Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

McCarthy To Hardliners: Come At Me, If You Dare; Romney: Time For Biden, Trump To Cede Stage To Next Generation; Romney's Lament Turns Harsh Light On Senate Colleagues; Trump, 16 Other Co-Defendants Get Later Trial Date In Georgia; JUDGE REJECTS Georgia D.A.'s Request To Try Trump In October. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 14, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Today on Inside Politics, move the F-ing motion. A fired-up Kevin McCarthy dares Republican hardliners to actually do what they talked about doing for months and try to take his gavel.

Plus severed. We saw it live right here on CNN, the judge in charge of the Georgia Trump case makes a critical decision, and says, the former president's trial won't happen in October.

And Detroit drives towards a strike. 12 hours away from the deadline for the union and the big three at this point do not have a deal. A walkout could trigger nationwide sticker shock and inch the economy closer to a recession.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines at Inside Politics.

Up first, he's not going to take it and he's not afraid. This morning, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy sent a clear expletive laced message behind closed doors to Republicans, the just Republicans need to start passing bills. Republicans are not leaving until they fund the government. And if conservatives want someone else in his job, then F- ing do it. In front of reporters, his words were more polite, but the message was the same.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA): Threads don't matter, and sometimes people do those things because of personal things. And that's all fine. I don't walk away from a battle. I knew changing Washington would not be easy. I knew people would fight or try to hold leverage for other things. I'm going to continue to just to focus on what's the right thing to do for the American people. And you know what, if it takes a fight, I'll have a fight.


BASH: Let's go straight to Capitol Hill with Manu Raju there. Manu, such a change in tone and approach by the speaker really in the last 24 hours. What happened?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a large part because of the challenges that McCarthy now faces to avoid a government shutdown by the end of this month. Remember that they have to get a bill passed by September 30, in order to do just that, but there are sharp divisions within his conference about how to move forward. And there are threats on the far right from Congressman Matt Gaetz.

In particular, that if he does move forward with that short-term bill, that would be enough to force a vote to seek his ouster as speaker of the House. Something that could happen if five Republicans vote to oust him, and all Democrats do as well.

Kevin McCarthy said he was having none of it. He said that we need to avoid a government shutdown and be bad for them politically, everyone would lose. He said, if there is a shutdown, he warned that this House would stay in session until next week, and he delegates and other critics to bring it on saying, "move the F-ing motion", referring to that effort to try to potentially remove him.

In response, Gaetz had his own words back to the speaker. He said, how about this? How about just move the F-ing spending bills? That was a response to moving some of those bills individually. But the problem is they simply don't have the votes.

Kevin McCarthy backed away from a deal that he cut with the White House to set overall spending levels with because of the pressure from the far right. Some of those members want even deeper cuts now. So, the question is, will he be able to thread the needle, get his members in line, get this through and avoid this vote to oust him his speaker that could occur sometime this month. Dana?

BASH: And we also learned a good deal about how McCarthy's lieutenants plan to conduct his impeachment -- is someone coming. Go ahead. Go ahead.

RAJU: Yes. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, do you have the votes to defeat Matt Gaetz? Do you have the votes to defeat Matt Gaetz's motion? Sorry, he was -- he was not stuck, not stopping there, Dana. He is moving and talking to reporters on his way. We do have reporters who are talking to him. Now we'll report back what he has to say.

But that is one of the questions that I had initially this morning. He has not answered directly whether he would actually defeat Matt Gaetz's efforts to try to oust him from the speakership. It's unclear at the moment simply because a lot of those members on the far right are keeping their cards a bit close to their vest here, but Dana, that is one of the major issues that he has to face here this month.

BASH: OK, Manu. I saw you looking to the right where the House chamber is, obviously somebody was coming. Let us know if he said anything that we need to know about. Thanks for that Manu.


RAJU: Yes. Thanks. BASH: Here with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's David Chalian, POLITICO's Heidi Przybyla, and Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Is there anything better than Manu Raju thought? I like that one.

BASH: Nothing, nothing, nothing. We all knew what was happening. (crosstalk). David Chalian, it's really striking to see and hear what Kevin McCarthy has done today versus how we started the week, which is, OK, you want an impeachment? I'll give you an impeachment. OK. You want x, y, and z, I'll give you x, y, and z. He's now saying, I'm done. It's a change of tactic. And of course, there's obviously a sense that he's fed up.

