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UAW Head: Union Is "Fighting The Billionaire Class And An Economy That Enriches People Like Donald Trump"; DeSantis Fires Back At Trump On Abortion: "Pro-lifers Should Know That He's Preparing To Sell Out"; House Oversight CMTE Sets First Biden Impeachment Inquiry Hearing For Sept. 28; Witnesses Dispute Claims Of Political Interference In Hunter Biden Criminal Probe; McCarthy Cancels Key Procedural Vote On Spending Bill. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 19, 2023 - 12:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Our great reporters are back to talk about this, and it's interesting because the Auto Workers Union, we'll see how the members feel about Donald Trump.

But this is what the president, whose name is Shawn Fain said in a statement just earlier today, he said, "Every fiber of our union is being poured into fighting the billionaire class in an economy that enriches people like Donald Trump at the expense of workers. We can't keep electing billionaires and millionaires that don't have any understanding what it is like to live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to get by and expecting them to solve the problems of the working class".

Eva, you're on the road a lot talking to voters. Are the rank and file voters in line with our president on this?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, the problem for Democrats is that Trump has proven adept at double speak. So, if you look at his record under his administration, he was no friend of labor. He was no friend of unions, but yet he is able to go out there and speak to working class voters in a way that we see resonates.

And so that is the challenge that Democrats face. They often point to the media and say, you're not holding him accountable, but the voters are not holding him accountable. And so he also sees an opening with the transition to green vehicles and seeing the divisions among Democrats and the uncertainty with what that means for these types of union jobs and It's going to seize on that and speak to work workers who have frustrations about that.

RAJU: I want you to listen to the new Trump campaign radio ad that speaks to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump calls them great Americans and has always had their backs, from tax cuts for their families, to playing hardball with China. Biden? He's turned his back on the auto workers by cutting a deal that uses American tax dollars to help fund China's electric car business.


RAJU: But at the same time, Trump is facing some criticism from some of his rivals about his -- going there. Tim Scott referred to -- pointed out how Reagan handled dealing with strikes, and Reagan threatened to fire people who went on strike.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He did. And look, I mean, I think the comments there from the president of the UAW really kind of encapsulate the warning sign for Donald Trump. Yes, he has a lot of populist supporters, but as Eva was just saying, I mean, his policies did not necessarily back that up. So the millionaires and billionaires, that is directed at the former president.

But look, it's smart for him politically to go there. Who knows what the conditions will be? What if they reach a deal the day before he goes there or something? So, his going there is a bit of a theatrics here. But look, he's playing the long ball. He's looking at -- it's yet one more example of how he's looking ahead to the general election and thinking about Michigan.

As some other Republicans are thinking Michigan could like now be in play or something. But it's a challenge for the Biden administration much more. So this really has nothing to do with Trump at the moment.

RAJU: And Trump is trying to deal with his messaging on the general election as he did an abortion, is meet the press interview over the weekend, trying to strike as conservative as a tone as perhaps maybe the policies that he pushed as a president. But Ron DeSantis was out going after Trump on this issue.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think all pro-lifers should know that he's preparing to sell you out. Donald Trump may think it's terrible. I think protecting babies with heartbeats is noble and just. I don't know how you can even make the claim that you're somehow pro-life if you're criticizing states for enacting pro- life protections for babies that have heartbeats.


RAJU: It's a debate (ph). Trump nominated and got confirmed three Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe. Does the abortion attack work?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR: Well, the three Supreme Court justices who voted to overturn Roe have made a very difficult problem for the Republican Party on this issue of abortion. And you just encapsulated it right there and what Ron DeSantis is saying and what Donald Trump is unwilling to say or struggling to say with no clear opinion on abortion. He's all over the place.

Ron DeSantis, he's the one who signed in the six-week ban in Florida. He is making a play in Iowa. This is the most important state for him, including for evangelical voters who are disenchanted with Donald Trump, in part, because of this issue of abortion. The Republican Party is kind of all over the place on this issue, and they haven't figured out how to address voters.

RAJU: And it's a good thing we have Jeff Zeleny here on this panel, who is just in Iowa talking to voters about this. This is what one of them said to Jeff.


ODESSA PHAM, IOWA VOTER: If he really did say that, then that's a step away, you know, because I believe that in Iowa, we need to have a heartbeat bill too.

ZELENY: Would something like that cause you to consider supporting someone else?

PHAM: Actually, yes, it will after I do my research to see if that's true.


RAJU: How pervasive is that sentiment?

ZELENY: Well, look, I think people, I think that's a good reminder of my conversation last night in Mason City, Iowa with Odessa Pham. She was at a Tim Scott town hall and asking him about abortion, and he brought up these Donald Trump comments.


It's a reminder that this still has to seep through the atmosphere, but those comments that the former president made, again, he's thinking about the general election. He has a primary to win first, so this will test the resilience of evangelical voters.

