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Biden Aims To Reassert U.S. Leadership On First Foreign Trip; Biden Poised For Tense Meeting With Vladimir Putin Wednesday; DOJ I.G. Launches Probe After Congressional Phone Records Seized; Bipartisan Group Of Senators Say They Have Infrastructure Deal; Harris Faces Criticism From The Left And Right After Trip Abroad. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 13, 2021 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Shocking revelations. The Trump Justice Department seized phone records from enemies in Congress.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It's just another terrible abuse of the rule of law. It's also such a body blow to our democracy.

PHILLIP: Plus, President Biden on the world stage. He says America has turned a page.

JOSEPH R. BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're committed to leading with strength. The United States is back.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It's fantastic. He's a breath of fresh air.

PHILLIP: And new hope for a bipartisan deal on infrastructure. But some Democrats say Biden should go it alone.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): It is time to move forward. The Republicans have held us up long enough.

PHILLIP: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now.


PHILLIP (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip.

The days of Donald Trump's America first foreign policy are over. That is the message President Joe Biden wants the world to hear as he travels through Europe on his first foreign trip as president.

One example, he's announcing that the U.S. will buy and donate 500 million doses of Pfizer's COVID vaccine.


BIDEN: America will be the arsenal of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19. Just as America was the arsenal of democracy during World War II. Our vaccine donations don't include pressure for favors or potential concessions. We're doing this to save lives, to end this pandemic. That's it. Period.


PHILLIP: After four years of Trump-triggered drama at every international summit, you can almost hear the audible sigh of relief from Biden's fellow world leaders.


JOHNSON: There's so much they want to do together with us. It's fantastic. He's a breath of fresh air.

ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): He stands for the commitment to multilateralism which we were missing in recent years.

EMMANUEL MACRON, FRENCH PRESIDENT: I think it's great to have the U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate.


PHILLIP: And we'll hear from President Biden in about an hour. He's set to hold a news conference as the G7 Summit concludes this morning.

Joining me now with their reporting and insights: Olivier Knox at "The Washington Post," Vivian Salama of "The Wall Street Journal," CNN's John Harwood and "Politico's" Laura Barron-Lopez.

Thanks for all for being here today.

And as the kids say, they love to see it. Apparently they're very happy to see Biden across the pond.

John, this message of America is back, how is it resonating overseas?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Very well. And it's one of the realities of this situation is that Joe Biden went to this overseas trip with a huge asset. That is that Donald Trump is a very easy act to follow.

He acted buffoonishly on the world stage. He is somebody who openly aligned himself with American adversaries, with Russia. He went out of his way to poke fingers in the eye of other G7 leaders.

And so, it's natural that they welcome a U.S. president who wants to work with them and solve common problems, climate, for example, the coronavirus pandemic, economic recovery.

It doesn't mean there aren't differences because multilateralism is difficult. You have to work with other countries. They had disagreement, for example, on China. How aggressive to be in confronting China.

Joe Biden has this theme of democracy standing up and showing they can work in competition with autocracies. But that common effort is something that other world leaders welcome and Joe Biden, just like the first president I covered, George H.W. Bush, is somebody very comfortable on the world stage. Knows a lot of these leaders. He was back in his element.

PHILLIP: And speaking of comfort, physically, it was a very different scene overseas. I mean, lots of touching and back patting and not so much finger-pointing as we've seen in previous summits with the previous president.

There's a body language shift that also reflects a shift in public opinion in what we've seen according to this recent Pew poll that in Europe, and in Canada and in Germany among the G7 countries, you've got the general population going from, you know, 30-point swings in their favorable view of the United States, their favorable view of the ability of an American president to operate.


This is a lot of good will, Olivier. Do you think it will have actual dividends for the United States?

OLIVIER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: It's a great question. If you dig further into that Pew poll, you find that actually a small minority of respondents say the United States is a very reliable ally.

We can't paper over the unease still in Europe. They are watching our politics. They saw January 6th. They know that Donald Trump doesn't accept the results of the election and they know that there's a menagerie of governors and senators who were willing to take up the Trump mantel.

So, all this "America is back" strikes me as fortune cookie foreign policy. They know. They're watching this stuff. They know.

The big lesson of the Trump era -- they saw swings before. H.W. to Clinton, Clinton to W., W. to Obama, they've seen changes in foreign policy. But nothing like the last four years.

