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Escaped Killer Caught After 14 Days on the Run; McCarthy Tries to Get GOP on Same Page in Closed-door Meeting; Judge Shuts Down Meadow's Bid to Stall Georgia Trial; Biden Campaign Fundraises Off McCarthy's Impeachment Inquiry. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 13, 2023 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Two weeks of terror. Today, police ended an ongoing nightmare for Chester County residents and Pennsylvania, putting convicted killer Danelo Cavalcante in handcuffs.

Joining me now is Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, who represents Chester County and lives about a half hour from the prison where Cavalcante escaped.

Thank you so much for joining me. First question is about the relief I'm sure you're hearing from your constituents, from your community right now.

REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): Absolutely. I think our community is breathing a huge sigh of relief with an enormous amount of thanks and appreciation to our local and state and federal law enforcement for getting the job done. We have been on tenterhooks for a long time and we are appreciative that this is finally passed and in our past.

BASH: And I know that you were in touch daily with police. And you were also helping to spread the message to your constituents to lock their doors, warning them not to approach Cavalcante if they saw him. Walk us through what that has been like for you as somebody who is trying to keep your constituents safe.

HOULAHAN: Sure, my job is to serve my constituents. And so, you are right. Every day having various briefings and conversations and attending to the news cycle to make sure that we could communicate consistently, what it was that they should be doing. We wanted to make sure that we were one voice coming from either local law enforcement and state law enforcement when they took over, about all of the efforts that were ongoing and about all the ways that our people could be helpful, whether they were students or parents, or whether they were businesses, it was a community effort to make sure that this man was -- will be taken back to justice.

BASH: You represent kind of broadly people say, oh, you represent the suburbs of Philadelphia. But it's more than that and it's a different kind of terrain. We think of suburbs, you think of something different than the terrain that law enforcement was describing this morning. I know that your Communications Director actually grew up on the street where the van, the stolen vehicle was found. Talk about what it was like and what the area was like that allowed him to hide for as long as he did, for 14 days.

HOULAHAN: Sure. And this is the suburbs of Philadelphia, but it's also very rural and urban at the same time. This is why this part of Pennsylvania is always on the map for every political election. It's very diverse in terms of its topography. Where he was, both last week and this week, are very, very rural areas. And there are farmlands there and woods there, and plenty of opportunities for him to feed himself there because it's an abundance of crops at this time of year.

There are plenty of opportunities for him to clothe himself. There's a large Amish population that regularly hangs their clothing on the line. There's lots and lots of opportunities for this man to have escaped detection and he clearly was able to do that for a long time.

BASH: So interesting. You also represent the area where the prison is, the one that he escaped from. I mean, we have seen over and over the dramatic video of him kind of crab walking up the wall there and was able to get out. What conversations have you had with prison officials to make sure that security is such that this kind of thing never happens again?

HOULAHAN: Yeah. Certainly, an alarming and remarkable escape, but one that we need to make sure that we have analyzed and prevent it for the future. My understanding is that the prison and those who are responsible for that prison have already done some changes to the prison itself to make sure that that doesn't happen again and to prevent those kinds of remarkable escapes from happening again. But you can believe that there will be a lot of postmortem so to speak or conversations after the fact to make sure that we analyze this from both the state, local, and federal level for what we can do better.

BASH: I'm sure that you have seen the pictures or the video of the photo-op taken by law enforcement. What's your response?

HOULAHAN: So, it's a complicated response. On the one hand, I'm enormously proud and grateful to the police for bringing this man to justice. On the other hand, I frankly wish that we didn't have that kind of a photo opportunity in the same way as a veteran that I wish there weren't the same of photo opportunities of Saddam's capture and those kinds of things. So, it's complicated I guess is how I would respond to that.

BASH: It's complicated. You mentioned the fact that you are a veteran and I was thinking the same thing when I saw that, that these individuals did hero's work, the yeoman's work and at the same time, what message does that send? It -- there's no easy answer, I guess.


HOULAHAN: It's complicated. And we are enormously grateful for the people who have spent tireless days and nights bringing him in. And I do think it also should be a lesson delivered to people like him to not try this. And I think that that's -- it is part of the message as well.

BASH: That's a very good point. Thank you so much for coming on. We are so glad that the constituents in your district in Pennsylvania, Chester County, are breathing a sigh of relief that I know you are as well.

HOULAHAN: Thank you. I appreciate you.

BASH: Thank you. And up next, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy rolls the dice on an impeachment probe against President Biden. Will it be enough to quiet his conservative critics? Stay with us.



