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Inside Politics

Soon: House To Hold Key Vote On Effort To Oust McCarthy; Top Democrats Signal They're Ready To Sink McCarthy; Day Two In Trump's Civil Fraud Trial. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired October 03, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: And then, Sara, we're looking to see if the court is going to take up this case about the abortion pill, whether the FDA properly approved at more than 20 years ago. That will have big ramifications, because more than half of the abortions in this country are done with that abortion pill. So, a lot of consequential cases we're watching in the weeks ahead. Sara.

SARA SIDNER, HOST, CNN NEWS CENTRAL: Those are cases that touch many, many Americans. Jessica Schneider, thank you so much for your reporting.

JOHN BERMAN, HOST, CNN NEWS CENTRAL: And thank you all for joining us. This has been CNN News Central. What could be the final inside politics of Kevin McCarthy's tenure as Speaker of the --

DANA BASH, HOST, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Today on Inside Politics, history, and not the kind Kevin McCarthy wanted to make. Today, the California Republican may become the first House Speaker to lose his gavel with a floor vote prompted by his own party. After a pair of frenzied morning meetings, McCarthy says he'd survived before and he will find a way to survive now.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You're asking, why I am confident? Because who I am. And I just don't give up. There was a time I was going to be Speaker and I couldn't, and you guys all counted me out. I'm Speaker. I'm the 55th Speaker of the House.


BASH: Plus, the picture he wanted, Donald Trump tries to convince America that his civil trial is a trap to keep him off the campaign trail. The truth, it is his choice to be in New York and back in front of a judge and the cameras.

And Hunter Biden returns to the scene where it all fell apart. The President's son was in Delaware to face a judge and plead not guilty to felony gun charges.

I'm Dana Bash. Let's go behind the headlines and inside politics.

Up first, the Republican House Speaker's political survival depends on Democrats, and he knows it.


MCCARTHY: You guys do whatever you need to do. I get politics. I understand where people are. At the end of the day, if you throw a Speaker out that has 99 percent of their conference that kept government open and paid the troops, I think we're in a really bad place for how we're going to run Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, are you expecting Democrats to back you up then?

MCCARTHY: No. Personally, I am not.


BASH: I'm told that House Democratic leaders began this morning's behind closed doors Democratic caucus meeting by playing clips from Kevin McCarthy on television this past weekend. He was trash talking Democrats, and that set the tone for the conversation and led most Democrats to feel they don't know Kevin McCarthy, anything.

I want to get straight to Capitol Hill where CNN's Manu Raju is, who has been doing extensive and extraordinary reporting along with our team. What's the latest that you're hearing right now on that critical question? Will Democrats bail out Kevin McCarthy?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, the short answer is, no. I mean, coming out of that closed door meeting, you're absolutely right, Dana. There was the view among members that they cannot trust Kevin McCarthy. They listened to that video clip that you referred to about Kevin McCarthy on the Sunday shows, and a number that went up to the mics, one after one, indicating that they can't trust him, indicating that there is no reason to save him. I did not hear from a single member, and I talked to many leaving the meeting, who were ready to vote to help him out in any way.

And that is the message that is coming for the Democratic leadership, including Hakeem Jeffries, who was quiet, I was told, in the meeting, but wants the caucus to come to consensus position, and it's clear in talking to Democrats and what they're saying behind the scenes, is a consensus position is let McCarthy sink.


REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): We encourage our Republican colleagues who claim to be more traditional to break from the extremists. In the chaos, in the dysfunction, in the extremism, we're are ready, willing and able to work together with our Republican colleagues, but it is on them to join us to move the Congress and the country forward.


RAJU: But, the math is just simply not there for the Speaker to save his job at the moment, and that's because with no Democrats expected to vote for him unless we'll see if anything changes here. Let us see if we can try to grab the Speaker right here. Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, will you put yourself up for a candidate for Speaker? Mr. Speaker. OK. As you can see, they're not wanting to answer questions in the morning. He did answer questions earlier this morning, Dana, as you can see there.

