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State of the Union
Republican Agenda?; Interview With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Interview With Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 20, 2022 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Arcing history. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi makes way for a new generation of leaders.
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): House Democrats get stuff done.
TAPPER: The man on track to replace Pelosi now poised to make history of his own. What are his plans? Congressman Hakeem Jeffries joins me exclusively next.
And gearing up. After winning narrow control of the House, Republicans look ahead to their time and power. What will they do with it?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We're going to give you a government that is held accountable.
REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): I want to be clear, this is an investigation of Joe Biden.
TAPPER: Plus: He's back. Former President Trump is back on the trail, back on Twitter and back to being under the shadow of a special counsel probe.
MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will ensure that the special counsel receives the resources to conduct this work quickly and completely.
TAPPER: What does that mean going forward? January 6 Committee member Congressman Adam Kinzinger is ahead.
TAPPER: Hello. I'm Jake Tapper in Washington, where the state of our union is thinking there is so much fresh content, and yet we're about to watch a rerun.
This morning, President Biden celebrates his 80th birthday. He says he's planning to run for a second term in 2024. And his opponent could very well be Donald Trump, who just announced he's running for president. He will do that under the shadow of a brand-new special counsel investigation. And, if he wants, Trump can now tweet again after his ban was lifted. If all that sounds a little too familiar, there are changes coming to politics in Washington, D.C., specifically to the U.S. House. This week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the other two top House Democrats said they're going to make way for a new generation of Democratic leaders.
Pelosi's decision brings to a close a consequential two decades of leading Democrats in the House. It also ushers in a relative youth movement. Pelosi, House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer and Democratic Whip James Clyburn, all of them are older than 80.
The members on track to replace them, Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, Pete Aguilar, are in their 50s and, in Aguilar's case, 40s.
Congressman Jeffries is currently running unopposed for the top job. In addition to being 30 years younger than Nancy Pelosi, he will be the first black American to ever lead a political party in the U.S. Congress. A former Brooklyn lawyer and the son of a social worker and a substance abuse counselor, Jeffries took office in 2013 and allied himself with Pelosi.
He even nominated her for speaker in the last Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFRIES: Let me be clear, House Democrats are down with NDP.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Jeffries will be, without question, the first congressional leader to ever paraphrase Naughty By Nature on the floor of the House.
And he joins me exclusively now..
Congressman, thanks so much. Congratulations on your announcement.
I have to say, I have never seen such a major transition from leaders to leaders so well-choreographed with so little apparent rancor. How did this happen? What happened behind the scenes?
JEFFRIES: Well, first, let me just say, good morning, Jake. It's an honor to be with you.
And it's an honor to stand on the shoulders of such an extraordinary group of leaders, Jim Clyburn, Steny Hoyer and, of course, Nancy Pelosi, a historic speaker, a legendary leader, someone who has left an incredible footprint for good, for change, for positivity, for progress for the American people, over the decades that she has been able to lead us in the Congress.
TAPPER: Did you get any sort of heads-up that she was not going to run for -- for leader of the Democrats? When did you learn she was going to step back?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think all of us learned definitively that she was planning to step back when she delivered that speech on the House floor.
It was a historic speech for the ages by a speaker for the ages. I thought it was so incredibly well done, eloquent, forceful, positive, and captured the essence of who she's been over the years, a champion for the children, a champion for the environment, a champion for human rights.
And I'm looking forward to the decisions that the House Democratic Caucus will make next Wednesday, November 30. And then we will take it one step at a time until we get to that point. But the future is encouraging, is bright coming out of these midterm elections, where extremism was rejected, election denialism was rejected.
And we're looking forward to a moment of continuing to be able to make progress for everyday Americans all across the country.
TAPPER: Normally, one would think the retirement of someone like Speaker Pelosi, who has been in charge of the Democrats in the House for 20 years, that that would set off a mad scramble of individuals running to replace her as top Democrat.
But that didn't happen. As of right now, you are running unopposed. A lot of people thought that maybe Hoyer or even Clyburn would try to become speaker or try to become House Democratic leader. That didn't happen.