BASH: Today, Kevin McCarthy is trying to get everyone on the same page and not finding much luck. Behind closed doors, the house speaker tried to explain why he made the decision to unilaterally to move forward with an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, I have to say that I've covered those halls for many years and the notion of hearing a member of the speaker's own party, Matt Gaetz, do what he did on the House floor saying that he was serving notice to Speaker McCarthy, that he was out of compliance and he needed to bring him into total compliance, was about the most brazen thing I have ever heard when it comes to the challenge to somebody's leadership.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and it's just one of the many challenges that Speaker McCarthy faces this month. One, that leadership test that could happen any moment. One member could call for a vote seeking his ouster. He would have to prevent more than four Republicans from voting to oust him, assuming all Democrats do so. That's one issue.

The other thing with spending, avoiding a government shutdown, another major issue as well. That's something that Gaetz's warning could actually trigger that effort to push him out. And also impeachment, that's a question that members on both sides of the aisle have. How long will this investigation go? What will it actually produce? Will they vote to charge the president with high crimes or misdemeanors, even though a number of members are skeptical?

Today, I asked Kevin McCarthy about his decision not to hold a floor vote to open up an inquiry even though he said clearly, just 12 days ago, that he would in fact hold a floor vote, but the votes were not there. He ultimately decided to order this on his own even though some members are concerned about the politics as well.


REP. TOM COLE, (R) OKLAHOMA: Help (ph) Democrats. I mean, I haven't seen anybody do too well after an impeachment process. Didn't do well for us in 1998 with President Clinton. I don't see it as good politics. I do think there's enough stuff here, that it deserves to be looked at.

RAJU (on camera): I'm talking about your words. Why did you change your words?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: OK. Well, let me answer your question because I have answered it every single day and you could answer me every single day. Nancy Pelosi changed the precedent of this House.

RAJU (on camera): But that was (inaudible).


MCCARTHY (on camera): Nancy Pelosi changed the precedent of this House on September 24th. It was withheld and good enough for every single Democrat here. It was good enough for the judge, why does it have to be different today?


RAJU: McCarthy not explaining there despite my efforts to try to get him to explain why he changed his position from saying there would be an -- absolutely be a vote to ordering this investigation to happen. Pelosi, if you recall, on that first impeachment, an inquiry did occur for Donald Trump and then the vote occurred about a month into that inquiry. But in the second impeachment, which of course had to do with the January 6th attack, there was no investigation at all. They impeached him about a week after the January 6th attack. But McCarthy there again not explaining his decision, but it is really about this, Dana. He didn't have the votes...

BASH: Yeah.

RAJU: order to open up an inquiry, and all those vulnerable members didn't want to cast that vote.

BASH: We'll do the explaining for him. You'll do the explaining for him based on your excellent reporting. He doesn't have the votes. That's why he didn't take the vote because he didn't want to lose. And also as you've said, because it would put a lot of his members in the short terms in a very tough position. Thanks for your great reporting, Manu.

We have lots of members of our Hill team working overtime. CNN's Lauren Fox now joins me with new reporting about the impeachment inquiry and how that relates to the very real spending fight that could lead to a government shutdown in a couple of weeks. Lauren, what are you hearing?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana. Yesterday, when I was speaking with some senate Republicans, their hope and expectation was that perhaps, even though they had concerns that McCarthy was opening this impeachment inquiry, that this inquiry might give him some goodwill with House conservatives who have been threatening to potentially shut down the government or oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy if he puts a clean spending bill on the floor of the House of Representatives.

So, one thing that became very clear over the last 24 hours is that House conservatives are not backing off when it comes to their demands on spending. As you noted, Matt Gaetz went to the floor just a little over an hour after McCarthy announced the impeachment inquiry, threatening that if McCarthy brought this to the floor, he was going to try and oust Kevin McCarthy for bringing a clean CR to the floor.

You also heard from other conservatives later in the day, the House Freedom Caucus holding a more than hour-long press conference, digging in and doubling down on their demands, some of which they made during the congressional recess.


And a number of House Republicans I talked to today said and acknowledged that Kevin McCarthy is in an extremely difficult and precarious position right now. Tim Burchett, who is a Republican from Tennessee, a conservative, who doesn't support these kinds of short- term spending bills ever, he argued that while McCarthy has survived time and time again, this is going to be one of the biggest tests that the House speaker confronts in his time in leadership.

And obviously, McCarthy could come to a place where he may have to choose between keeping the government open, Dana, and keeping his gavel.

BASH: Very well said. That very well could happen shortly. And then the question is who has the votes to get the gavel. Lauren, thank you so much for that great reporting.