I wanted to -- the question that I have right now and something that he has alluded to here is that, if he loses the votes, which is, one is a procedural vote in which he is expected to lose to try to stop Matt Gaetz's effort from ousting him? That will fail, almost certainly. Then, there is going to be another vote to oust him from the speakership. That will be the first time ever in American history that this has been successfully executed in the fall. We expect that to happen.

Then, there will be a Speaker's race in which any candidate can put themselves up for Speaker. The question that I wanted to ask him is, and I've been asking the Speaker this, will you put yourself up as a candidate in that scenario?


He has not quite fully entertained that question, because he contends potentially he could win on those first votes. But, that is one of the key questions. And in talking to his allies, they fully expect the Speaker to try to fight it out on the floor, put himself up as a candidate. Let this process drag out. But, here is the challenge. He doesn't have 218 votes as long as those Republicans don't help him out and as Democrats also don't help him out. So, we could be in a situation where the House is completely paralyzed. It cannot act unless a Speaker is elected, especially if they keep going on and voting ballot after ballot after ballot until a Speaker is elected. So, we'll see what McCarthy's next move is here, if he loses the votes this afternoon to stop this effort from going forward.

BASH: Yes, in about an hour and a half. Manu, before I let you go, I want to go back to one of the things that you mentioned, because this is what we're going to be watching on the House floor pretty soon, and that is the first vote that we're going to see will be a motion to table, the motion to vacate. OK. Everybody, stick with me here, because I know that sounds like Washington gobbledygook. But, it is really important because the question is whether or not there will be a successful procedural vote just to do away with the question of whether they're going to oust him.

And the open question, I think for now, at the beginning, the first thing we're going to see is whether there are enough Democrats who will play with their votes, so to speak, to make it so that McCarthy won't even have to face that vote. You're saying that your reporting is unlikely?

RAJU: Highly unlikely. And yes, you are right. That first vote is just simply to kill the Matt Gaetz resolution to stop the oust Kevin McCarthy. So, if they can't get the votes to kill the resolution to oust McCarthy, then the resolution is still alive. It is still on the legislative calendar, and it still has to come up for a vote here. And yes, you're right, Dana. From my reporting and talking to members, McCarthy does not have the votes to stop that Matt Gaetz resolution. And so, his fate will be met here on the House floor this afternoon. Dana.

BASH: Unbelievable. Nice try with Kevin McCarthy there. I'm sure you're going to get him as soon as you leave us. So, come back when you do. Thank you so much, Manu.

RAJU: Thanks.

BASH: Here with me in the studio to share their reporting, Margaret Talev of Axios, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, and Bloomberg's Saleha Mohsin. Thank you so much all of you. Appreciate it.

Jeff Zeleny, we have covered a lot in Washington and in politics, and this could be a first.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It could be a first. And as Manu was laying out there, it is a central question if Kevin McCarthy is going to put himself up for Speaker again, because that gets at this question. There is no one waiting in the wings to be Speaker. There is no center of gravity around one individual person. And that is what is unusual about this. So, what Matt Gaetz is trying to do, of course, is to blow this up, but there is no sense of what is next. That's why this is so consequential.

And the last time this happened, at least they tried to remove a Speaker was in 1910. The Cannon Building on Capitol Hill is named after Speaker Joseph Cannon, Republican from Illinois. He was the Speaker then. He survived that procedural attempt by George Norris, a progressive Republican from Nebraska. History aside, what is going to happen this afternoon is going to be modern history. We don't know a couple of things as well. Donald Trump has been very silent. He is in a New York courtroom, I'm told not paying attention to this at all. Will he offer Kevin McCarthy a lifeline as he did in January? Unlikely. So, that is why this is so consequential.

But, even though our (inaudible) said top Democrats to sink McCarthy, what this is really --

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: -- is Republicans --

BASH: That's such an important point.