He's going to Iowa tomorrow to campaign in Dubuque. There's no question that the Meet the Press comments are going to be a part of ads that his rivals are going to do to remind evangelical voters that, wait, he's not supporting the pro-life cause right now, so --

RAJU: Yes.

ZELENY: -- it's more pervasive than he would like to think.

RAJU: And we'll see if it has any impact on this race that Donald Trump has been dominating.

OK, coming up, brand new CNN reporting. Testimony from key officials is raising doubts about the claims made by an IRS whistleblower in the Hunter Biden investigation. All the details next.



RAJU: Just in, the House Oversight Committee will hold its first Biden impeachment inquiry hearing next week. Chairman James Comer tells CNN's Annie Greer that witnesses will include a financial expert to discuss Biden family bank records, as well as a constitutional expert to talk about the impeachment process.

This as new CNN reporting casts doubt on claims made by an IRS whistleblower who alleged there was political interference in the federal criminal investigation of Hunter Biden's taxes, which was the launching pad of source for the inquiry.

CNN's Kara Scannell is here with us to talk more about this. So what are you learning about this testimony?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Manu, our colleagues Annie Greer and Jeremy Herb have gone through the testimony of three top law enforcement officials who have testified, and that includes the supervisory -- the supervisor at the FBI who oversaw this investigation, his number two, and IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley's boss at the time.

And so their testimony was focused on this key meeting, October 2022, that Gary Shapley has testified about. And in that meeting, he has said that the U.S. Attorney David Weiss had expressed during this meeting that he didn't have the ultimate decision making authority on whether to bring charges against Hunter Biden and that he had sought and was denied special counsel status.

So the testimony from these three officials who were in the room are casting doubt on Shapley's memory because one of the officials, the FBI official said, with respect specifically to Weiss saying that he did not have decision making authority, he said, "If he would have said that, I would have remembered it".

And the other two officials also testifying that they do not recall this. You know, so that bolsters some of Weiss statements because he has denied that that had taken place. Now, Shapley's attorneys are saying that he has handwritten notes from the meeting where he is confident in what he took down and that he memorialized those notes in an email to his boss soon after the meeting.

So they are sticking by that position. Of course, you know, the -- it is not all casting doubt on it. The officials do say that they back up some of Shapley's claims, including that the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. and the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles did not want to partner with Weiss on this investigation.

They do support some of his testimony, but of course, this isn't over. The committees have subpoenaed two DOJ officials for testimony and Attorney General Merrick Garland is on the Hill tomorrow. Manu?

RAJU: Yes. And this will undoubtedly come out in what will be a very contentious hearing. Kara Scannell, thank you for that.

And in an exclusive sit down interview with our own Dana Bash, California Governor Gavin Newsom waiting in the Hunter Biden investigation and whether or not he thinks some of the President's alleged actions were appropriate. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: One of the things that Republicans are relentless on, of course, is Hunter Biden. The House Republicans are now engaged in an impeachment inquiry.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM: No, they're worried about gun crimes, which is remarkable. I'm actually very --

BASH: Well, but I want to talk about something else, which is, I should say, there is no evidence that Joe Biden directly benefited from anything that Hunter Biden was doing.

NEWSOM: You may want to tell the Speaker of the House.

BASH: Well, Republicans have shown that Hunter Biden, he tried to leverage his father's name. And that the president allegedly, before he was president, joined phone calls that Hunter Biden's business associates were on.


BASH: Do you see anything inappropriate there?

NEWSOM: I don't know enough about the details of that. I mean, I've seen a little of that. If that's the new criteria, there are a lot of folks in a lot of industries, not just in politics, where people have family members and relationships and they're trying to parlay and a little -- and get a little influence and benefit in that respect, that's hardly unique.

I don't love that any more than you love it, or other people I imagine love that. We want to see a lot less of that. But an impeachment inquiry? Give me a break. This is student government. Student government. Threatening debt again, or rather, threatening a government shutdown again after we went through that process with the debt ceiling?

This is student government. This is a joke. Ready, fire, aim? I mean, this is a perversity that the Founding Fathers ever conceived of and imagined. So if that's the best they can do? Give me a break. That's about public opinion that --

BASH: Should President Biden be out there defending himself, defending the notion of what his son did or didn't do because he's been silent on it?

NEWSOM: Well, I tell you, with respect, I can't answer that. That's for the president to answer. Why? We'll say this, though, just as trying to be as objective as I can. When you have the Department of Justice, I would best advise the president not to start meddling.


This is what we were criticizing during the Trump administration. So I know you all wanted to do something, but at the same time we then be criticizing for getting too involved in in the weeds. I think he's taking the right approach. It's tough personally for him not to be able to say more, I can imagine.