So, obviously, you must have been campaigning behind the scenes in the inevitability of her retirement. I know you don't want to jinx anything, but you are running unopposed right now. How did you manage to consolidate the vote?
JEFFRIES: Well, let me say, Katherine Clark, who's currently our assistant speaker, Pete Aguilar, who's currently the vice chair, have been part of the leadership team over the last few cycles, working hard, in connection with Speaker Pelosi, the Biden administration and others, to deliver for everyday Americans.
I have had the opportunity over the last two terms to serve as chair of the House Democratic Caucus. And my goal has really been just to work hard to bring people together, to legislate with precision, to message with discipline, to communicate our values, the fact that we stand for freedom, that we stand for unity, we stand for democracy, we stand for progress for all Americans across the country.
And my focus, Jake, has really been, do the job that I have as caucus chair to the best of my ability, and try and let the rest take care of itself.
TAPPER: You have split with the far left progressive wing of your caucus at times, including Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in the past.
Ocasio-Cortez told "The New York Times" she still was processing the change and -- quote -- "There's a lot of healing that needs to be done in our caucus" -- unquote.
Do you agree that your caucus needs healing? And, if so, how will you achieve that, given that you will be ultimately the Democratic leader?
JEFFRIES: Well, I have great respect for Representative Ocasio-Cortez and every single member of the House Democratic Caucus, from Representative Ocasio-Cortez to representative Josh Gottheimer, my good friend, and all points in between.
The majesty of the House Democratic Caucus is that we are so incredibly diverse, in terms of race, and gender, and religion, and sexual orientation, region, life experience, and even ideology, from the left, to progressives, New Dems, Blue Dogs, moderate and centrist Democrats, all points in between.
The thing about us, Jake, is that, while we can have some noisy conversations at times about how we can make progress for the American people, what we have seen is that, under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, we have constantly been able to come together, time and time again.
Whether that was the American Rescue Plan, saving the economy, putting shots in arms, money in pockets, kids back in school, Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, creating millions of good-paying jobs, fixing our crumbling infrastructure, gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years that will save lives. Obviously, there's more that needs to be done.
The CHIPS and Science Act, bringing domestic manufacturing jobs back home to the United States of America, as opposed to our jobs going in the other direction, and, of course, the groundbreaking historic Inflation Reduction Act, which is going to lower health care costs, energy costs and the high price of lifesaving prescription drugs.
My point is, Jake, that, though people have doubted us, tried to create this frame of Democrats in disarray, we always are consistently able to come together, find the highest common denominator, get things done for everyday Americans, and make progress.
TAPPER: Well, it's not me. I mean, Congressman Clyburn is the one who said that all the language of defunding the police hurt Democrats in the 2020 elections and was damaging.
I want to ask you, though. You're portraying a very rosy scenario about how well Democrats are doing. You just lost the House. I mean, your party was just defeated at the House, I get that it wasn't as bad a defeat as it could have been, but it wasn't exactly a vote of confidence in House Democrats.
JEFFRIES: Well, what I will say is that it was historic overperformance by every single measure, almost beyond comparison, when you look at the last 100 years
When there's a single party in power that controls the House, the Senate and the presidency, in a president's first midterm election, the average loss of seats is 27. In fact, I think, in 2010, in a similar scenario, we lost about 63 seats.
And so, obviously, it was an incredibly strong performance under very difficult circumstances. But you're correct, Jake. We're not satisfied. Our top nongovernmental goal must be reclaiming the House in 2024.
And I'm committed to making sure that that happens for the good of the American people. But, if you take a step back, we held the Senate. Election deniers are on the run, have gone down in flames, have been defeated all across America, held key governorships in the heartland of America, in Pennsylvania, in Michigan and Wisconsin, and, of course, flipped state legislative bodies, including in Michigan and one House in Pennsylvania, which is almost unheard of in a midterm election.
TAPPER: Yes, I noticed you're not mentioning New York there, because House -- because Democrats didn't do -- didn't do too well in New York. And I know you said you want to get an after-action report on that.
