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Trump Repeats Election Lies, Rewrites Jan 6 History In CNN Townhall; Trump Won't Commit To Accepting 2024 Election Results; Trump: I'll Pardon "Many" January 6th Rioters; Trump Mocks E. Jean Carroll After Jury Finds He Sexually Abused Her; Trump To GOP: "Going To Have To Do A Default" On Debt; Trump Refuses To Say If He'd Support Federal Abortion Ban; Pro-DeSantis PAC: "Trump Still Doesn't Know Where He Stands"; Title 42 Immigration Rule Expires At Midnight; WH Toughens Border Policies As Title 42 Ends. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired May 11, 2023 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for your time today. Donald Trump makes plain who he is and what he thinks. Over 70 minutes, the clear Republican front runner spews lies about January 6, about classified documents, about his efforts to overturn the election. He said it's OK by him. If America default on its debt, called the Capitol police officer a thug, and said yes, he meant it. When he said, if you're rich and famous, you can grab women wherever you want.
Plus, the pandemic emergency ends, and a giant new test begins. Right now, there's a massive number of migrants waiting on the southern border. As time runs out tonight on the Title 42 policy, they've made it easier to turn them away.
And today, Ukraine gets a big battlefield delivery, cruise missiles from the U.K. President Zelenskyy says, he will win the war before the next U.S. election. Trump's townhall comments underscore the urgency there. Trump refusing to say who should win or if Vladimir Putin is a war criminal.
Up first for us, we start right there with Donald Trump is unending lies and the audience laughter and cheers that speak volumes about his grip on today's Republican Party. His first answer at last night's CNN townhall was illuminating, a lie, and a lie that proves he cannot or will not quit his 2020 election fantasy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: I think that when you look at that result, and when you look at what happened during that election, unless you're a very stupid person, you see what happens. That was a rigged election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Mr. Trump also lied about his efforts to overturn that election and about his border wall. He mocked a woman a jury just this week, said Mr. Trump sexually abused and defamed. There was some important policy news. He said it would be fine by him if the country defaults on its debts. He may revive if elected again family separations at the border. And he was intentionally vague about if he would sign a federal abortion ban.
Now CNN is offering townhalls to all credible candidates for president, and whatever your views of Mr. Trump, he is the far away early Republican front runner. Last night, his twisted take on democracy was quite clear. Elections are only honest, if he wins.
He at one point pulled out his January 6 tweets and he offered to go sentence by sentence through his words insisting his conduct that day was defensible. Also defensible, in his view, was the conduct of all but a few of those who attack the Capitol hoping to block certification of Joe Biden's win. Given the chance, Trump said he would pardon most of the rioters. He called them people quote, with love in their heart. I'm sorry, this is not what love looks like.
We know those images can cause a lot of people pain. We think it is important because of how he characterized that day last night to remind everybody of what that day was in reality. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Lauren Fox, Zolan Kanno-Youngs of the New York Times, Axios's Margaret Talev, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.
One of the questions even in the audience, the pro Republican audience last night was why do you keep asking about 2020? Well, we keep asking about 2020 because democracy is the foundation of everything. And he keeps lying about 2020. He's a candidate, the leading Republican candidate in 2024. And Kaitlan Collins asked him last night, would he accept if he's the Republican nominee? Will he accept the results? Win or lose?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, I'm going to answer it again. If I think it's an honest election, I would be honored too.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But no commitment there on accepting the results regardless of the outcome.
TRUMP: If it's an honest election, correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: That is why the 2020 answer still the refusal to accept the truth and the facts. And the math is so important, because we're set -- we're getting if he's the Republican nominee, we may go through this all over again.
MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: Yes. It's the foundational question that was revealed last night and I think on some level, it will surprise nobody. Of course, he wasn't going to use the CNN townhall to say, I was wrong. I totally lost. Sorry for all the chaos that I set in motion.
But it is really important for both base voters in primary and for general election voters to understand that that is who Donald Trump is and that would be his starting point and he would consider a win, a mandate not a chance to course correct.
KING: And to that point, we're going to talk as we go through this. We'll talk about some of the important policy just thinks he made. That's up for voters to decide whether they agree or disagree of a part of it is who is he. And has he changed at all? And has he considered anything? And the answer, you're shaking your head. The answer is largely no. We see no evidence that he has in his time in Mar-a-Lago rethought about this, including the idea that he was asked by one of the voters about January 6. Listen?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you pardon the January 6, rioters who were convicted of federal offenses?
TRUMP: I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can say for every single one, because a couple of them, probably they got out of control.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A couple of them, probably if they got out of control. You run those halls? You were there. A couple of them.
LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think one of the most remarkable things that we saw after January 6, was the effort to bring so many people to justice for their actions on that day. And, you know, that would go a long way and sort of restoring trust, perhaps, and Donald Trump for some of those Republicans who are on the fence about him.
And when he says, not only does he have or he doesn't have regrets about how he acted after the 2020 election, but that he would pardon people who went to the lengths that they did at the U.S. Capitol. I just think that that was such a remarkable and insightful moment into the fact that he has not changed, and his views of that day have not changed. And for all the House Republicans and Senate Republicans who think that he has or want to give him a way out, I just think that that was really revealing moment.
KING: But I think that gets you into what I call the Trump paradox. If you have a better word for it, help me. Is that you can tell by the audience reaction, he has a pretty strong grip on the Republican Party. You can also tell by the things he said, many of the things he said, might well help him actually as offensive as they might be to other people, might actually help him in the Republican primary. But they're the very things that cost Republicans the midterms and 2018 Donald Trump the presidency and 2020, Republicans to underperform in 2022, including this, a jury just this week in New York, found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll, found Donald Trump liable for defaming her. We know Donald Trump has had a huge problem with women voters. The Republican Party has suffered because of Donald Trump's problems. Kaitlan Collins had a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: This was a jury of nine people who found you liable of sexual abuse, do you think that that will deter women from voting for you?
TRUMP: No, I don't think so. Because I think the whole thing, just so you understand, ready. I never met this woman. What kind of a woman meet somebody and brings him up and within minutes, you're playing hanky panky in a dressing room. OK. I don't know if she was married then or not, John Johnson. I feel sorry for you, John Johnson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The laughter there was striking, even if you're -- even if you want to believe Donald Trump, to laugh at him mocking a woman who says she says, she was raped, the jury found him liable for sexual abuse.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It's part of the Trump show. It's part of the group thing that we see in rally after rally after rally. And the question is, of course, I don't think anyone as Margaret, as you were saying. No one is surprised that Donald Trump 3.0 is the same as 2.0 and 1.0. We know what he's going to be like.
The question is, are voters different? Have voters learned anything along this way? And we will see the audience without question. We've all spent a lot of time in New Hampshire. There is a strain there of certainly Donald Trump supporters, but he lost New Hampshire in the general election quite significantly, to Joe Biden. He wanted it very, very lost it narrowly to Hillary Clinton.
So, the reality is there were Trump supporters and that does not mean every Republican out there believes this or would laugh at this. Of course, that's not the case. One thing that the audience did not -- we did not see in the audience is the exhaustion that I hear from Republican voters in every state that I traveled to, that they are ready to move on from the drama of Donald Trump.
So, you know, not surprising that he demeaned and be literally E. Jean Carroll there. The laughter it was disgusting, without a doubt, but it is part of this group think that we often see with him, but I don't think it's necessarily representative of the entire universe of voters he needs. Obviously, that's the issue.
KING: I think we will see that obviously, as the primaries play out. And again, we're offering townhalls to every credible candidate. Do you saw Donald Trump last night? You will see the other Republicans will be fascinating to see. We have some statements from some of them. We'll get to be fascinating to see if they're all together on a stage how this plays out.
But again, I'm struck by the reaction in the room, but also remembering what happened to the Republicans. To your point, Donald Trump lost New Hampshire in the general election by fewer than 3,000 votes to Hillary Clinton. He lost by nearly 60,000 votes to Joe Biden.
Why did he lose because New Hampshire is becoming more suburban, because suburban women who are in a place like New Hampshire are inclined to vote for their Republican Governor Chris Sununu, who couldn't take it, they just refuse to vote for Donald Trump. In part because a little flashback here. And then last night because of this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP (voiceover): You know, I'm automatically attracted to beautiful. I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voiceover): Whatever you want.
TRUMP (voiceover): Grab them by the---
COLLINS: Do you stand by those comments?
TRUMP: I said, if you're famous and rich, or whatever I said, but I said if you're a star, you are and I said, women let you. I didn't say you grabbed. I said women let. You know, you didn't use that word. But if you look, women let you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: If there's anything, you think Donald Trump will try to get away from it would be that, at least in my view, but just not, not only not apologetic, but like, yes, I said.
ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, once upon a time, I remember during the initial 2016 campaign when that tape was released. And there were Trump allies saying, this was the darkest moment of the campaign at that point. Now fast forward after everything that we've seen. And you see here, exactly, not dismissing it, but rather leaning into some of this language.
