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Inside Politics

Biden Compares Trump's Vermin Comment to Nazi Rhetoric; Biden Struggles to Gin Up Support Among Young Voters; Elbows, Threats and Name-calling on Capitol Hill; Ethics Committee Chair Says Our Report Won't Make Recommendation on Whether to Expel George Santos. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 15, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: President Biden is assailing Donald Trump for comparing political enemies to "vermin." At a private fundraiser last night, Biden said the former president's rhetoric sounds like something out of Nazi Germany. Biden also took aim at Trump's assertion that undocumented immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." CNN's Jeff Zeleny is following this story and more for us. Jeff?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, it's clear now that President Biden is no longer ignoring the words of Former President Donald Trump. It's also clear that Biden campaign is eager to start showing a contrast between the two styles and substances of these men. We do not know, of course, if Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, but President Biden has increasingly been calling him out at fundraisers and other places.

He also said this in very stark words last night. He said, "There are a lot of reasons to be against Donald Trump, but damn, he should not be president." So there's no doubt, President Biden is trying to fire up his own rhetoric, fire up his own base as well, and perhaps take the attention off his own challenges and turn it back to a contrast with his former and perhaps future rival.

BASH: Yeah, for sure. It looks that way and it's interesting to see him take these specific words, which are making their way around and do have some historical meaning. Jeff, let's talk about why you're in Georgia today. You have been doing some excellent reporting on young voters, who are talking to you about President Biden. What are they saying?

ZELENY: Well, look, I mean young voters made up a key part of the coalition, the winning coalition for President Biden. That was certainly clear here in Georgia, where President Biden won by under 12,000 votes -- 11,779 votes, to be exact. So without those young voters, that victory would not have been possible. But now, many of these young voters have questions about the economy, concerns about promises that were not specifically delivered upon. We had several conversations, but take a listen to this conversation we had with Kerry Singleton, a senior at Morehouse College, who had this to say about the enthusiasm for the former president -- or for the current president.


KERRY SINGLETON, MOREHOUSE COLLEGE SENIOR: In 2020, (inaudible) yeah, I know the Democrats have it this time and I know that Biden will come out victorious. I really can't say the same for this election cycle because, like we said, the young voter turnout isn't there.


And the entire support behind the overall cause is not as much there as it used to be. So I'm not sure if he will be able to pull it off again if I'm being honest.


ZELENY: And Dana, in all of our interviews, there really was a respectful resistance to the president. They certainly understand Congress has blocked many of the proposals like voting rights, like gun reform legislation, even student loan proposals, but they also want to see more from the president. So the Biden campaign, of course, is well aware of all this. They say they are going to be drawing a sharper contrast between the Biden record and the Trump record, and they say "We will go after voters where they are."

But Dana, the young voters, the concern, the enthusiasm will be a central part of the story we'll be covering for the next year. It's a worrisome sign at this point at least for the Biden campaign.

BASH: Yeah, it's so interesting, Jeff.


BASH: And I think that you make this point. Right now, it seems as though -- correct me if I'm wrong -- the bulk of the young people you're talking to is not as if they are saying, I'm going to vote for Donald Trump. The question is whether they are going to vote at all.

ZELENY: Right. That's the exact point here. But there is some concern, several of the students we talked to at Morehouse College said they are concerned about the rising levels of support among young black men for Former President Donald Trump. They believe disinformation is involved in that. So there's some of that. But you're right, overall, it's an enthusiasm question. Are voters going to be enthusiastic to vote for President Biden, not just perhaps against something? Dana?

BASH: Jeff, thanks so much. It's always good to have you out there. Thanks for bringing us your reporting.

ZELENY: You bet.

BASH: And a shutdown averted on Capitol Hill but several lawmakers are still itching for a fight, literally.


REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): I got elbowed in the back and it kind of caught me off guard because it was a clean shot to the kidneys.

SEN. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): You want to do it now?


MULLIN: Well, stand your butt up then.

O'BRIEN: You stand your butt up.

SEN. BERNARD SANDERS (I-VT): Oh, hold it. Oh, hold, stop it.


BASH: That's Senator Markwayne Mullin and he's going to be here to talk about that tense exchange, next.



BASH: Tensions are boiling over on Capitol Hill as lawmakers trade insults or in one case, it seems blows, or a blow. Republican Congressman Tim Burchett of Tennessee says Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy elbowed him in the kidney as they passed in the hallway.