You said that senior Democratic leadership wants to take a look at raising the debt ceiling -- debt limit before Republicans take over. You said this few before Pelosi announced her retirement. You said they want to take a look at it, so Republicans can't use this as leverage to force spending cuts.
But you're about to become the incoming leader. Would you prefer that the Democrats raise the debt limit before McCarthy and Republicans take control?
JEFFRIES: Well, I think we have to look at all options.
But I certainly leave it to Speaker Pelosi and the existing leadership team. And we look forward to working in partnership with them to figure out what's the right approach prior to the end of this calendar year. Speaker Pelosi, I think, has said -- and I totally agree -- that we have to take a look at doing everything possible to stop Republicans from recklessly holding the economy hostage.
I mean, Jake, Kevin McCarthy has said that he is willing to detonate the American economy, default on our nation's debt in order to try to strip away Social Security and Medicare for tens of millions of Americans. That's incredibly reckless.
TAPPER: So, it sounds like -- it sounds like you want her to do it. It sounds like...
JEFFRIES: It's shocking that that appears to be at the top of his agenda.
TAPPER: It sounds like you want Pelosi to work to raise the debt limit now, so that McCarthy can't do that though, right? JEFFRIES: Well, we're going to have a conversation as Democrats about
the best approach.
And we obviously have to find common ground with not just 50 Democrats in the Senate, but an additional 10 Republicans, in order to be able to make some kind of change to the debt ceiling.
But it appears to me that that is the right thing to do to try to prevent Kevin McCarthy from being able to hold the American economy hostage.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman, stay right there. I have more questions for you.
We're going to ask about how you're going to work with Kevin McCarthy as potential speaker.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.
We are back exclusively with New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who is running unopposed to become the leader of the Democrats in the House.
Congressman, thanks so much for staying with us.
What is your relationship like with your Republican counterpart, Kevin McCarthy, who wants to be the speaker? When was the last time you spoke with him?
JEFFRIES: I haven't had a conversation with Leader McCarthy recently. I do have, I think, a much warmer relationship with Steve Scalise.
Look forward to working whenever and wherever possible, however, Jake, with the entire House Republican Conference and the leadership team to find common ground to get things done for everyday Americans to make progress.
But, of course, we will fiercely and vigorously oppose any attempts at Republican overreach and any Republican extremism. And I'm hopeful that the Republican leadership will take lessons away from the rejection of extremism by the American people all across the land, and not double and triple down on it in the next Congress.
TAPPER: Do you think he's fit to be the next leader, Kevin McCarthy, the next leader of the Republicans? You have had some harsh words for him, saying it's impossible to take him seriously.
And when people ask you about Kevin McCarthy, you say, "Kevin who?" Do you think he's fit to be speaker of the House?
JEFFRIES: Well, that's a decision, ultimately, that the House Republican Conference is going to have to make.
He does seem to be struggling to get to 218? Let's see what happens on January 3.
TAPPER: There is going to be -- because of the narrow majority of that House Republicans are going to have, the far right-wing, the MAGA caucus, is going to be empowered and emboldened. It's going to make it tougher for McCarthy to govern as speaker, if he does, in fact, become speaker.
If Kevin McCarthy needs votes to pass essential legislation, such as keeping the government open or raising the debt limit, will Democrats be willing to help him if the Freedom Caucus folks, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world, refused to participate?
JEFFRIES: Well, it seems to me that that's a case-by-case basis, but Democrats have always been willing to lean in on making sure that we fully fund the government.
And Democrats have always been willing to lean in, in making sure that we meet our nation's obligations and do not default on our debt for the first time in American history.
I think it's also important to point out, Jake, that we have consistently fought against extremism on the Republican side, including when it manifested itself often during the former president's tenure, while, at the same time, being able to find common ground to make progress for the American people.
We did it with criminal justice reform. I was delighted to be involved personally in trying to negotiate historic criminal justice reform with the Trump administration and working with my colleague former Republican Congressman Doug Collins from Georgia.