ZELENY: -- are sinking McCarthy, and Democrats are not coming to his aid necessarily. But, this is a Republican issue. And that's what Hakeem Jeffries said there --

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: -- that they are not going to come to their aid. This is a Republican issue.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS, & DIR., DEMOCRACY, JOURNALISM & CITIZENSHIP INSTITUTE, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY: Yes. BASH: Totally agree. Let's hear from some Democrats after they came out of their meeting this morning just to make that decision, it looks like, their attempt to seal Kevin McCarthy's fate. That is in the hands of Republicans.

ZELENY: Right.

BASH: Let's listen.


RAJU: Do you have any appetite to save Kevin McCarthy?

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX): No. He is not our leader. He has proven himself to be incredibly destructive and dishonest.

REP. MARK TAKANO (D-CA): I didn't hear a single member express any sense that we felt responsible for "saving Speaker McCarthy or helping Speaker McCarthy". He has not asked for our votes.

REP. TED LIEU (D-CA): The American people deserve a functioning government. Speaker McCarthy has shown he cannot govern.


BASH: I mean, it's pretty tough stuff. They didn't even mention other things that we have been hearing from sources that were discussed inside this democratic meeting, which is January 6 --


BASH: -- and his actions or inaction. After that, the impeachment inquiry and then, of course, a lot of other issues, political issues that have really enraged Democrats even though, of course, the question is and I think we should say it over and over again, it's such a good point, Jeff, this is his fellow Republicans outing him.


The question this morning was whether any Democrats would save him.

TALEV: And just talking to my two Axios colleagues, Andrew Solender and Juliegrace Brufke, right now, they're hearing exactly what Manu is hearing, which is, at this moment, there are no Democrats saying that they would jump in to save McCarthy, or even passively jump in to save McCarthy, like skip the vote, change the ratio, all that sort of math whether you could do to save this off.

I think, Dana, that what you said is really important. Democrats -- you will hear Democrats say a lot that they don't trust Kevin McCarthy. I mean, nobody trusts the leader of the other party. But, there are a couple of reasons why they don't trust Kevin McCarthy, and one is they thought that they were going to avert a shutdown with their negotiations in the summer. But, it really goes back to that January 6 moment, because there was a brief moment when Kevin McCarthy was willing to call out Donald Trump, say that this kind of thing is not acceptable. And in like a 24-hour period or so, he turned. He defended the former President, and he led or allowed himself to be at the helm of the leadership of House Republicans' decision to basically to protect Trump politically after January 6.

So, I think that is at the heart of the trust question. If you look at from the time that Kevin McCarthy came to the House of Representatives until now, if you look at, let's say, The Cook Political Report's calculations on how partisan districts have become, if you put those two charts on top of another, you will see how deeply red and --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- deeply blue certain districts became that have enabled Matt Gaetz and the other handful of Republicans that are kind of the tail wagging --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- the dog to do what they're doing, because their constituents want the fight and will continue to support them.

BASH: It all comes back to gerrymandering. You're speaking my language, Margaret, for sure. Let's get back to the here and now, and the question you mentioned Matt Gaetz, because we can't forget about Matt Gaetz. He is, in the words of many of their fellow Republicans, a chaos agent. Let's listen to what some of them said this morning.


REP. DERRICK VAN ORDEN (R-WI): The only word I can describe for that is either -- he is either a fool or a liar.

REP. ERIN HOUCHIN (R-IN): I think Matt Gaetz is a chaos agent.

REP. MARC MOLINARO (R-NY): And I don't have tolerance for some pseudo- psycho political fetish. Instead, we have to continue to work on behalf of American people.


BASH: I'm not sure what exactly he was saying there. He was very subtle. No, but seriously, it's not as if the majority, and this is another point that we have to underscore as we talk about the context around this, it's not as if the entire House Republican Conference, all 200 plus of them, are all rob, rob, Matt Gaetz, chaos, and anti- Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy certainly has a lot of support, just not enough.

SALEHA MOHSIN, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: He doesn't have enough support, and he is part of the chaos. What we're seeing in the House side right now is Republicans fighting amongst themselves, Democrats fighting amongst themselves and fighting with each other.