CHALIAN: Yes. And that he's fully engaged in the battle, right? I mean, I think I connect what we saw today to what we actually saw, not at the beginning of this week, but at the beginning of this year, with the vote of 15 rounds. Kevin McCarthy, if you recall, came into his battle for the speakership, saying, as long as it takes, we are just going, we will keep voting round and round.

And even though he knew he didn't have the votes for that initial first round, he was pretty committed to that strategy. And I think he's sort of daring his antagonists in the conference, in a very similar fashion that he did in January. And he emerged victorious, perhaps a bit bruised, perhaps with deals that he didn't want to have to make after 15 rounds.

But I think he's approaching this in a similar fashion, which is like, I'm not going to just stand here and take your threat and call it game over. I'm going to engage in a battle with you here and challenge you to actually commit and follow through with what you say you want to do. Because here's the reality. It's not at all clear. If indeed, one person were to vacate the chair, where the votes are for the next speaker.

BASH: You took the words out of my mouth that there isn't it. I mean, can you think of one person right now, who could get 218 or the majority, whatever that is right now in order to become speaker? I mean that is the open question. And I agree with you that he's engaging in the battle now.

But since that speakers' vote in January, at the beginning of 2023, a lot of what he has done, save for a couple of key moments has been to try to continue to hold on to that conservative support that he had to go 15 rounds in a vote for in order to get.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: But let's talk about how this could be a bit of a break in the moment in terms of this being an inescapable dead end for the Republican Party, because now that they've committed to this impeachment inquiry, it can go one of two ways, right?

They ultimately don't impeach, and President Biden can claim that he was vindicated. And their base goes crazy. After all of those 19 Republicans, vulnerable Republicans were forced to walk the plank on an impeachment vote, OK, or they do impeach, based on evidence that they all acknowledge doesn't exist right now.

And they've had access, we all know, to those treasury suspicious financial transactions for many, many months, or they go whitewater, which is they start an impeachment inquiry on one thing, they go to another thing, either way, the Senate is not going to vote to convict. And again, they've put their vulnerable members in a very bad spot, and they energized the Democratic base.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes. I think it's back to Kevin McCarthy. Since January, he has tried to keep his conference together by acquiescing to those hardliners on the right, but I think it's starting to catch up with him. And I think what we're seeing today is he's like, I've given you just about everything. What more do you want from me?

And so, now he's out of -- what else can he do? He called for an impeachment inquiry. He's agreed to these cuts beyond the debt limit deal. He clearly made other promises in January that aren't in writing, and now he's being held accountable for.

And so, now I think he's out of gifts to give. So now, he has no choice but to kind of call their bluff and say, we'll then bring it on, because I've been over backwards, so to speak, bring it on. The question is to me word, where do Democrats go? Because you need Democrats if you're going to remove Kevin McCarthy, but no Democrats want to help out Matt Gaetz on this.

BASH: No, you can say that again. I want to connect this conversation, which is not just about Kevin McCarthy. It's not just about funding the government. It's not just impeaching President Biden. It's about the Republican Party and where the Republican Party is.

So, connect what's happening in the House as we speak to what we heard from Mitt Romney, in the United States Senate yesterday saying, that he is not going to seek reelection with a very Romney ask message, which is actually was multifold. But in this particular instance, I want you to listen to what he said about a generational issue.



SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R-UT): I think it'd be a great thing if both President Biden and former President Trump were to stand aside and let their respective party pick someone in the next generation. President Trump to be President Biden, when he was running said, he was a transitional figure to the next generation. Well, time to transition.


BASH: So, he wants the next generation of the Republican Party. What are we seeing in the House of Representatives, the next generation of the Republican Party. That is what is happening, the chaos and the turmoil? And then in the Senate, where he serves.

According to McKay Coppins, who has an upcoming biography of Romney. Romney talks about those next generation Republicans, specifically, Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz. What bothered Romney most about Hawley and his cohort was the oily disingenuousness.

They know better, he told me, Josh Hawley is one of the smartest people in the Senate, if not the smartest, and Ted Cruz could give him a run for his money. They were too smart, Romney believed to actually think that Trump had won the 2020 election. Hawley and Cruz are making a calculation, Romney told me, that put politics above the interests of liberal democracy and the Constitution.

I wait to jump in. But first, let's listen to what Josh Hawley said in response to that.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, (R-MO): That is probably the nicest thing he's ever said about me, so then public. You should see what he says about me in private. And I did like the part where he said that maybe I was smarter than Ted Cruz. So, I would say on balance, he was probably like, 47 percent accurate.