Certainly, Speaker Pelosi led the effort to make sure that we could arrive at an agreement around the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement reform, the new NAFTA, in a way that benefited working families, organized labor, and people from the heartland and throughout the country.
And we consistently have found common ground, even with some of the most recent legislative victories during this current Congress. I hope that that's a record that we can build upon moving forward.
TAPPER: House Republicans announced this week their oversight plans, which include taking a look at the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of COVID, the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago.
I can see that there could be, theoretically, legitimate oversight questions on each of those topics that could be asked. Will House Democrats participate in these investigations in good faith? Or do you see it as your role to defend the Biden administration?
JEFFRIES: Well, we will absolutely defend the Biden administration and his track record of success if it comes under assault by people attempting to politicize our governmental responsibilities, without question.
And I expect that we will strongly and vigorously be involved in pushing back against any effort at overreach by the extreme MAGA Republican wing of the House Republican Conference.
At the same time, we're going to continue to try to find common ground legislatively whenever possible. I think that the time for politics ends in the immediate aftermath of a campaign, and there has to be some space to govern.
That's what the American people, Democrats, Republicans, independents, people in the North, the South, the East, the West, the Midwest, want to see happen. Democrats are willing to lean into that regard. I'm hopeful that my Republican colleagues will join us.
TAPPER: Lastly, sir, Elon Musk reinstated Donald Trump to Twitter yesterday.
Just to remind folks at home, Trump wasn't banned for mean tweets. He was banned because he used the platform to incite a violent insurrection on the Capitol.
What's your reaction to Trump being reinstated on Twitter?
JEFFRIES: You know, I have no reaction at this point in time to anything that Elon Musk or Donald Trump does, particularly as it relates to social media.
I am going to continue to try to lean into the principles of equal protection under the law, of liberty and justice for all, government of the people, by the people, and for the people, and build upon the amazing progress that House Democrats have brought to bear, in partnership with Senate Democrats and President Biden, and continue to push for American exceptionalism throughout the country.
TAPPER: All right, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York and likely the next leader of House Democrats.
It would be a historic moment.
Congressman, congratulations ahead of time. Thanks for joining us today.
JEFFRIES: Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Coming up next: Donald Trump's big announcement prompts a big move by the Justice Department.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, is coming up next.
TAPPER: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. I'm Jake Tapper.
Here we go again.
Former President Donald Trump is free to tweet after Twitter's owner, Elon Musk, lifted a ban on Trump's account based on the results of an Internet poll. Trump, of course, was banned from Twitter after the January 6 insurrection for violating the company's policy against glorification of violence.
Joining us now to discuss, January 6 House Committee member Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger.
Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
So, Trump was taken off Twitter in the first place for inciting the violent insurrection against the Capitol. You're a member of the committee investigating the insurrection. What do you make of Elon Musk reinstating Donald Trump?
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Well, look, I mean, I get that people are on all sides of this debate.
The fact that he did it with a poll, of which however many percent of those could have been bots that aren't real people voting in that, secondarily, I don't know if that decision should be made by some poll.
I mean, what happened, I -- remember, specifically, when this was all done, so, not only was he lighting and accelerating the fire on January 6, also before January 6 with his conspiracies, at the end of the day, he said, this is what you get when a victory is so unceremoniously basically taken away from the American people.
So, not only when it was done did he have any remorse. He said, well, of course, you guys had an insurrection because that's what you get when you steal an election.
I mean, I remember seeing that specific tweet and just being outraged at how, after all this is done, can you still do that? And so now this idea that he's going to come on and be reformed, everybody knows he won't.
And, by the way, I will say as a quick aside, the person probably the most upset today is Devin Nunes, because this is going to tank TRUTH Social if he does, in fact, leave.
TAPPER: On Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee the investigations into Donald Trump's handling of classified documents, as well as the one looking at his role in the January 6 insurrection.
You have expressed frustration with the Justice Department's approach to Trump in the past. Do you think this is the right move?