As you said, you know, it's going to -- it's a long campaign season. It'll be interesting to see, but you have him on record here, both in testimony in that case in New York, and here on the townhall, leaning into some of those, those actions that we saw that once even his own allies said was a dark moment.
And as you were saying, as well, even around the midterms, you remember there were Republican allies saying that they wanted Donald Trump to stop looking at the past, stop looking at election fraud, stop leaning into these criminal cases and to look forward at the Biden administration. You didn't see him do that math that much here either.
KING: You did not. And to wrap this segment, we're going to do the policy. And the next, the incumbent president United States has considerable challenges, inflation, doubts about the economy, questions about his age, and what he's up to the job. The Biden campaign, I looked at last night, this was their take. Joe Biden tweet. It's simple, folks. Do you want four more years of that?
So, they see general election gold in somewhat they got to Trump last night. That does not mean Joe Biden does have his own challenges. But first test here is the Republican primary. Again Trump, the far away front runner at the moment. And next, his noteworthy policy promises and his policy dodges abortion, the debt, immigration and the war in Ukraine.
KING: Donald Trump did give voters some 2024 policy contrast to consider last night on among other things, abortion, immigration and the war in Ukraine. And he weighed in on the most pressing issue between President Biden and House Republicans right now saying, if Republicans don't get what they want, it would be fine by him if the country for the first time in history defaulted on its debt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I say to the Republicans out there, Congressman senators, if they don't give you massive cuts, you're going to have to do a default.
COLLINS: Using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge just could not happen. You said that when you were in the Oval Office---
TRUMP: That's when I was president.
COLLINS: So, why is it different now that you're out of office?
TRUMP: Because now I'm not president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You see the smirk. And you see the applause in the crowd. There are a couple of outliers. But the over, over, over, overwhelming number of economists and smart people look at this says, the United States economy would go into turmoil. The global economy would go into turmoil that the signal it would send to the world if the United States did not pay its bills, and yet he's not president. So, hey.
TALEV: Right. He's not president. So, it would hurt Joe Biden, so he doesn't care. But also, because he understands and this is actually not just a GOP base issue, that the majority of Americans actually don't feel the pain of this yet or feel the threat of what it would mean to default yet.
Axios, we were just in the field with our monthly swing voter of focus group panel. We'll have the reporting on this later tonight. But these were independent voters, swing voters that we were talking to, and they were like, no, I'm not worried about default.
And yes, they think cut is -- cutting is the answer. And that it'd be fine to dance with the default otherwise, because they don't understand what it means. And they don't think it affects them yet. And I think that's what he was tapping into there.
KING: Tapping into, but it's -- we always say, you know, how many ways -- how many different ways is Trump outside the norm, that is outside the norms, without a doubt. Another one, it's interesting. He recently met with Lindsey Graham, with one of the pro-life groups of Susan Anthony fund, because he said that after the Roe v. Wade decision was overturned, the Dobbs decision was put in that abortion was left to the states, his campaign issued statements and that's why he wanted it left to the states.
They said no, they said no, if you have a Republican president, they want a federal abortion ban. So, he committed to them that he would sign a federal abortion ban in a private meeting. But the question came up last night, and he dodged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We did something that nobody thought was doable. And other Republican presidents and others by the way, they wanted to get it out. They also wanted to bring it back to the states. But bringing it back to the states is a less important issue. That's the issues that we just talked about.
COLLINS: But that's why it's the question about -- abortion ban. You did not say yes or no to that. You did not say how many weeks?
TRUMP: It depends, what the deal is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There's been a lot of reporting that in private, he thinks this is a losing issue for the Republicans, even though he took credit saying, that rows off the books because of the three justices I put on the Supreme Court, wouldn't give an answer there.
ZELENY: He wouldn't and that was by design. And that is one way I think that Donald Trump actually, the former president has learned the ropes on this a little bit. I think he may in a previous life and he's running the first time may have fallen into that, but he knows that this is something he wants to stay away from.
He chooses when he speaks on things. He speaks to virtually everything but abortion in recent months. He has been virtually silent. He publicly has said very little, almost never mentions it at his rallies. It's not an animating issue for his face. But last night when pressed by Kaitlan three or four times, would not say. [12:20:00]
So, I was wondering if the pro-life groups would be sort of disappointed or let down by that, I was not picking up any of that at least and reaching out a little bit this morning. We'll see how that goes going forward because he of course, takes credit for the Supreme Court nominees. And he basically said, I'm honored to have this decision. That was a little odd as well.
KING: The Ron DeSantis Super PAC did, did criticize him on that. And after 76 years, Trump still doesn't know where he stands on important conservative issues like supporting life and the Second Amendment. How does that make America great again?