And now, they quite reasonably think -- well, this could happen again.

PHILLIP: There's some anxiety about the potential of this not being durable.

Vivian, just a couple of years ago, both Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, and France's president, Emmanuel Macron, had some really tough words for Europe about what the future of the U.S./European relationship ought to be.

They were saying that the era in which we could fully rely on the United States is over to some extent. That was Merkel in 2017. And Macron says Europe can no longer rely on the United States for its security.

So, has -- do you get the sense that that has shifted or is it just on hold for now?

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they're certainly breathing a sigh of relief as you said, but also a lot of questions about what our future politics holds here in the United States. There's some looming question about, does Donald Trump come back to become president or is the Republican Party sort of shifting in his favor and is that sort of the more favorable view of everybody kind of goes it alone.

And so, no one really knows how to proceed. And the Europeans, while they are embracing Biden who has arrived and talks the talk of multilateralism and working together, they're also very apprehensive about what they've seen in America in the last couple of months and years.

And so they want to also address their own issues. I mean, keep in mind that they also have their constituents to answer to and so Angela Merkel who is on her way out, by the way, but France's Macron, especially, he has economic interest and, you know, sort of working with China at the same time the Biden administration talks about cracking down with China.

And so, they themselves are also interested in their own domestic issues. And so, it kind of leaves us wondering where we're going to be when Biden is back and saying, let's work together and they're like, well, let's see about that.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, the China issue is the issue that they have been stuck on. We're still waiting for this G7 communique to come out, perhaps some time this morning. And the question is, how tough will they be on China?

You have several European countries that are okay with maybe becoming more financially entangled with China, getting Chinese investment. And Biden saying this is democracy versus autocracy. How is that going to play out?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, and a few years ago, China wasn't even mentioned in the communique.

So, the big question is, how far do they go in confronting China in that statement? Do they say -- do they confront them on the forced labor of the Uyghur in Xinjiang?

Do they also say that they want to move towards that different investments what the administration is calling higher quality infrastructure investments and having a higher standard on labor and on climate standards rather -- and providing those to lower and middle-income countries as opposed to going the route of China with their roads loan program which a lot of countries are turning to?

And so, that's what the administration has been really focused on during this summit. It's also a big piece of his domestic agenda. Biden overall is arguing that his agenda, if it doesn't pass, and if what he's trying to push at the G7 doesn't happen, that the U.S. will not be as competitive against China and that China will continue to grow in emergence and outcompete the country. And so, that's one of his central pillars of his agenda.

PHILLIP: There has been, between the vaccine announcement, John, and also this announcement about a sort of global infrastructure investment that is designed, really, to be a counter to China. Those two things are great, nice, on the world stage. We're giving them away no strings attached.

But do you get the sense this is really what it's going to take to put China in a box, if that's what the Biden administration wants to do?

HARWOOD: It's part of what it takes. I mean, we all know money talks. And through this belt and road initiative, China has been laying a lot of money down, especially to underdeveloped countries to try to use dollar diplomacy, get them on their side.


The United States can compete in other democracies or have tried to compete on the basis of values. But dollar diplomacy also is relevant for democracies as well. I mean, we've seen that all the way back to John F. Kennedy's administration. The Peace Corps. Foreign aid. The Marshall Plan after World War II.

So, there are ways in which the United States and other democracies after periods in which they've turned inward and people have said, you know, Donald Trump championed an America first and said everyone else is taking advantage of us. And so he was trying to grab what he could for the United States.

But if you take a larger view of what the United States obligations and challenges are in the world stage, you realize you've got to lay down some money and assistance yourself. And that's what Biden is doing.

PHILLIP: Yeah, there's more to come. Not just for -- from on that issue of China but also on the issue of Russia.

Coming up next, Biden's biggest international test is still to come. His meeting with Vladimir Putin.



PHILLIP: The main event of President Biden's first foreign trip is still ahead, Wednesday's summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Sizing up Putin has always been an important test for the U.S. commander-in-chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul. He's a man deeply committed to his country.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: What is true is that the Russians intended to meddle, and they meddled. Vladimir Putin is not on our team.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I like Putin, he likes me. We get along. Wouldn't you say it's smart to get along, OK? It's smart.


PHILLIP: On this trip, Biden telegraphed his relationship with Russia is going to be very different from former President Donald Trump's.