KINZINGER: Well, you know, I'm going to have to leave that to the experts to decide if this was the right thing. I -- because I don't know where the Justice Department is in their investigation. Let's say, for instance, they were very close to indictment, and then they switched to this because he's running for office. Then I think that's an unnecessary delay.
But, then again, if we're trying to do the best we can to take politics out of it, first off, there are a lot of people that will never be satisfied that there's no politics, because that's how they, frankly, raise money, is to convince people that there's some conspiracy out there.
But I think what we're going to be able to judge this by is what the ultimate outcome is. Will he -- will this special prosecutor get to -- or independent counsel get to a belief that he was guilty or not? Will it be based on the evidence? And what will be the result for Donald Trump?
But, look, if the former president thinks that just -- that simply announcing he's running for president, he can obstruct justice, I mean, that would be a bad precedent, of course, because then anybody that's under investigation could just announce they're running for president in this country.
TAPPER: The January 6 Committee is going to wrap up its work by the end of the year. And it seems likely you will have to do so without hearing from former Vice President Mike Pence.
Here's what he told me about that a few days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress has no right to my testimony.
The very notion of a committee on Congress -- in Congress summoning a vice president to speak about deliberations that took place at the White House, I think, would violate that separation of powers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Now, of course, as the committee notes, that did not stop Pence from detailing some of those deliberations and conversations in his new book, "So Help Me God."
What do you make of what you have heard from Pence this week since rolling out this book?
KINZINGER: Look, it's really disappointing.
So, I think Mike Pence is trying to do -- to please two different groups. He's trying to please those that are concerned with Trump and those that really like Donald Trump.
And here's something I have learned, Jake, in kind of the last five years. You can't please them both. You -- really, you just have to pick. You have to be committed to whatever you believe truth is, and pick that side.
So, he can't, on the one hand, say that what Donald Trump did was terrible, was a threat to our democracy, and then say, but Congress has no right to my testimony.
Look, I fully believe in the separation of powers, but that was violated on January 6, when the former president launched a mob into the legislative chambers, violated that separation of power. And, of course, we have oversight responsibility. We're not subservient to the president in Congress. We are a co-equal branch.
The other thing that the vice president said after that was that this is a partisan exercise. And I just want to remind people, it has been a very partisan exercise, because the only people we have really interviewed and have testified have all been Republicans.
And so, yes, there have been a ton of Republicans coming in and talking about what the former president did and what he knew. And I -- people may not fully love what Liz and I are doing if you're a Republican, but guess what? We haven't changed our belief system. A lot of other people have.
This is a bipartisan committee doing bipartisan work. And I think, frankly, history will judge this very well.
TAPPER: Before the election, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican of Georgia, pledged that -- quote -- "Not another penny will go to Ukraine" under a Republican-led Congress.
What is your response to her? And how worried are you that, with this narrow majority, she is going to be newly empowered in the Republican House?
KINZINGER: Well, first off, she will be newly empowered.
And the fact that she's supporting Kevin McCarthy means that he's made a lot of promises to her. Just, trust me, that's how this business works.
In terms of the commitment to Ukraine, I mean, she even posted a video the other day of some wounded Ukrainian soldiers and said, basically, they were being abused and used.
Look, when you're her -- she's a millionaire -- you have never sacrificed for a thing in your life. You have never served anything but yourself and your own goals. I can't expect her to understand what it means to actually defend democracy physically. She can -- she can pretend like she knows all she wants. She obviously doesn't.
So, I think it's going to be a tough fight for Ukraine. I think there's still strong bipartisan support, but I would not be surprised if Kevin McCarthy has to cut deals with Democrats, which is something he needs to keep in mind, because he's not going to get 218 votes for everything he wants to pass, including government funding, because he's got people that will never vote yes on anything.
I have done this business for a while. And I will tell you, they're just the hope yes, vote no caucus, They vote no on everything, or now they're only going to vote for the most conservative stuff.
TAPPER: What kind of speaker do you think Kevin will be, Kevin McCarthy?
KINZINGER: Look, I mean, if you had asked me five years ago, I would have said a pretty good one.
