt, it's spending back there. You can be if you're mad about Joe Biden's democratic level spending now fine, but this is all about spending back there. Is there any sense over his fight for public opinion and how much it matters?


SOTOMAYOR: It doesn't seem like right now, you know, the American publics are going to blame Republicans or blame Democrats that seem like from past debates everyone gets blamed. And at the end of the day is that something that brings them together, we're not sure yet.

I will say Republicans especially in the House side, for months have been telling their own members default is not the same thing as shutting down the government. And if it is our fault, we're likely not going to win in 2024. And that's at the front of their minds.

KING: And all the specifics aside, it's been three months, more than three months since Speaker McCarthy was at the White House when you have divided government that just maybe need a little bit more everybody.

Up next for us. Some new details about the eight people gunned down in a vicious attack at a Texas mall and disturbing new revelations about the shooters troubled history.



KING: A little boy left without parents and his brother now among the heartbreaking stories we are learning from the victims killed in Saturday's mass shooting at a Texas outlet mall. Three-year-old James and his parents, Korean Americans' Kyu Song Cho, Shin Young Kang were gunned down. Six-year-old William survived that according to a GoFundMe post written by family friends, also lost two sisters Daniela and Sofia Mendoza in fourth and second grade.

Their elementary school principal described them as to quote, "rays of sunshine." Their mother is in critical condition. 20-year-old mall security guard Christian Lacour, 27-year-old engineer Aishwarya Thatikonda, and 32-year-old Elio Cumana-Rivas, all dead, all killed by a hateful gunman. We're learning he made disturbing social media posts fixated on Nazi ideology guns and mass shootings.

Let's go live to CNN's Josh Campbell. He is at the scene in Allen, Texas with the latest. Josh, what are we learning? JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. So, a law enforcement source that previously told me that investigators had uncovered this really troubling online presence from the shooter, where he's talking about white supremacy. He's talking about Nazis. We're now seeing some of those images for ourselves.

CNN has identified a site of Russian social media platform where this shooter had an account. And his account is just replete with all kinds of vile material about Nazis, about white supremacy, again, his obsession over firearms, his obsession over past mass shootings, and essentially looking to those and discussing those types of attacks.

He obviously is accused of coming here this weekend and killing eight people at this mall in Allen, Texas. Now, he also describes himself, John, as an Incel, which is, for those who, who don't follow extremism is essentially a man who can blames women and society for his lack of romantic success.

We're also learning chilling new details, and I'll show you some of the photos from this account. It appears as though he had conducted attack reconnaissance here prior to this attack. You see a photo from the parking lot. You see him researching on GoogleMaps, one of the busiest times of day out at this Allen mall, truly troubling stuff.

Finally, John, I'm learning new information about the firearms that the suspect had. A law enforcement source tells me that authorities recovered multiple firearms, including that AR-15 that he used in conducting this massacre. I'm told that all of those firearms were purchased legally, most of them from private sellers.

The reason why that's so important, and we often hear people after these mass shootings say, well, let's not talk about politics. Let's not politicize that. Politics obviously drives policy. And here in the state of Texas, if you buy a gun from a private seller, you don't have to go through a federal background check. John?

KING: Josh Campbell, live on the scene for us. Very important reporting. Josh, thank you. Let's get some important insights now from the former FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe. So, you just heard Josh go through that. Number one, the military said goodbye to this gentleman because of some mental health issues. He's buying guns. He's posting on these Russian websites. I want to come back to the Russian part of that in a minute.

But so, there's a lot of dots out there. But Texas has no red flag law. There's no background check if you buy from a private seller. So, was there any way in your view to connect them or in the world he was living in, is this what happens?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: A very, very hard to connect them, right? So, even if he had tried to purchase a gun through a federally licensed firearms dealer, unlikely that his past emotional troubles would have been an obstacle to that because you have to be adjudicated a mental defective or have been committed to an institution for that to be a disqualifier. So, this is just a very, very familiar timeworn story of another alienated, isolated, angry young man gravitates towards these communities of these extremist communities, extremist ideologies, as a way of seeking a tribe, seeking a community, seeking that sort of affirmation for his own anger and his own beliefs, and then carefully planning out this massacre and executing it in the most lethal way.

KING: I am not going to defend American technology companies, because there's a lot of hate on those sites as well. But this is not the first time these Russian sites have come up after something like this, where you do have the neo-Nazis and misogyny, talking about guns, talking about the glory of mass killings, if you will.

We defend the First Amendment here to the end, obviously, is there anything to be done because that these foreign sites, anything in the law, or a law that could help wall that off?

MCCABE: Not currently. There isn't really a First Amendment consistent way of excluding people from seeing these sites. And they are just as you've described, it is truly the Wild West, right? There's no content moderation. It is just whatever you want to post, it kind of attracts that sort of extremist communication and community for that reason.

KING: And so, we are at 208 mass shootings, it's May. 208 mass shootings in the United States so far in 2023. I want you to listen here. This is Michael Chitwood. He's the sheriff in Volusia County, Florida. Who says, it's Texas this week, it's been Florida before, it'll be somewhere else next week. He says there are some things that keep happening, some recurring themes.