BIDEN: I've been clear. The United States will respond in a robust and meaningful way when the Russian government engages in harmful activities.


PHILLIP: The specter of the former president is hanging over this meeting, of course, with Putin.

And, you know, Vivian, how do you think that is going to play out, especially since it seems like Putin is already setting this up as a Biden versus Trump kind of situation. Actually take a listen to what he told NBC just this past week.


VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I believe that former U.S. president, Mr. Trump, is an extraordinary individual, talented individual. He's a colorful individual. You may like him or not.

President Biden is a career man. He's spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics. There are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements on behalf of the sitting U.S. president.


PHILLIP: The lack of impulse movements is exactly what the White House is hoping for.

SALAMA: Definitely hoping for. And remember, you know, while President Biden is definitely a different personality, he has a history of gaffes in situations like this. And so they are definitely hoping they can avoid that because of the fact that President Putin is very unpredictable and can really throw things out of left field.

And so, a lot of what President Putin is saying now is reality that he sees a different adversary in the United States president right now and a lot of it is also schtick, where he said, you know, he goes out there and he says, you know, Trump was someone who worked with me and we got along.

Even though his administration actually did crack down on Russia quite a bit in the last couple of years, President Trump's messaging was very different, but that's not actually in reality what the relationship was like, and he had said that the relationship was in a bad place.

So we're going to go and we're going to basically see that if President Biden is able to get some deliverables out of this meeting, a very tough adversary, very shrewd negotiator in Putin. He tends to throw things again out of left field during these meetings.

I mean, the famous story, which is an example of kind of how he tries to catch his adversaries off guard. In 2007, when he met with Angela Merkel, he walked up with a big Labrador, his dog Koni and Angela Merkel is known to be terrified of dogs and the dog sat there staring at her the whole time. And so, things like that --

PHILLIP: He's like a professional troller.

SALAMA: He is a professional troller.

PHILLIP: But, I mean, that's one of the reasons why the White House is already signaling, according to our reporting at CNN, that they're unlikely to have one of those joint press conferences at the end. They are not trying to give him an opportunity to do that kind of thing.

So who gets the most out of this meeting in general, Olivier?

KNOX: Well, I think we need to let the meeting happen before we reach that conclusion. I think the way both the Kremlin and the White House have been building this up over the past week has been interesting. Both sides raising the stakes again and again for a meeting that we don't expect to deliver a lot of breakthroughs.

But you saw -- you quoted Biden's comments. Of course, in the run up to this, he agreed Putin was a killer. In the past he said Putin doesn't have a soul. So we know where Joe Biden is coming at this.

But this is a moment for Joe Biden to do a better job, I'll say, than what Barack Obama did in 2016, the sort of "cut it out" meeting. Barack Obama sits down and tells Putin, I know you're interfering in our elections. Cut it out. We know how that played out, right?

This time, it's SolarWinds hack. It's ransomware. It's all the other aspects of Russia's cyberattacks, cyber offenses.

PHILLIP: And not just the cyber offenses. I mean, the long list of provocative actions from Moscow, I mean, it's extraordinary.

Election interference, cyberattacks, as you mentioned, sending troops to the Ukraine border, the jailing of a dissident Navalny and the banning of the opposition group. That happened just this past week. Reports that Russia is preparing to supply Iran with advanced

satellite systems.


There's a lot that Putin has been able to do in just about four years. Can the genie be put back in the bottle?

HARWOOD: Well, we don't know what effect a different tone from Biden is going to have. But the different tone is the point of the meeting. It's not about breakthroughs. This is about a transition from an American president who was openly sympathetic to Vladimir Putin.

Let's just step back and remember. Vladimir Putin helped Donald Trump get elected, and he did it for a reason. Donald Trump then became president, covered for Putin. When he was challenged, isn't Putin a killer? He said, oh, you think we're so innocent in the United States?

When asked about Putin going after opponents, physically, Trump would say like, maybe, maybe not. We don't really know.

He questioned the U.S. commitment to Article 5 under NATO. He poked the eyes of Western allies. He divided the alliance.

In multiple ways, he tried to get Putin and Russia back into the G7. So, in multiple ways, he did Vladimir Putin's bidding.

Joe Biden is going to Geneva to say, that's not happening anymore. Now that's a different question from whether what Joe Biden is doing is going to get Vladimir Putin to stop cyber ware, ransomware attacks from happening.