BURCHETT: I fell forward after Kevin popped me in the back and he just kept walking with his security detail. Really, it's just a sad commentary on him and his spiraling out of leadership.

BASH: Speaker McCarthy -- Former Speaker McCarthy denies the allegation and as if that wasn't enough, there was more drama. One Republican Congressman James Comer told Democrat Jared Moscowitz that he looked like a "smurf." That happened during one committee hearing. And that brings us to my guest right now, member of Congress of the U.S. Senate who nearly got into a physical altercation with a witness during a separate hearing. Republican Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma is here with me now. Thank you so much for being here.

MULLIN: Thanks, Dana.

BASH: You were in it, so I'm not sure if you have seen the video.

MULLIN: I have.

BASH: Let's play it. Well, here you go, let's play it so our viewers can see as well.


MULLIN: You want to run your mouth? We can be two consenting adults, we can finish it here.

O'BRIEN: OK, that's fine, perfect.

MULLIN: You want to do it now?

O'BRIEN: I would love to do it right now.

MULLIN: Well, stand your butt up then.

O'BRIEN: You stand your butt up.

SANDERS: Oh, hold it. Oh, hold, stop it.

MULLIN: Is that your solution (ph)?

SANDERS: No, sit down.

MULLIN: That's why you are a clown.

SANDERS: Sit down. No, you're a United States Senator. Sit down.

O'BRIEN: Act it.


SANDERS: Sit down, please.

MULLIN: Can I respond?

SANDERS: No, you can't. This is a hearing and God knows the American people have enough of contempt for Congress. Let's stop making it worse.

MULLIN: I don't like thugs and bullies.

O'BRIEN: And I don't like you because you just described yourself.

SANDERS: Hold it.


BASH: So, just to give some context, that was the Head of the Teamsters, Sean O'Brien, and before this moment, tensions were already bubbling over. Most recently, before coming, the Head of the Teamsters said in a tweet, "You know where to find me. This is to you. Any place, any time, cowboy."

MULLIN: Right.

BASH: Having said all that, in hindsight, any regrets?

MULLIN: No, I really don't. What happens all the time is you got these keyboard warriors that's going to go out and run their mouth all the time, and then they don't have to face the consequences. And people tell me all the time, you know, this incumbent (ph) of the United States Senator and I remind people, I'm a guy from Oklahoma first and there's consequences for doing some of this. I get there's people on social media that will do this constantly. I'll never see them. This guy, I did. And this wasn't his first time. He did this to me five separate times. I ignored it every time.

And then the last time, when he called me -- when he said, "You know where to find me, anytime, anywhere, cowboy," I thought, you know, maybe this could be a good thing. Maybe we could do this for charity. If he really wants to be this tough guy and be this union boss of the Teamsters who said that, mind you, in 2022, he said he wants to bring back the mob mentality back to the Teamsters. This is the same guy in 2013 that was suspended by his Teamsters for harassing and intimidating them. I thought, you know, maybe this guy could be taught a lesson and we could just do it for charity.


BASH: What do you mean by that, for charity? Because this looks like you almost came to blows in the middle of the Senate (ph).

MULLIN: But, I had already challenged him before this. Prior to this, I had said when he fist put out that first tweet -- or the, actually that was the fifth tweet, I put out, "OK, challenge accepted. September 30th, Tulsa, Oklahoma, for charity, MMA fight.

BASH: I see.

MULLIN: And of course, he didn't say anything until right before this hearing, he started running his mouth again.

BASH: You mentioned MMA fight. You are an MMA champion. I notice that when you were getting up and escalating, you are playing with it right now, you reached for your wedding ring. What was that about?


MULLIN: Well, I wasn't mad, first of all. So when you get mad, you get angry, you lose mind. First thing I thought when I said about that (ph), I'm going to break my hand on this guy's face. I'm going to take my ring off. Because when you're fighting, you learn how to punch correctly, you shouldn't break your hand. But when you are not doing it with wraps, you usually don't.

BASH: So, you actually thought you were going to come to blows in that moment?

MULLIN: I had full intentions of doing that. Absolutely.

BASH: Let me play for you something that your Republican colleague Thom Tillis just told my colleague on Capitol Hill about that.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I would have bludgeoned the guy for a lot of things that he had said, but I wouldn't have gone as far as Markwayne. And we need to pay attention because kids pay attention, countries pay attention, the people in this nation pay attention. And they oftentimes emulate our behavior. This is where we have got to stand up and be the adults in the room.


BASH: What do you think about that? I mean, you're a father of six.

MULLIN: Right.