Meanwhile, no one is thinking about how much trust our rulers, our leaders are losing with the American people. Trust it is at 100-year or 60-year-low right now between the American people and the American government. And when you have people in Congress fighting over power, while regular Americans are struggling to pay their bills, they have to sell their cars to finance their next massive grocery bill, and then this is what you see in the House, no one is really working to rebuild that trust. It's actually just getting worse.

TALEV: Oh, by the way, it's about to get way worse. If this actually happens, if Kevin McCarthy loses the speakership and then there is a scramble to replace him, and then there is no math that makes anyone the easy next Speaker, that shutdown that we just averted --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- we're basically in another shutdown.


ZELENY: Possibly, possibly, but I think it could also like shake people to the senses. I mean, you can't operate the House, really. It's a constitutional office. I should point out, the Speaker is not --

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: -- just a party leadership position.


ZELENY: It is a constitutional office. It's second in line to the Presidents here. That's why all this matters. That's why we're talking about this.

BASH: Yes, and that's why it's an open question whether Democrats would vote. Democrats would never vote for a regular party leader.

ZELENY: Right.

BASH: This is because it's a constitutional office. OK. Great conversation. Standby, everybody, because we're going to be staying on top of everything on Capitol Hill. The question we've been asking, can Speaker Kevin McCarthy survive?

But, coming up next, we're going to go up to New York. Donald Trump is back in court there, once again lashing out at prosecutors and even the judge who will decide the fate of his businesses and his wallet. We're live outside the courthouse, next.




BASH: Today, a reminder that a picture is worth millions in free media. Donald Trump is back inside a courtroom, getting the images he wants for day two of his New York civil fraud trial. But, beyond the imagery, his campaign hopes will help him with GOP voters, Trump's seething courtroom stare and his seemingly frazzled pretrial rant tell us a lot about his state of mind. The trial strips away a mythology that the former President made himself that he is really, really, really rich. CNN's Brynn Gingras is live outside the courthouse. Brynn, what's happening so far today?

BYRNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. So, Dana, we just wrapped up a short break in testimony. And when everyone returned back into the courtroom, including the former President, the judge actually warned the defense that he needs to start in a timely fashion.

Apparently, there was people that were late inside that courtroom, and told -- basically, made them acknowledge the fact that they will continue to be on time. Well, this is, as the former President took to the microphone again, during that short -- making comments again, disparaging about this trial in general, but also saying that he will testify in this trial. Now, that's not a huge surprise. We have heard that he is very eager to do so, but this may be the first time that we actually heard it from his own mouth.


It's important to know, reporters inside the courtroom, they say the former President and his son Eric Trump, they are extremely engaged in this testimony that is continuing with their former Accountant Donald Bender. They are looking through the documents that are up on screens. They are discussing issues with their attorneys as they continue to really defend their brand, as you just pointed out. This was their life. This is their life. This is what they campaigned on as they head into this next election season, as Kristen has so well pointed out, but also this was what their lives were before the presidency. So, that is really what is going on right now. But, let's go to sound of what he was saying prior to that short break.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: Judge Engoron has been given false and extremely misleading information about my net worth, private company, nobody is supposed to know my net worth. Now everybody is and will, and I hope you're impressed. We built a great company. But, he has been given false information, misleading information, and corrupt information by a very corrupt and incompetent Attorney General.


GINGRAS: So, that's getting add to what you were talking about, Dana, the fact that he still continues to hammer home that he is very, very rich, and that the judge in this trial is wrong, that the AG is wrong about bringing this trial for. The big question now that remains, Dana, is how long will trump stay for today's testimony? We don't have that answer yet. But then, going forward, how many times will he return? He just said he would like to testify. Will he return for other people's testimony? So, we'll stay tuned to find out. Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much. Thank you for that reporting, Brynn. Appreciate it. Let's go back and talk around the table here. I want to -- because this is Inside Politics, and they're going to do the legal -- very important legal discussions elsewhere today, the question that Donald Trump is asking, no, the allegation that he is putting out there is that the judge and the DA, they're doing this to take him off the campaign trail. Let's listen to what he said about that.