PHILLIP: I mean, there's a need for actual -- I mean, the tone is one thing, but there's a need for either actual cooperation or change in behavior.

HARWOOD: On climate and some other issues. That's correct.

PHILLIP: On Putin's part, right, it's not just about the rhetoric.

BARRON-LOPEZ: There are. The deliverables are important, but again, no one here is expecting major deliverables from this meeting given it's the first one.

So, I mean, the ransomware is something that Biden is facing a lot of pressure on especially from lawmakers in the run up to this meeting from both parties. They're saying, you need to confront Putin on this. We've seen the attacks on the gasoline pipeline, as well as the meat packing company.

And so that's a big thing on the administration's agenda heading into the meeting.

PHILLIP: That's coming up on Wednesday. Later today, on a lighter note, Biden will meet with Queen Elizabeth. This is her 13th meeting with a U.S. president. But not Biden's first meeting with her actually, which maybe is -- I don't know if it's tribute to his longevity or hers.


PHILLIP: Or both. That's one of the other things we're looking forward to today.

But, coming up next, a top Democrat says former President Trump weaponized the Justice Department to find so-called leakers.



PHILLIP: The Justice Department's internal watchdog is launching a new investigation into potential Trump-era abuses of power. Now, the issue: a push by the Trump Justice Department to secretly seize phone and email data from the former president's political enemies and their families, including sitting members of Congress.


SCHIFF: Going after a committee that was investigating him -- you know, one guardrail after another just smashed by this unethical former president.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA): Absolutely, he weaponized the Justice Department.


PHILLIP: The subpoenas were part of a long-running investigation into leaks about the Trump Russia probe.

And former Attorney General Bill Barr claimed in an interview with "Politico" this week that neither he nor Trump were ever briefed on the subpoenas and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, former -- and his predecessor Jeff Sessions said he knew nothing about it either.

CNN's legal and national security analyst Carrie Cordero joins us at the table, as well as "Politico's" Melanie Zanona.

Now, Carrie, you've got Barr denying it. Rosenstein denying it. Sessions denying it.

But take a listen to this exchange between Bill Barr and Kamala Harris a couple of years ago on this very general topic.


THEN-SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone. Yes or no, please, sir.

BILL BARR, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president or anybody else?

HARRIS: Seems you'd remember something like that and be able to tell us.

BARR: Yeah, but I'm trying to grapple with the word suggest. There have been discussions of matters out there that they have not asked me to open an investigation.


HARRIS: There have been discussions of matters out there. They have not asked me.

But is it plausible that he would not have known? Especially on the issue of metadata from members of Congress being caught up as part of an investigation?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, in this case, although he was very clearly parsing his words there and there was certainly some sort of conversations that perhaps had gone on, it is plausible that he didn't -- that Attorney General Barr didn't know about these specific subpoenas, just simply based on the timing of when he was attorney general and when the reports are of when these subpoenas are issued.

So according to "The Wall Street Journal," for example, the subpoenas were in early 2018. Bill Barr wasn't attorney general until 2019. So, now, could any attorney general during this entire period not have known?


Again, under normal Justice Department process in a sensitive national security case like this, one would think that the attorney general, whoever he was, would have been briefed.

The only reason I think it is possibly plausible that none of the attorney generals knew in this circumstance is because the Trump administration created such chaos in the Justice Department so they forced out Attorney General Sessions. Then there was a new attorney general. There were multiple acting and then finally a Senate- confirmed assistant attorney general for national security. So there was a lot of turmoil in the management of the department.

HARWOOD: Carrie, is it possible that, let's say attorney generals didn't know, ok, is it conceivable that career officials would take these steps without notifying any high ranking political appointee? Set aside Rosenstein, set aside Sessions and Barr. Is that conceivable that career officials would do this themselves on their own?

CORDERO: So it's not the way that it should work in a sensitive national security investigations. I mean sending subpoenas on information for members of the intelligence community -- committee, excuse me -- is something that in my judgment and according to Justice Department policy should be briefed to the highest levels including the head of the national security division and I would argue the attorney general and the deputy attorney general.

PHILLIP: There is this question of whether Trump knew or whether it even matters that he ordered it or didn't order it. I mean he had been attacking both Adam Schiff and others on the committee publicly and openly for months. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Comey is a leaker and he's a liar. And not only on this stuff. He's been leaking for years.

