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Inside Politics

Liz Cheney Delivers Scathing Takedown of GOP Under Trump in Her New Book; Influential Koch Network Endorses Nikki Haley for 2024; George Santos Could Face House Expulsion Vote This Week. Aired 12:30- 1p ET

Aired November 29, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, that was just three weeks after January 6th. We have to remember. And he thinks that Liz Cheney's going to believe that that's why he went running back to Trump. But, this book is filled with things that are stunning as we say it, but not surprising. We have heard all of these Republicans saying things privately, and then what they say publicly. In this book, she names names. She has the receipts. They are based on text messages, e-mails, meetings, personal conversations. And you see hypocrisy.



TIA MITCHELL; WASHING CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yeah. I thought it was interesting when she talks about, particularly a lot of passages that you've noted in your article, where she talks about Kevin McCarthy. I think I almost forgot that she was the Republican Conference Chair at one point. To see how distanced she is to know that at the time, she was a leader among House Republicans and then she said to him, "What do you think my dad would think? What would Bush think? What would Reagan think?" And his reply was, it is not their party anymore.

In truer words, I have never been spoken. I mean I think he's right. But to me, that's the key that the Republican Party of today is Trump's party. It's ultraconservative. It's full of hard liners, but it's also full of people who demand loyalty from Donald Trump.

MARGARET TALEV, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR, AXIOS: And I think that's to me one of the biggest take-aways from what we have read so far. The Orange Jesus episode certainly shows it. Mark Green is not just some random guy who ended up in Congress. He's a physician. He was West Point graduate. He was a decorated member of the military, who was involved in the capture of Saddam Hussein, interviewed Saddam Hussein.

He knows Trump didn't win the election. He knows Joe Biden won the election. But it is that, those illustrations that I think there are a lot of -- still a lot of Americans in the Republican Party who really aren't sure who won the 2020 election, who believe all that. But there are not a lot of members of Congress who don't know exactly who won the 2020 election, and the calculus around that is I think is what this book illustrates.

BASH: And you know, the member of Congress who now has the gavel, second in line to the --

TALEV: Yeah.

BASH: -- presidency, Mike Johnson is part of the group, maybe even a leader in the group to try to push against the notion of Joe Biden becoming president, and pushing the idea that Donald Trump did. This is something that Liz Cheney said about him. Johnson appeared especially susceptible to flattery from Trump and aspired to be anywhere in Trump's orbit. When I confronted him with the flaws in his legal arguments, Johnson would often concede or say something to the effect of, "We just need to do this one last thing for Trump."

I think, to me, reading this again, the most striking thing is the legal argument. Because one of the bonafides of Mike Johnson is that he's a very good lawyer, and that's how he came up, as a very good lawyer. And so, the arguments that he was making after the election in 2020 and the work that he did, even on Amicus brief, was the legal arguments. And the fact that Liz Cheney, also a lawyer, was going at him saying, "No, no." And according to her, he said, "Well, maybe it's not so much about that."

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST AND WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: But he also -- nothing has changed, right? I mean he has already endorsed the former president for president again. So this is someone who has remained faithful to the former president throughout. And the other thing that strikes me about this, about your excerpts, Jamie, is just how consistent not only from Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Peter Mark (ph) who is not running again, but -- for Senate. They have had the same accounts of the members who said, "You know, I would love to do this. But I'm afraid. But I want to run for re-election again. But, but, but." It's all very consistent. So for those who are trying to discredit her, and we have seen that in your reporting, some of the things that have been said, she's not the only one. There's a lot of people saying the exact same thing who took different paths.

GANGEL: I will say it's interesting. Trump said this belongs in the fiction section and Kevin McCarthy's spokesman said something about that she has McCarthy derangement syndrome. Nobody is saying --

BASH: It's not true.

GANGEL: -- what you report is not true.

BASH: Exactly, yes.


GANGEL: (Inaudible).

BASH: (Inaudible). GANGEL: Yeah, correct.

BASH: Tell me about the parts of this book about Nancy Pelosi.

GANGEL: So, I think just big picture were the most interesting things about the January 6th Committee was the relationship between Nancy Pelosi and Liz Cheney. And she writes about that in the book that she feels like a visitor from another planet when she goes in for this first meeting. But there's a part that really struck me because Pelosi's staff, Cheney writes went to Pelosi before she invited her into the Committee and they gave her all of these things, this list of nasty political things, typical sort of political trash talk that Cheney had said about Pelosi.


GANGEL: And Pelosi said to them, Cheney writes, why are you wasting my time with things that don't matter? And I think what you see in the book is, on the surface, it seems like an unlikely alliance, but they are really very similar. There was no daylight between them.

BASH: That is so interesting. Yeah, I mean, she's a grown up. She has seen a lot of that --

GANGEL: Exactly.