Forget the politics and the day we come and go. He's a future ex- president. I expect that will happen in five years plus. But at a personal level, this has got to be devastating to him.


RAJU: It's getting messier by the minute on Capitol Hill. Will hardline House Republicans sink a spending bill, and will the government shut down? I'll speak to one of those Republicans next.



RAJU: Now, House Republicans are more divided every day about how to avoid a government shutdown that's now just 12 days away. Republican hardliners are standing firm against even a short-term bill to keep the government open while these negotiations continue. One of them is South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman, a member Caucus who is joining me right now.

Thank you so much, Congressman, for joining me at the moment. I want to talk to you about just your position here on this short-term spending bill. You told our colleague Melanie Zanona this morning that last night you mistakenly voted for a procedural measure to advance this bill to the floor.

I think you use the words of you were asleep at the wheel of some sort, but you're opposed to this short-term bill. Is that not right? And what do you say to members in your own conference who say members like you need to compromise?

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R), BUDGET, FINANCIAL SERVICES & RULES COMMITTEES: Well, mind you, here's what I know. And on the vote in the rules committee, yes, I just confused it with another vote. And -- but, anyway, that was my fault. Yes, I am opposed to it. I will vote on it when it comes to the floor of the House.

And, you know, there are a lot of us who -- we're tired of talking about reining in spending. We're tired of talking about not having top line numbers. What we're asking for -- and in a positive way, we had a great meeting, caucus meeting today where I think there was a lot of members who said we need a top line number that leadership's going to fight for not to exceed.

And we want the 12 appropriation bills with numbers, actual numbers, so that we can see where we are overall. We're running a $2 trillion deficit this year. And will we have a shutdown? Yes, I think we will. I don't think there's any other way to avoid it. So we'll see how it goes from here on out.

RAJU: Yes, and you're a sentiment that you believe there'll be a shutdown. I've heard that from members all across the line. There's a growing expectation there is one. The Speaker did agree to top line numbers with the White House. He backed off that among pressure from members like you. But there are moderates in your conference, Congressman, who are particularly frustrated.

Listen to what Congressman Mike Lawler, he's a freshman from New York in a district that Biden won in 2020. This is what he said about members taking your position.


REP. MIKE LAWLER (R), NEW YORK: This is not conservative republicanism. This is stupidity. The idea that we're going to shut the government down when we don't control the Senate, we don't control the White House, these people can't define a win. They don't know how to take yes for an answer. It's a clown show. You keep running lunatics, you're going to be in this position.


RAJU: I mean, pretty strong words there from a member of your own conference saying you keep running lunatics. You're going to be in this position and calling it a clown show among other things. You guys are not really conservative. How do you respond to that?

NORMAN: Well, obviously, I disagree with Congressman Lawyer. He -- I like him. He's got his opinion. My opinion is that you can't keep this path of destruction of overall spending. It's got to end somewhere. It was put in focus today at our caucus meeting that on interest alone, we're spending 20,000 per second, not minute, not hour, per second, where I disagree with many of the moderates is the only thing this president done -- that's been done well is give us a treasure of things to cut.

And we've got to start doing that. I think a lot of us feel like on the debt ceiling that we did not end up with what we voted for. And so we've got a chance to right the ship. And it's with the 12 appropriation bills. And if it takes time, we'll do that. You got to remember, this government shut the businesses down all over this country because of a virus.

RAJU: Yes.

NORMAN: They put children out of school because of the virus. Now, we can take a pause to get it right, and I think that's what we'll do.

RAJU: And look, I don't need to tell you, there's these threats that are happening right now from members on the right about trying to oust the Speaker. Matt Gaetz is threatening to force this vote. He says that the Speaker has violated promise after promise to get the speakership.

You didn't initially support the Speaker, you later did, but are you going to support Matt Gaetz on pushing to this vote to push for an ouster? If it comes to the floor, will you vote with Matt Gaetz?

NORMAN: Well, first of all, no, I was one of the five that that withheld the vote with endorsing Speak McCarthy and later grew to 20. Now, I'm not going to go there with vacate the chair. I mean, Kevin has done some good things, but now on spending, that's where we draw the line now.

And I met with him today. He's open to conversation and my question, what top line number on spending will you agree to go to the mat forward and get? And so, that's what I want.


So, we can -- the good news, we continue to talk. And, you know, I think that we'll see how it goes from here. And -- but this debt situation is serious. That's where I disagree with so many among our moderates.

Yes, what's their answer? Let them drop a blueprint for getting us out of 32 trading county. It starts right here. Not right now, not tomorrow, not because the Senate won't pass it.

RAJU: Yes.

NORMAN: It's up to us. We control the purse strings.

RAJU: Well, Congressman Ralph Norman, thank you so much to dissect in the weeks ahead. We appreciate you joining us.

And thank you for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts after the break.