So, here's a question that, did he do anything last night? Did he give any of his Republican, the first challenge for him is to win the Republican nomination? He's the far away leader right now. And you heard him mock Ron DeSantis. You do anything last night that creates an opening for the Republicans?
KANNO-YOUNGS: Well, I mean, he did have on DeSantis, as well. He was also asked a little bit about Disney and the ongoing battle between kind of DeSantis and Disney. He didn't talk about that that's sort of aligns with some Republicans on the Hill that have tried to get DeSantis to tamper down on some of that language.
But on the opening, I think one thing you can point to is Ukraine, and some of his answers there as well. You know, he didn't give a clear answer. When asked, does he want Ukraine to win this ongoing war? And you're already seeing some Republican candidates start to, I mean, look at Nikki Haley, when she came in start to focus on foreign policy in her opening remarks.
There is ongoing conversation as well and debate right now on the Hill where you still do have Republicans that are saying, we still want to support with foreign aid as well. You could see an opening there.
KING: There's one, the question is does that rally with the base that we'll have more on that later too, including some new comments by President Zelenskyy. But up next for us, the COVID National Emergency ends at midnight. And with it ends a controversial Trump era immigration policy. We'll go live to the U.S.-Mexico border where officials are bracing what they expect to be a significant migrant surge.
KING: We are inside 12 hours now, until the official end of the national COVID pandemic emergency. And a migrant surge at the U.S.- Mexico border is a giant immediate worry. The Trump era Title 42 policy, allowing officials to turn asylum seekers away expires at midnight. And for days we've seen growing migrant camps just south of the border.
The Biden administration says, it is taking new border enforcement steps that it hopes will help, but it will now be harder to simply deny entry to asylum seekers, and border community officials say, they're worried their communities could be overwhelmed in the days ahead.
CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now. He's along the border in Brownsville, Texas. Nick, tell us what you're saying?
NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it is a very active scene here. And I say this as migrants are being dropped off from a bus, an immigration bus and handed over to a nonprofit that has been helping them out with basic needs. Many of these migrants slept on the streets last night. We want to show you video, exactly what we're talking about.
Dozens of them have been forced to sleep on the streets because the NGOs that are here or at -- have been taking in between 800 and 1000 migrants per day. For the last two weeks, they feel very much so that they are already in the middle of this so-called surge that is being expected after the end of Title 42.
The scene that you're looking at here behind me it's mostly Venezuelan migrant men who have been separated from their family members by immigration officials for a variety of reasons, family separations still do happen, especially if their suspicions that the adult male in the group may not be a relative. We don't know the specifics of this situation.
But I want to hang around here and show you just how many more people are on the streets here. You can see this scattered all around. And just off to the distance there is the bus station. So, some of these migrants are waiting to gather up enough money to get on to their next destination. We also know that the city of Brownsville is working with these NGOs to try to send migrants to stick to destiny (audio cut).
KING: Sorry, Nick, we're having a problem with your audio there. Nick Valencia for us in Brownsville. But detailing there, you just see the crowds in the streets, and that's just one border community. This is happening across the state of Texas. We'll follow it in the days ahead. Grateful to Nick and his crew for being there. Technical issues do happen, especially out there.
Let's bring the conversation back in the room with our great reporters. So, you see what officials in those communities say, is just the beginning. And they say, you know, maybe we've spent too much time focusing on the midnight deadline that this has been building up for some time. But the expiration does come tonight.
The Biden White House says, we're deploying 1,500 military personnel, not to enforce the border but to help with all the administrative tasks so the other people can get to the frontlines. They say they're going to tighten asylum rules. There'll be penalties for illegal crossing. There's humanitarian parole, they call it for Haitians, Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans. They say they're taking steps to try to make this less of a problem, but even the president itself says it might be chaotic for a bit.
KANNO-YOUNGS: He has. And he knows that this week. I think that the White House I've talked to senior officials in the White House about this in recent weeks, and they've known that this date was on their calendar. They've known that it's going to result in an increase in the surge of migrants. They've expected that there would be videos like we're showing, like photos that we're showing of people in U.S. border communities, as well crowd seeking assistance.
And I think it's also interesting that you're also seeing well, one Trump era policy is being lifted, another restriction that is very similar to another Trump era policy is going to be put in place. So now we have to see what's going to be the impact of that. This is going to be the so-called transit rule where if somebody failed to apply for protection on the way to the border, they would be denied, but that deny, or they would not qualify for asylum.
However, that does not stop them from crossing and that does not stop those photos and images and videos and those families from seeking assistance.