BASH: -- before. Thank you.

GANGEL: Thank you.

BASH: Great reporting. Thank you all. Don't go anywhere. Because coming up, Nikki Haley scored a big endorsement this week from a group with some deep, deep pockets. Will money help put a dent in Donald Trump's huge lead? We're going to go live to New Hampshire, after a quick break.



BASH: Now, the big development in the 2024 GOP primary race, Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley secured the backing of one of the most powerful Republican grassroots organizations. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has been following Haley and her climbing poll numbers in early primary states. You are in one of those primary states, the first primary state of New Hampshire. Jeff, what are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Dana, there is no doubt. We are really seeing a tale of two Republican races. Donald Trump, of course, is leading this field in every metric. But Nikki Haley is also coming on very strong and that endorsement from the Koch Network is so key because they are spending money on it (ph), millions of dollars in television. Also, they have an army of conservative activists.

So, there's no doubt that she is seeing bigger crowds. She's trying to win the race for second place, if you will. Of course, from there though, even if she would go head to head against Donald Trump, she faces many obstacles which she is well aware of. But that is getting ahead of ourselves. She's holding two more events here this afternoon in New Hampshire. She's trying to appeal to independent voters, trying to appeal to some of those Republican voters who want to move on from Donald Trump.

Of course, the question is can she is win over some of those Trump voters who are still somewhat supportive of him? We got a bit of a reality check earlier this week. We were in South Carolina, her home state, where of course is the first southern primary on February 24th, a month after New Hampshire. We had a long conversation with Debra Hutton. She's a real estate agent who moved to South Carolina from Michigan. She had this to say about that divide between Trump voters and people looking for someone else.


DEBRA HUTTON, SOUTH CAROLINA VOTER: I think that there are people on the Trump side that will never vote for anybody other than him. But I think that if he does get the candidacy, that he's not going to win the general election. So I actually think that she's the better candidate and more appealing to everybody.


ZELENY: Again, this goes in the order of the calendar. So, the Iowa caucuses are on January 15th. Can she successfully take on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis there? That is his final stand. Followed a week later right here in New Hampshire. What does Chris Christie do? He's going after some of those independent voters as well. But Dana, one key metric may come next week, that fourth Republican debate. Does Chris Christie qualify for that debate? He hasn't yet we are told. So that will be a central factor in terms of what he will do going ahead.

But for now, she's on the rise in that race for second place. The question, is that a consolation prize or an actual pathway to the nomination?

BASH: So well put. Great reporting as always, Jeff. Thank you so much. And reporters are back here with us. Let's go back to the big endorsement that Nikki Haley got. It's the Koch Network. It's the Americans for Prosperity Action committee. That's where they funnel their money.

And Margaret, I want to read what their memo said in part when they announced their support. With the largest grassroots operation in the country and a presence in all 50 states, AFP actions endorsement will put thousands of AFP action activists and grassroots leaders into the field with a focus on the early primary states, knocking on doors and urging voters to support Nikki Haley."


BASH: So, it's not just the money. It's -- well, it's how the money can be spent. And in this case, they are talking about boots on the ground.

TALEV: It's field organization and it's advertising.

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: And in theory, those two things could be very, very powerful. Any candidate would rather have those to benefit them than not. The question is, will that matter? And what Trump's campaign spokesperson has been saying is that there's no amount of money that is going to dislodge the core of the base support, the MAGA support for Donald Trump. So, I think we'll see.

The Koch Brothers Network is extremely powerful, but it doesn't always make them successful. They have never loved Donald Trump and it didn't work the first time around. And so, but if you're Nikki Haley, you definitely want this because it weakens Ron DeSantis and it gives you the ability to stay in the race at least through South Carolina, no questions asked.

BASH: Let's just talk about, when we talk about money, like let's put the actual figures up on the screen. In 2020, AFP spent $60.5 million. 2022, almost $80 million.


BASH: And right now, this is what we're talking about here, almost $75 million cash on hand.

TALEV: Yes, inflation.

BASH: And they're saying -- they said, well, yes.


BASH: This is going to for Nikki Haley.

MITCHELL: Yeah. I mean I think that's what the stakes are. The investment, she'll benefit from it. It might help nudge her a little bit along the way, but at the end of the day, the polling shows she's way behind. So she needs more than a little bit of a nudge here and there. I think what the voter you showed in the package, what she said is kind of at the core of it. There's some voters, many voters who are with Trump and they are not changing their minds.

So the question is, what type of -- he has a ceiling, but is that ceiling enough to get him over the hump, or are there voters who are willing to consider another candidate, particularly if they believe Trump can't win in the general election? But again, there are many polls that show Trump can win in a general election. So, I don't know if that threat will cause some people to reconsider.