BASH: Do you want them to emulate that?

MULLIN: I tell my kids you're responsible for your words. If you want to be a bully, expect to be treated like that. And if you should be able to stand up for other people that are being bullied too. I'm not somebody that's going to say we go around and fight all the time. I got paid to fight. But I will say that every now and then, you do and should be taught a lesson because you can't simply just continue to do this. At what point does the line get drawn? Remember, it was Andrew Jackson who challenged nine people to a dual. (Inaudible).


MULLIN: He also knocked a guy out for insulting his wife.

BASH: Senator, you know, Andrew Jackson was not a good guy.

MULLIN: Well, it doesn't matter. I'm just saying that it doesn't -- what happens -- well, Abraham Lincoln challenged a guy to a sword fight. You had a dual -- you've seen the blood stains on the steps on the Capitol.

BASH: Senator Sumner.

MULLIN: And I'm not saying that that has to happen, but I'm saying that people like him, this mob mentality Teamsters boss that wants to sit there and continue to do that because he thinks he can intimidate people, at some point, that has to stop too because I'm not supposed to just sit there and absorb it. He needs to be called out for his actions. The fortunate thing is I'm capable of doing it. What about the people that can't?

I can do something a about it. And maybe I can stop him from doing it again. What are you supposed to do with bullies? Ignore them? Or stand up to them?

BASH: Well, let me ask...

MULLIN: He's a bully and I want to stand up to him.

BASH: Let me ask you about that because I hear what you're framing this as. He's the bully. You of course are a United States Senator. I mean, we were just looking at the horrible news this morning, Jonathan Lewis, 17-years-old was killed, was beaten up to death outside of his high school, and it was because he was bullied. But, what about the bullies? What about them potentially looking at your behavior, no regrets, the potential of coming to blows in the middle of a hearing saying, "Well, if a Senator can do it, why not me?"

MULLIN: The difference is that I was standing up to the bully. If my boys were there and they were beating on this 17-year-old, I guarantee you all three of my boys would have jumped in and defended this guy because that's the way I raised them. There is -- I was going after the bully that would have beat that 17-year-old to death if he was around a crowd. That's the difference between the two. I have never bullied anybody in my life.

I stood up to a lot of people. I have been bullied myself. I was born with bad legs and had braces on my legs, and I had a super bad speech impediment until I was in grade school. I understand what bullying is. I learned how to do one thing because I couldn't argue with you and I couldn't run from you because I had bag legs at that time. I learned how to fight.

I'm not saying that's the answer to question, to every issue, but I did learn one thing. If you push back at a bully, typically, they will shut their mouth up. You know what Sean did, he didn't stand up. He had the fear of God in his eyes. And I guarantee he won't do that again to me.

BASH: Senator Markwayne Mullin, thank you so much for coming in. Appreciate it.

MULLIN: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you. And up next, new reporting on the fate of an embattled New York Congressman George Santos.


BASH: The House Ethics Committee is expected to release a report on Republican Congressman George Santos tomorrow, but the Chairman of that Committee tells CNN it will not include a recommendation on whether or not to expel George Santos. CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. So Manu, what exactly does that mean in practical terms?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I just spoke to the Chairman of House Ethics Committee, Michael Guest, who did make that news saying that there would not be a recommendation to expel George Santos from the House. That's significant because a lot of members were waiting for some sort of explicit direction from this Committee which has been investigating George Santos and his conduct before deciding whether or not to make Santos the sixth member ever in American history to be expelled from the House.

But, Michael Guest told me that he is going to take -- it would take some time, potentially extend the investigation into next year if they were to try to go down the route of making such a recommendation. Instead he said that it's a long-awaited report. It is expected tomorrow, will detail allegations, evidence that they have accumulated about his conduct. And then he said that the members themselves could make a decision about whether or not George Santos deserves expulsion.


RAJU: And of course, this requires two-thirds majority in order to get there. And just recently, just in the last week or so, there was a vote to expel Santos that failed because a lot of members were waiting for Santos' report to eventually be unveiled here. So, Dana, it's still an open question about how this will be -- whether there will be the votes to kick him out of Congress. But he did tell me moments ago, George Santos, I will take whatever comes my way the way it comes. I have no concerns and I don't have any premeditated feelings about any of this. Dana?

BASH: Yeah. And this is what you were getting at, that if the Ethics Committee doesn't make a recommendation, some members will find an out to not vote yes on an expulsion. Thank you so much. Appreciate it, Manu. Thanks for that reporting.

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