Now I think he has cut so many deals with bad people to get to this position that I think he's not going to be a leader at all. I think he will be completely hostage to kind of the extreme wings of the Republican Party. And I, frankly, don't think he's going to last very long.
Maybe he will prove me wrong. But it's sad to see a man that I think had so much potential just totally sell himself. He's the one that resurrected Donald Trump. The second he went to Mar-a-Lago a week or two after January 6, he resurrected Donald Trump politically. So he owns everything that Trump says now as a candidate for reelection.
TAPPER: Congressman Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, thanks so much.
Good to see you, sir.
KINZINGER: You bet. You too.
TAPPER: Next: House Republicans preview how they intend to use the majority to launch investigations into the Biden White House and the Biden family.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PENCE: We, as Republicans and our elected leaders, must do more than criticize and complain.
MIKE POMPEO, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Personality and celebrity just aren't going to get it done. We can see that.
NIKKI HALEY, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: They don't want chaos. They want strength and stability and unity. We didn't have that.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): In times like these, there is no substitute for victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Republican potential presidential candidates making their pitch to the Republican Jewish Coalition Convention in Las Vegas.
Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION. My panel joins me now.
Brad, let me start with you.
President Trump, former President Trump's announcement this week does not really -- at least from where I sit, does not seem to have deterred a number of individuals who might run, at least based on those clips. What do you think?
BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No.
Open primaries are the only kind we have on the Republican side. He will have opposition. I think the real question is whether he ends up with a lot -- multiple opposition or just Governor DeSantis of Florida.
I think there's going to be a pretty big move by major donors to try to coalesce around Governor DeSantis. I think other people are going to toy with it and consider it. He probably can't get in until July, probably shouldn't get in until July.
TODD: He's got a legislative session to go through.
And the American people don't really want all-time campaigning. They just finished the midterms. I think they want a break. Politicians that are smart will give them a break. And I think that, if I was Governor DeSantis, I wouldn't get in anytime soon.
TAPPER: And, Sarah, what do you think? Because one of the -- one of the things that's interesting is hardly any of those individuals mentioned Donald Trump by name, even though clearly they were talking about him one way or the other.
Chris Christie called them out on that in an interview, saying: "There's a number of people who are considering running for president who still treat him like Voldemort, like he -- who shall not be named. I think that fails the leadership tests. If you are going to run against him, say his name. If you think he did something wrong, say his name?"
SARAH MATTHEWS, FORMER DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, I do you think that people need to get into the race if they want to take him on, and they're going to have to eventually attack him.
I think, right now, though, the strategy that you're seeing from someone like Ron DeSantis to not take the bait, not call him out by name, and to kind of not engage is smart, because that's what Trump wants. He wants to get under his skin. And he wants to get the attention and kind of get the clicks. But I think that, for right now, it's best to not engage with Trump.
KAREN FINNEY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: But I think, with Trump back on Twitter -- help us all.
TAPPER: He hasn't tweeted yet.
FINNEY: I noticed that.
But it's going to almost be impossible not to, because he's going to engage with them. So, is Ron DeSantis really going to have the ability to hold back? And I think that's going to be true for anybody who's thinking about getting in. That is the way Donald Trump works. He will engage you, and then it's your -- are you really going to stand by and stand back and just get attacked?
STEPHANIE CUTTER, FORMER OBAMA DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER: And they're all going to get their own nicknames.
CUTTER: I can't...
TAPPER: I think Pompeo said something about that.
And, I mean, I can't wait to see Mike Pence's nickname.
CUTTER: But what struck me just watching that is how many people who are standing up there potentially putting their name out on the ballot for 2024 are complicit with what happened under the Trump administration and complicit with January 6.
How are they going to run in a primary against Donald Trump and position themselves as being different, better, less divisive than Donald Trump? They were right there.
TODD: Because the elections are about the future. Voters tend to look out the windshield, not in the rearview mirror for the election.
CUTTER: Except for the past election.