TRUMP: This was for politics. Now, it has been very successful for them because they took me off the campaign trail, because I've been sitting in a courthouse all day long, instead of being in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or a lot of other places I could be at.


BASH: So, that was yesterday as this began. Fact check, he doesn't have to be there. There is no requirement. He is not compelled legally to be there. His campaign aides make it pretty clear that they think that this is the best campaign stop for him, the best use of his time as a candidate in the short term as he could possibly have, despite how painful it might be when it comes to the core of who he is, a businessman.

MOHSIN: Dana, he is on the campaign trail. He is talking to his electorate, his base. He is talking to his donors and his supporters. When he is out there, saying, look what they're doing to me, he is sowing more seeds of distrust. We've been talking about that a lot around the table. He is out there saying, vote for me again. Bet on me. I'm being mistreated by everyone else. And I'm your guy. And he is ahead in the polls. It's working for him. So, of course, he is going to stick with that line that you're not letting me on the campaign trail, so I'm just going to do it right here in the courtroom.

ZELENY: And even so, he is consuming all the oxygen in this Republican presidential race, which is frustrating his rivals, of course, because once again, it's all about Donald Trump. But, we are seeing one thing here. I mean, this is deeply affecting him. This was not the President who was the most engaged President.

Often, he didn't read intelligence briefings. He wasn't exactly steeped in policy. He is steeped in this. This is his life. This is his core. And you can tell how much it's getting to him. So, I don't know if that will have an effect on just his psyche here. But, separately, outside the courtroom, as we've heard him talking, he is not under oath. When he is in that witness stand, he will be under oath.

So, this is something we've also not seen from him. So, this is -- it looks good politically. It is good politically, but it's perilous in the long term here. But, he is on a campaign trail. You're totally right.

BASH: Totally right.

ZELENY: This might be as well in in Cedar Rapids. BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: I mean --

BASH: And he is. He is on the TV in Cedar Rapids right now.

ZELENY: Most likely.

BASH: He is just not -- it's not like he is hanging out eating any burgers at the -- anyway.

I want to take this up several notches to the core question of Donald Trump and should he be President again. And our colleague Jake Tapper got some great reporting from one of Donald Trump's many former Chiefs of Staff in the White House, John Kelly, a retired general, and here is what he said. "A person that has no idea what America stands for and has no idea what America is all about.


A person who cavalierly suggests that a selfless warrior who has served his country for 40 years in peacetime and war should lose his life for treason," he is talking about Milley there, "in expectation that somebody will take action. A person who admires autocrats and murderous dictators.

A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law." This is, again, in response to, well, a lot of things, but most recently in response to the fact that Donald Trump put on his social media platform effectively that Mark Milley, the outgoing decorated Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, deserves the death penalty, suggesting that at least. And this is a bigger question about whether he should be President again from a man who served steps from him for months in the White House.

TALEV: I think John Kelly going on the record with these concerns and validating the information that had already long been reported on background or anonymously, is really important. I think you're seeing a lot of people who are either nonpartisan or right leaning or Republicans who served Donald Trump in some capacity over the course of his presidency going on record now, whether it's John Kelly, whether it's Chris Christie, whether it's Mark Milley talking -- whether it's Cassidy Hutchinson talking about why they're deeply concerned, and how catastrophic they would see a second term as being.

The challenge for all of these people is that the bulk of Donald Trump's base, the bulk of people who are still supporting him, have already made their decision about whether they should trust Donald Trump's word or John Kelly's word, Donald Trump's word or Chris Christie's word, Donald Trump's word or Cassidy Hutchinson's word. And where these people get their news? How they get their information? Who are the validators? Who they may listen to? How they may be swayed? That is --

BASH: Yes. TALEV: -- really what will make the difference here.

BASH: Very well said. OK. Everybody, standby, because just a short time ago, the President's son walked out of the Delaware courtroom after pleading not guilty to three felony gun charges. We're going to get all of the latest after a quick break.