SHERIFF MICHAEL CHITWOOD, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: It's the same thing over and over again. It's this indoctrination on these far extreme chat rooms. It's mental illness, the access to firearms, disagreed this grievance against Jews women, people of color. This was a well- planned attack as was Nashville, as was the supermarket in Buffalo. You know, they scout the area, they're looking for a high body count. They know the type of people they're looking to eradicate from the world.


KING: Every sheriff has become an expert in this because it keeps happening. Chitwood said, Sheriff Chitwood says, his department is used Florida's red flag law more than 200 times since it passed. Texas does not have one. Does that make a difference?

MCCABE: It makes a difference at the margins. But let's go right at where the problem is. There's only one thing that makes us different than every other country that experiences mental health problems. They have angry people, people with grievances.

The difference here is that when you're in that category, you can also become incredibly heavily armed with the most lethal military weapons that are available instantly. That is why we experienced gun violence at a rate far off the charts from any comparable nation.

KING: Because they won't have a conversation about assault style weapons and large magazines. That's it. Andrew McCabe, appreciate you being here for us. Up next. The jury now has the case in that battery and defamation case against Donald Trump. What E. Jean Carroll needs to prove to win that case? That's next.




KING: Right now, the jury of six men and three women is deliberating an E. Jean Carroll's battery and defamation case against Donald Trump. The writer alleges the former president, then a businessman raped her in a Manhattan dressing room back in 1996. And she alleges Trump has been smearing her character since she came forward with that allegation in 2019.

CNN's Kara Scannell, live for us outside the New York City courthouse. Kara, where do things stand?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John. The judge instructed the jury on the law and sent them back to begin their deliberations at about 11:50. So, we're about 40 minutes into deliberations. Now, the judge instructed them on what the law is and what E. Jean Carroll needs to prove in order to be successful on her civil claims of battery and defamation.

You know, this jury has heard testimony, 11 witnesses over seven days they saw Trump's video deposition, but the defense did not put on a case. So ultimately, this will come down to whether the jury believes Carroll's allegations or if they believe Trump's attorneys' defense. John?

KING: Kara Scannell, outside the courthouse. Kara, thank you. Let's get some important insights now from the criminal defense attorney, Joey Jackson. And Joey, let's just start. This is not guilty or not guilty. It's liable or not liable because it's a civil proceeding. I want to start with a quick fact check.

Donald Trump posted on his social media site this morning, waiting for a jury decision on a false accusation. And then he goes on to say, I am not allowed to speak or defend myself. That's simply not true, correct? His attorney Mr. Tacopina told the judge, he would not testify but he could have come in if he wanted to, correct?

JOEY JACKSON, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. There's no question, John, good to be with you. Well, your distinction is very important. It isn't a criminal case where you have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We're talking about liability as to two claims. What are they, battery, the unlawful touching of someone without consent. We know Ms. Carroll has said, made the accusation that she was raped by Mr. Trump.

Second allegation with respect to defamatory statements. What is defamation false statements, that impugn and impair your reputation. The president to your question could have come in and in fact, the judge allowed the door to be open until Sunday, this past Sunday for Mr. Trump to come in and testify on his own behalf. Mr. Trump decided not to avail himself of that opportunity. But yes, by all accounts, he was not compelled to testify. But indeed, he could have appeared in that courtroom and given his rendition of events.

KING: So, let's walk through, get your take on the legal strategies to play here. The jury obviously saw the video deposition of Trump in this case, where he says some pretty reprehensible things about E. Jean Carroll is not my type, about he essentially confirms the Access Hollywood tape where he thinks stars can get away with conduct. I won't repeat the specifics of it.

Joe Tacopina, the defense attorney saying in this, you know, what they want is for you to hate him enough to ignore the facts. You can think Donald Trump is a rude and crude person, and that her story makes no sense. Both of these things can be true. So, Trump's attorney essentially saying, OK, maybe because I'm in Manhattan, maybe everything you've heard this trial, you think Donald Trump is a bad guy, but still don't believe her. Is that the approach you would have taken here?

JACKSON: Well, it's an important thing to raise, obviously, because you want to allow and make sure the jury is focused on the facts and nothing but the facts. Having said that, I think there's two narratives here there is in every case, obviously, John.

The one narrative from the plaintiff's perspective is that this is about a factual encounter that occurred, and we know what occurred because of the fact regardless of what she's been attacked on, there's been no screaming, there was no police report. It's a political operation and hit job, whatever you want to say. There were two recent outcry witnesses. What are they? They are people who she confided in friends of hers with respect to what happened, when it happened, how it happened, and they gave her advice.

Additionally, you mentioned the Access Hollywood tape. Why was that played? To show this was the president's modus operandi. And then it goes a step further from that, John, and that are two other women who came in and said that this happened to them too. So, the defense certainly saying that, listen, there's nothing to see here. This is all made up. There's no evidence to be shown. But the other narrative as it relates to Ms. Carroll is pretty compelling as well.

KING: And to Mr. Carroll's legal strategy Roberta Kaplan is her attorney. Number one she said, you'd have to disbelieve 11 different people to side with Donald Trump in this case.