TODD: I think Donald -- we know Donald Trump's a pretty good predator in campaigns, right? He's not always good at picking his person, but he's good at tearing someone else down.
But he also has a different opponent this time. It's not just those people who are running. Some of it's exhaustion, even within the Republican primary. And I think...
TAPPER: Exhaustion with him?
TODD: With him.
I think the one thing he has to be concerned with is, he's entered very, very early. And he has to have the attention span and the tolerance of the Republican base, who might be a little bit worn out right now. I don't know that I would have entered as soon as he did.
And I don't know that I would run this thing at Mach 10 the whole time?
FINNEY: Well, he obviously thought that he was going to be announcing on the heels of a victory, right?
FINNEY: Oops. That didn't happen. That red wave never manifested.
And I think the other challenge that they're going to have with a Republican House-led Congress that is just hell-bent on investigations, that is all about the past, right, Hunter Biden. COVID is going to be one -- how COVID started is one of them.
That's all about looking at the past. That's all about dividing this country. That is not about dealing with inflation. That is not about bringing the country together. And if you're running for president, you're supposed to be the person who can be the boss of the whole Republican Party.
TODD: Hang on, though.
When Democrats took over the House in 2018, within five months, they had 14 different committees investigating the Republican administration. It's a legitimate congressional function. And that's what's going to happen.
FINNEY: It's different.
TAPPER: I just want to interrupt just to show people what we're talking about here, because these are some of the topics that House Republicans have talked about that they want to launch oversight investigations.
There's the Southern border, that withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Justice Department, in terms of the FBI seizing the materials from Mar-a-Lago, and then Hunter Biden.
So I just wanted to just -- go ahead.
CUTTER: And there is a -- there is absolutely a legitimate congressional function to provide oversight of the executive branch.
However, just take Republicans for their word, the new Republican majority in the House for their word. This is about revenge politics. They're doing this to weaken Joe Biden. That's what they have said on the record.
And I think they -- I think we would all agree that they need to be really careful here and not overreach, because, ultimately, that list is not going to weaken Joe Biden. It is going to strengthen Joe Biden, because they are not paying attention to what the American people told them.
TODD: James Comer, who is chair of the Oversight Committee, has said he's not interested in investigating the Mar-a-Lago raid.
However, he is interested in investigating whether the Department of Justice coordinated with outside actors when they declared people who go to school boards to voice their opinions to be domestic terrorists. That's a legitimate function.
We also have had zero hearings in the U.S. House looking into the botched withdrawal of Afghanistan. That's a legitimate oversight function. And I think, once you see this Congress take shape, you're going to hear -- you're going to see that.
CUTTER: There have been hearings.
I just think that the -- this is the tail wagging the dog. And Kevin McCarthy, if he becomes speaker, is not going to be able to control his caucus. And we know, because we have all been through this before, what's going to happen. They're going to make a mockery of the system and completely overreach.
But they're going to be investigating someone -- they're investigating Joe Biden. The American people do not think that he is a crook. They do not think that he is corrupt.
TAPPER: So -- yes, so, Sarah, I want to bring you in here, because, look, I agree with Brad that there is a legitimate oversight function of Congress. And it's a shame that parties never investigate their own party in the White House, whether it's Republicans investigating Trump or Democrats investigating Biden.
That said, I think one of the things Stephanie is talking about is, when Republicans controlled the House in the '90s, there were some really bizarre -- you were -- you don't remember, but there were some really -- there were some really bizarre moments.
Congressman Dan Burton from Indiana talked -- remember this? He was looking into the Vince Foster suicide.
TAPPER: And he, like, fired his gun into a pumpkin to see -- I mean, there was some weird stuff.
TAPPER: And the question is, which Republicans are going to be in charge of these investigations? Is it going to be the more serious, sober Republicans, McCaul, Turner, et cetera?
Or is it going to be the Marjorie Taylor Greenes?
MATTHEWS: I do think it's going to be more of the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, because I think that, to secure the gavel, McCarthy is obviously making concessions to people in the far right, like Marjorie Taylor Greene.