BASH: You have to know to know, 47 percent. And we won't dwell on that. But if you know, you know. What do you make of the generational argument? And the reality of where that next generation is right now on the Republican Party. It's not what he thinks it is, or it's not what he hopes it is, I should say.

CHALIAN: That's you correct yourself there. Well, I think because he acknowledged, he said, this is not, you know, an immediate project. He understands. He was telling reporters yesterday, Romney was, this is maybe a multi-year project, a 10-year project, and think a 10-year project. 10 years ago, where was the Republican Party?

They were trying to lick their wounds from Mitt Romney's loss. They were engaging in bipartisan talks on immigration reform and passing a bill out of the Senate. They were doing an autopsy at the RNC to figure out the path forward to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party nationally.

And look at where the Republican Party is 10 years later, as Mitt Romney says, goodbye to a political career with a real warning about a party that he says, most of his party, many in his party, don't believe in the constitution. I mean, think about that. This was the standard bearer of the Republican Party just a little more than 10 years ago. And he is now saying that that party he was the leader of many people don't believe in the content.

BASH: Which is why I don't, I don't, yes, I definitely heard him say this is a multi-year multi decade project. But how does that even happen if it veers off in a way that he doesn't want it to veer in the near term? PRZYBYLA: Well, it's such a good point because at the same time, Dana, if you read that piece, he's acknowledging that part of a -- a big part of the reason why he stayed in the Senate in the first place was to try and be a role model to give confidence to these other Republicans to stand up for the constitution to take difficult votes like his on impeachment.

He shares gut wrenching details about just like the personal anguish he went through and coming to that decision and taking that stand. But he also teases us a little bit and that he says, he's not done with fighting the fight or some kind of words like that, that he's -- this is not the end of his political future. So, who knows what he'll do after he leaves the Senate.

MITCHELL: Yes. I think I'll be interested to read about his personal reckoning about the part he played in not speaking up sooner, and trying to kind of go along with the party and do what he could because I think that's worth acknowledging.

BASH: Although, he did try to speak up really early before -- became the nominee and -- -

CHALIAN: I mean, then he had that one moment of sorting to possibly be a secretary of state, but that's a whole other matter.

BASH: Standby everybody, because coming up breaking news out of Fulton County, Georgia. The judge issues a major ruling in the Georgia election subversion case. We're live outside the courthouse after a quick break.




BASH: Making just a short time ago, Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee decided Donald Trump and 16 other co-defendants will get a later trial date in the Georgia elections subversion case. The D.A. wanted a trial of all 19 defendants to begin next month. Today's decision made could actually reshape the entire case and the way that it is tried.

CNN's Nick Valencia is live outside the courthouse. Nick, breakdown what we saw in that courtroom today.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, there were plenty of fireworks inside the courtroom. But the real fireworks happened just minutes before this hearing got underway with the presiding Judge Scott McAfee, handing down a ruling that severed former President Donald Trump and 16 other co-defendants from this trial that's expected to start on October 23 with Sidney Powell and Ken Chesebro.

So, a big question is answered. We still don't know when that potential trial date would take place. Scott McAfee did not have that ruling on hand just yet. So, we still have to wait on that. But I mentioned fireworks inside the courtroom. Those mostly came in the form of animated defense attorneys, who seem to be annoyed at the state's lack of transparency they called especially, when it comes to discovery. It's something that Scott Grubman, Ken Chesebro's attorney addressed as he left court.



SCOTT GRUBMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: The state has this information. They've had it for well over a year. We just want to be on an equal playing field. And I will note that the state stands up and they say, we're an open book. And then they follow it up with a PowerPoint, talking about all the reasons we shouldn't get the things we're asking for. I'll let the members of the public decide whether those two things are consistent. We simply want all the information for our client.


VALENCIA: As defense attorneys did get the terabytes eight, terabytes of discovery handed over to them in court sort of nonchalantly from the district attorney's office. This hearing today, though, was a procedural hearing that addressed three motions that were basically answered today that this defense attorneys are going to be able to speak to the grand jurors, how it's still being worked out.

They're also get transcripts from the special purpose grand jury witnesses, so long as those witnesses are testifying at trial that happens 10 days before. And 30 names of unindicted co-conspirators in this indictment were handed over to the defense attorneys as well. But the big news today, Dana, is that former President Donald Trump and 16 others will be severed from this trial date on October 23. Dana?