Whether it was shifty Schiff or somebody else, they leak the information before it gets.

You have leakers on the committee. Obviously, leakers that are doing bad things.


PHILLIP: It is extraordinary also that the settings in which he would attack people for leaking. It could be -- it could be a FEMA briefing but he'll still attack Adam Schiff.

So -- I mean at the same time does it matter, do you think, whether Trump knew or ordered any of this to happen?

KNOX: I mean, I think of course, it matters. Finding out just how far up the chain this went, of course it matters.

There are questions of separation of powers there that are very important. It is not unprecedented for administrations to go after members of Congress but this is unusual. This is not -- this is the -- should not be routine, I'll put it that way.

MELANIE ZANONA, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: And I was going to say Democrats are going to want to get to the bottom of this. They're going to want to haul Jeff Sessions and Bill Barr up to Capitol Hill and hear from them under oath.

You know, Bill Barr spoke to one of my colleagues at Politico and tried to distance himself and said he had no knowledge of this but Democrats want that under oath.

The problem is I don't know whether they would actually come testify, if they would fight a subpoena. And so I really think what we're going to see on Capitol Hill is a push for reforms at the DOJ and Democrats are starting to realize that just because there's been a shift in political power they're going to raise what they view has been the erosion of the institution.

And so I think you are going to see a broader push here for the guardrails to be put back on.

PHILLIP: There is -- yes and there is to your point a real possibility of defying of subpoenas which was a hallmark of the Trump administration and many of his officials have complete disregard for Congress. But you have some Democratic lawmakers including Congressman Ted Lieu putting the pressure on the Biden administration and saying you guys need to do better.

He says, directing this at the Justice Department, that this shouldn't be how the Garland DOJ works. Your job is not to maximize presidential power, Do better.

He's saying we should not have found out about this through press reports because the gag orders have expired. So the Biden administration is in a tough spot. Because he put Merrick Garland at DOJ to stay out of some of this political stuff, right.

HARWOOD: They are in a tough spot because Joe Biden wants to move ahead. He doesn't want look behind. And he's trying to unite the country.

And the further you go into delving into investigations of what Trump did, the more difficult it is to do that. Nevertheless, there are some things that can't be avoided.

And to your point about the Trump administration defying subpoenas, we just last week got the testimony of Don McGahn who had been -- which has been sought for a couple of years and Don McGahn testified to the way in which Donald Trump had corrupted the processes of government.

That Donald Trump asked him to fire Bob Mueller. Donald Trump also asked him later to lie about that and say that he had not done it.

So, the incident with Swalwell and with Schiff has to be viewed in that context of a president who regarded the apparatus of government as his own personal property to be used for his own personal benefit.

PHILLIP: To what extent is that unique or what are the parallels? I mean some people have brought up Nixon, but do you think that those are valid?


CORDERO: Well, here is what I think is the red flag in these particular subpoenas. It is the scope of them. It is the fact that according to reports there were 73 phone numbers, 36 email accounts and that's just for one provider.

Normally in this type of circumstance if you are conducting an investigation and serving one provider, in this case Apple, most likely there are subpoenas that went to other providers so for other email accounts or phone numbers.

So it is the scope of it. The number of individuals on the committee or associated with the committee who were dragged into this. That is what to me as a former national security lawyer indicates that this was not managed well, not in Justice Department policy not in control.

PHILLIP: And perhaps a fishing expedition for -- CORDERO: Just overly raw (ph) -- you're dealing with something like a

congressional committee, that's when it should be narrow, focused, targeted.

PHILLIP: Right. Exactly.

Well, coming up next, there is a bipartisan breakthrough on infrastructure potentially but why are so many Democrats saying this is too little, too late?



PHILLIP: A group of ten moderate senators, five from each party, say they have reached a deal on a bipartisan infrastructure plan. It adds up to $1.2 trillion but about half of that in new money that wasn't already going to be spent and it is all for core infrastructure -- think roads and bridges.

It would be paid for in part by raising the gas tax. But that is a long way from what many Democrats and the Biden administration initially wanted.

So the question for Congress this week is are there votes for something that looks like this? $1.2 trillion but a lot of it excluding some of the top priorities that Democrats have had.