That's why you're seeing her come out so forceful in defending him and pushing him. And, clearly, he's promised or something. And I think you're going to see her -- I think it's been reported that she wants to be on Oversight. So you're going to see her probably get a plum position on a very important committee that's going to have a lot of power.
I do think there is legitimacy to some of these investigations, to Brad's point, but I did think it was strange that House Republicans came out of the gate saying, we're going to investigate Hunter Biden, when I think there are so many other issues that voters want to see them tackle, like the border crisis, like inflation, gas prices, you name it.
So, I did think that was an odd strategy.
TAPPER: Yes, to be continued. We will have a lot of committee hearings to talk about.
I promise you will get to weigh in, Karen.
TAPPER: Thanks so much for being here. And happy Thanksgiving.
Only one U.S. president has promised to fundamentally change our relationship with the rulers of Saudi Arabia: Spoiler alert: It didn't really pan out.
TAPPER: In a legal filing Thursday night, the Biden administration sided with this man, even though its own Office of the Director of National Intelligence previously wrote -- quote -- "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi" -- unquote. At issue was a 2020 lawsuit against 37-year-old Mohammed bin Salman,
or MBS, and 28 others in D.C. Federal District Court, accusing them of -- quote -- "acting in a conspiracy and with premeditation to kidnap, bind, drug, torture, and assassinate" Jamal Khashoggi, a resident of the U.S., who wrote for "The Washington Post" at the time.
The 2018 murder took place at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Khashoggi's body was dismembered with a bone saw, one source told "The New York Times." His remains were never found. Now, MBS denies ordering the murder, but then-candidate Joe Biden did not believe him, saying it shocked him to his very soul and would change how he as president would treat the Saudis.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Khashoggi was, in fact, murdered and dismembered, and I believe on the order of the crown prince, and I would make it very clear we were not going to, in fact, sell more weapons to them, we were going to in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: But, as president, Mr. Biden did decide to sell more weapons to Saudi Arabia, $650 million worth in 2021, and then, earlier this year, met with and fist-bumped MBS.
Biden said he brought up the murderer in their meeting, but it clearly annoyed him when we in the news media focused on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Why don't you guys talk about something that matters? I'm happy to answer a question that matters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: This week, the Biden Justice Department says it sided with MBS against the lawsuit because MBS is now prime minister -- quote -- "the sitting head of government and, accordingly, is immune from this suit, per precedent and international law."
But that promotion to prime minister by his father, King Salman, who would normally hold that title, that promotion came last month, just a few days before the Biden administration was supposed to weigh in on this immunity issue.
As Fred Ryan, "The Washington Post"'s publisher and CEO, noted in a statement Friday -- quote -- "While legitimate heads of government should be protected against frivolous lawsuits, the Saudis' decision to make MBS prime minister was a cynical, calculated effort to manipulate the law and shield him from accountability."
Ryan says Biden was essentially -- quote -- "granting a license to kill to one of the world's most egregious human rights abusers, who is responsible for the cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi" -- unquote.
It is worth noting, though the court did invite the Biden administration to weigh in on this issue of immunity, the Biden administration did not have to do so. They could have stayed silent.
The U.S. has a long and shameful history when it comes to American presidents going along with Saudi human rights abuses because they control so much of the fossil fuels to which our country is so addicted. But there's only one politician who promised he would be different, who pledged that he would make this thug a pariah, who made his stark morality on this one man such a vivid campaign issue.
And that's Joe Biden, who said this in 2019:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: There's very little social redeeming value of the -- in the present government in Saudi Arabia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: He was not wrong.
A few weeks ago, "The Wall Street Journal" reported that MBS -- quote -- "mocks President Biden in private, making fun of the 79-year-old's gaffes and questioning his mental acuity, according to people inside the Saudi government" -- unquote.
Nothing gets leaked by the Saudi government to "The Wall Street Journal" without MBS signing off on it, President Biden. What are you, what are we getting in exchange for letting this thug get away with murder, Mr. President, other than the stink of complicity?
Thanks for spending your Sunday morning with us.
"FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" starts next.