And up next, request denied. A district judge rejects Mark Meadow's bid to stall his Georgia case from proceeding.



BASH: Today, a federal judge told Mark Meadows no. The Former White House Chief of Staff just lost his latest bid to try to slow his trial down in Georgia. CNN's Sara Murray joins me now. Sara, what happened?

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, essentially, Mark Meadows is trying to move his case to federal court, right? He has lost his first attempt to do that. He has gone to the appeals court asking them to intervene, but he has asked this first federal judge who said I'm not moving your case to federal court. Could you just push hold on that decision? Could you just wait on that? Because I'm really concerned that the state court in Georgia is going to move ahead, we're going to get through a trial, and they're going to convict me before I've had a chance to get through this appeal?

Well, the federal judge is not buying that argument. He declined to issue what is called an emergency stay, essentially a pause for Mark Meadows today and here's part of what he said. He said Meadows' contention that he would be irreparably harmed by the possibility of facing trial next month are insufficient to carry his burden on the emergency stay requested. No trial date has been set for Meadows and he admits that it's not guaranteed his trial will be in October. And Dana, this is the thing we've been wondering for all these folks, is if your name isn't Ken Chesebro and your name isn't Sidney Powell, and you are asking for a speedy trial, what are you actually going to go to trial in Georgia? A date has not officially been set for Mark Meadows, so this federal judge is saying, you know, the notion that you're going to go to trial in this whole four-month process plus is going to play out before your appeal is heard is not really something I'm going to buy at this point.

BASH: And we don't know. And this is what everybody wants to know, I guess. Sidney Powell and Chesebro are procrastinating, but it's about the former president.

MURRAY: Right.

BASH: And there are still lots of moves that his defense team can and will make in order to push his trial in Georgia, nevermind potentially to federal court, but post-election 2024.

MURRAY: That's right. And we're still sort of waiting for the state judge, the state court judge to set an initial marker. What does he think is an initial trial date that's reasonable for people not named Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro, for a Donald Trump, for a Mark Meadows? We've been expecting him to weigh in on that this week. He suggested at his hearing last week that he would start to issue some scheduling orders.

So we're waiting to see sort of out of the gate, what does the state court judge think is a fair time line. And as you pointed out, we are going to see a lot of efforts by Donald Trump's team to try to put that off. He has already said, I shouldn't be tried along these other co-defendants. You know, we expect his attorneys are also going to try to move his case to federal court, although they haven't filed for that yet. So there's a lot more legal high jinks to come.

BASH: That is a guaranteed.


Sara, thank you so much. And a critical fundraising push for the Biden campaign is getting underway today and it comes just one day after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ordered an impeachment inquiry into the president. Arlette Saenz joins me from the White House. Arlette, I got an email, I got a text, they're asking for money, and they're saying it's because of the House Republican impeachment inquiry, not a surprise.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, Dana, it's not a surprise. But the Biden campaign today is trying to turn this into a fundraising advantage, sending out those emails and those text messages to their grassroots supporters to try to drum up, build up donations. If you take a look at the email that went out just really within the last hour, it says things like the Republicans have launched a beyond-ridiculous impeachment inquiry into President Biden. Also noting that this is the time for donors to show their support for him and saying that they need to stand with the president. It's noteworthy that this email comes from Vice President Kamala Harris. It's her name attached to it, her photo attached to it at the bottom. But the campaign has really been very deliberate in how they have been pitching grassroots supporters in donating to the campaigns, and they decided to go ahead and lean into this impeachment inquiry, trying to use it to their fundraising advantage. Now, this all comes as that end-of-quarter deadline is quickly approaching on September 30th, as the campaign is really trying to coral not just grassroots supporters but also high-dollar donors.

Today, the campaign is hosting the start of a donor retreat for some of their top donors and bundlers out in Chicago. Vice President Kamala Harris actually will be on hand to speak to those donors. These types of meetings give these donors a chance to get a little peek under the hood of how this campaign has been operating, but it also gives the campaign a chance to try to encourage them to contribute more.


And it comes as the third quarter really is a traditionally slow month when it comes to fundraising due to those summer months. But a source is telling me that, right now, they are estimating they expect to raise at least $43 million in this quarter, a number that's slightly lower than the last quarter, but they'll be making those moves in the coming weeks.

BASH: Yeah. And traditionally, a campaign not only wants to raise money to have the money, but it's also in the case of a campaign like Biden to show the enthusiasm is there.

Thank you so much, Arlette. Appreciate it. And thank you for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after a quick break.