BASH: Nick, thank you so much for that reporting. Let's talk more about it with CNN's Evan Perez, trial attorney and former Georgia prosecutor Chris Timmons, and David Chalian is still with us.

Chris, I'm going to go to you in Georgia. What do you make of what we saw in the court this morning? And do you have any sense of what it means for the sort of the big political story at which is a former president, current candidate for president and when he will be tried in Georgia?

CHRIS TIMMONS, TRIAL ATTORNEY & FORMER GEORGIA PROSECUTOR: So, Dana, the biggest thing is, obviously, the severance. You've got to going out first. I was a little surprised by that because what that means is that Judge McAfee is probably looking at, you know, around two years of trial, though, he really wants to do jury selection quickly if he can.

But on top of that, I really think that what we're going to see is a preview of the Trump trial, probably 80 percent of the evidence is going to overlap to RICO conspiracy case. I've tried a number of RICO cases, and whether it's seven or not, and none of them were severed, but the trial strategy is going to be the same. I don't think you're going to hide any of the cards. If you're the state, I think you're going to go for the win. And so, we're going to hear a lot of the evidence that is available and is going to be used against the Trump defendants or the other 17 -- -

BASH: So, two years. So where are we? We're at the mid-September right now. Election Day 2024 is a year and a month and a half. So do you put that -- and we can, as we talked about that we can look at the calendar, generally speaking. Do you put this trial then after the general election? Or it's still unclear?

TIMMONS: No, I do. And the other interesting thing is that President Trump is -- our former President Trump isn't the only person who's up. Next spring Fani Willis herself, the D.A. is going to be up in May. And so, it'd be really interesting if she lost. I think that there's going to be a candidate who runs against her at least in the in the primary.

And I think the argument they're going to make is, why is she spending all this money and resources going after what looks like a federal case, and two particular cases, the YSL, or Young Thug case, but also the Trump case, as opposed to dealing with crimes that affect us to day to day in Atlanta. That may catch hold, it's caught hold in other counties. I had a different boss, because of some two high profile or locally high-profile cases that went that the general public just didn't agree with.

So, I think that would be very interesting. If you have a D.A. losing that race to somebody who says that they're not going to deal with high profile trials, you could see that trial dismissed midway through. I mean, that's something that could happen.

BASH: Wow. And that is so interesting. And Evan, we actually need to keep that in mind. And David, you say it all the time. Fani Willis is a D.A. She is a prosecutor. She is elected. That's the way it works in Georgia.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It does. And look, I mean, this is a big deal that the judge has granted the severance because, you know, for the Trump legal team, means that they're going to get to see a lot of what the prosecution strategy is. I mean, they're already got a little bit of a help. You know, we're anticipating at some point that the former president is going to try to remove this case, to federal court.

And he got to see Mark Meadows crash and burn in his attempt to do that already. So, they've learned from that. And, you know, whenever he makes that request, which we anticipate will happen, you know, they'll they will have learned the significant things. So, I think by the time he gets to trial, you know, they'll see what Chesebro and Powell, the strategies were for those cases -- for that case.

CHALIAN: Do you think that is why we didn't get a speedy trial request from Trump the way that we saw from Powell and Chesebro because they felt, if they didn't move to a speedy trial aspect, they have the opportunity to see all this.

PEREZ: Right, absolutely. I mean, they want to make sure that, I mean, first of all, they wanted to severance because they wanted to make sure they go later. And that's exactly the strategy. They want to try to learn this bunch of other things (Ph).


BASH: Well, I mean, you know this also, it's when we could put the calendar back up. It's yes, they want it for the legal team. They want to learn what happens. The political team which is ruling the roost here at least, that's what the president -- the former president thinks about to delay, it means to delay, you can get later in the calendar.

PEREZ: Look at the calendar, right?

CHALIAN: Yes. And that's just the spring. We're not even -- you're looking at May there. You're not even getting to the general election, which is really what he hopes for. And I understand he doesn't have a pardon ability in Georgia. But he wants to be president of the United States again, when all of these court decisions get wrapped up.

BASH: That's exactly right. Thanks, guys. Thanks for the conversation. Chris Timmons in Georgia, thank you so much. A major economic address from President Biden today, drawing a direct contrast between Bidenomics, and what he is now calling MAGAnomics. All the details as we go live to the White House, next.