BASH: Yes. It's -- Trump is obviously far and away the front runner. This is a story about Nikki Haley. This is also a story about the Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis.

TALEV: Yeah. BASH: Because he in the past has gotten the endorsement of this group and the help from this group in his past races. I want you to listen to what he said on Newsmax yesterday about Nikki Haley getting the endorsement.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, FLORIDA: This is part of a larger pattern with her where she's really tried to ingratiate herself with the political and economic establishments, and those establishments have failed this country. Candidates that are establishment candidates will not win elections in this country nationally.


BASH: I don't think he said that when he got their endorsement.

KUCINICH: No, and they were pretty peeved when this endorsement came out and had all sorts of nasty things to say about the Koch Network (inaudible). Nikki Haley is his main rival for the nomination. He wouldn't even admit that until a couple of weeks ago. They were saying this is a two-man race. Au contraire, it is not Nikki Haley. It definitely has gotten under his skin.

Now, the debate next week could be a way for him to change momentum. The debates have been very good for Nikki Haley. She's really -- I think she has gotten a big boost, more than anyone else from them. But I don't think going on Newsmax and sounding like you're the verbal version of cat's fur being rubbed backwards, so annoyed --


KUCINICH: -- that, I don't know that that is really going to be -- win the hearts and minds of (inaudible) people.


BASH: I'm just like -- I'm just soaking in that imagery right now. That was -- that's a new one. I like that, Jackie.


TALEV: Ads matter.

BASH: Yeah.

TALEV: Because where are the ads are going to be? Are the ads going to be elevating Nikki Haley or the ads going to be going after --

BASH: Yes.

TALEV: -- the heart of Donald Trump.

BASH: Yes. But hold on, I just want to -- first of all, don't you think both? I mean who knows. (LAUGH)

TALEV: We'll see.

BASH: They don't -- as you said, they don't really love Donald Trump. Nikki Haley did respond to DeSantis this morning. Let's hear what she is said.


NIKKI HALEY, (R) 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE AND FORMER GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that's what a candidate says when is they are losing. You know, I mean, I think you look, there's nothing establishment about a candidate who was the tea party candidate who ran for governor. There's nothing establishment when you have Americans for Prosperity, the most conservative grassroots organization in the country come out and endorse me. I thinks he's saying what he has to say because he's grasping at this point.


TALEV: Right. It's also interesting that she's going to be positioning herself as an anti-establishment candidate. She's pretty establishment, but I mean -- but, yes, everything she's saying (inaudible).

KUCINICH: But, she's been so far, has had good retorts, but she's going to have to weather a lot of attacks. Because now that she has this --

BASH: Yeah.

KUCINICH: -- they're just going to put a target on her.


KUCINICH: Everyone is going to be coming at her.

MITCHELL: But I think she has shown again through the debates in her response, she does better than DeSantis right now at having better retorts to his attacks. He's going to have to get a little bit sharper.

BASH: All right, everybody, standby. Up next, he says he's not going to resign, but George Santos is on the cusp of a vote to expel him from Congress. So, will his fellow Republicans give him the boot? We have new details, coming up.



BASH: The clock is ticking for embattled Congressman George Santos. A vote to expel him from the House could come this week. CNN's Manu Raju is following this from Capitol Hill. In fact, Manu, I know you have some information about the timing of this vote. MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. We expect it to happen Friday now, not Thursday. It is still unclear about whether or not there will be the votes, a two-thirds majority to kick him out of the House. The Speaker of the House told me earlier this morning that he has, "real reservations" about the precedent this would set to kick out George Santos.

He will be the first member ever to be kicked out of the House who has not been convicted of a crime or was not a member of the confederacy. But in talking to Republican Congressmen, it is very clear that the conference is divided over this, even as support is growing for his ouster.

REP. NICK LALOTA (R-NY): I think we can do about 150 Republican yes. There is a decent sense in the conference, the Ethics Committee is the due process, or is the process that should be afforded a member.

REP. MIKE GARCIA (R-CA): Frankly, if it was put to a vote with his people in an election right now, he wouldn't win that election either. So, I don't think his own constituents would support him.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): Let his voters deal with it. He is doing -- he did -- George Santos did what he did to his people and his district that elected him. Let them take the -- let them deal with it.



MANU: Now, the numbers are in question still. They would require 53 Republicans to go from voting against expelling George Santos to voting for it in order to get to the 290 needed to expel him from the House. Right now, our court is 18 Republicans have switched from no to yes, a lot of undecided members. So, Dana, will they listen to the Speaker of the House or will they listen to the Ethics Committee which provided that damning information about his conduct?

BASH: Yeah. And then there is a question of whether or not he is going to resign, which I guess is maybe not as much of a question now. Manu, thank you so much. Appreciate your reporting as always. And thank you for joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after a break.