ZANONA: Yes. And also look at what the pay-fors are, it is unused COVID relief money. It's indexing (ph) the gas tax to inflation -- those are both nonstarters with the White House. You have progressives who say this isn't big and bold enough. And I don't think this has buy-in yet form the rest of the parties or the White House.

So yes, they've achieved what has not been done yet on Capitol Hill which is putting pen to paper on a bipartisan infrastructure plan but that's really only half of the battle.

And so we still have a long way to go. Time is running out. It is already June. Congress has a week off in July. They have all of August off. So, you know, I just don't see whether this is really going to move the needle in the next couple of weeks here.

PHILLIP: The return of Washington summers where everybody leaves town. But over at the White House they put out a very tepid reaction to this bipartisan plan. I mean frankly they've been seeking a bipartisan deal but they don't seem to be thrilled by this one.

What is your sense of how likely they are to either play ball with this, and maybe continue to tweak it or maybe reject it out of hand because it just doesn't do what they want it to do.

HARWOOD: I don't think they're going to reject it out of hand. I think they're going to play ball with it, at least for a little while. There are options that they think can be substituted for the pay-fors that Melanie was just detailing. Things like enhanced IRS enforcement, is that something Republicans could buy into. The user fees that Mitt Romney talks about, are they corporate only user fees? And could they deficit finance some of it.

It is very difficult to do but the White House can't afford to rule it out, out of hand for a couple of reasons. One they have to go through this process to keep the Democratic caucus united for whatever comes next. And they also -- let's say they rejected this plan and rolled everything into one big infrastructure bill, very large price tag on this bill.

So one of the advances of a bipartisan deal if you can get one, if there is one that is reasonable, within shouting distance of what you want, is that it carves down the price tag of what you later do through reconciliation.

They're going to do reconciliation in any case, right. this is not going to be the end of the story. But the question is how do you get to the end of the story.

PHILLIP: You get a lot of Democrats already crying foul over this deal and kind of saying we're done with all of the talking. Democrats from a wide range of sort of the political spectrum within the party.


SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Trading space for bipartisan talks is always welcome but we should act sooner than later.

SENATOR ED MARKEY (D-MA): We can't have an infrastructure bill in 2021 that doesn't have climate at its center. No climate, no deal.

SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): No voter that I've talked to in Georgia have said to me what is most important is that we get a bipartisan deal.


PHILLIP: But of course, the two Democrats who are among the most important are Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. If this bipartisan deal doesn't work out, you heard John talking about the reconciliation process that would allow them to move forward with just 50 votes without getting rid of the filibuster. That is still available to them.

Do you get the sense that Sinema and Manchin would be willing to do that if this bipartisan deal falls through.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Not yet which is what they keep saying. Them as well as others like Senator Jeanne Shaheen who've said we don't think the votes are there just yet if we go alone it to the reconciliation.

And so that's why the White House doesn't see a rush to move fully under reconciliation. They want the key senators, they want Majority Leader Schumer, Senator Bernie Sanders to get the ball rolling on crafting what needs to be started, that process for reconciliation. But they also have reason to let these bipartisan talks keep going because they know that they need Manchin and Sinema to come along.

PHILLIP: I also have some questions about whether, you know, let's say they get a small deal now in a bipartisan fashion.

Melanie, do you think it is realistic that there could be a second bite at this apple on infrastructure, reconciliation or not?

ZANONA: That is a great question, right? I mean I think there are two storylines to watch here. A lot of ink has been spilled on Manchin and Sinema and the centrist Democrats. But don't forget with such slim majorities in the House, progressives could run the show too if they really wanted to and if they did vote no.


ZANONA: Now whether they'd be willing to play hard ball, I'm not quite sure, yes. You know, they flex their muscles a little bit on a capital aid security package a few weeks ago. But I think Biden and Democratic leaders need to make sure they're tending to all of their gardens and not just the centrists.

PHILLIP: Yes. So Olivier, I want to get your thoughts on this because the overarching question facing Biden is how important really is bipartisanship. You heard Raphael Warnock saying nobody I go home to says we must have a bipartisan deal or nothing at all and Perry Bacon in the "Washington Post" writes that there just aren't that many swing voters.

He said there is virtually no evidence that a bloc of voters who would otherwise back Republican congressional candidates next year will instead support Democrats if they perceive Biden as really trying hard to be bipartisan.

That is probably not the view within the White House right now or is it?

KNOX: Well, I think -- I'm really glad Melanie brought up the growing impatience from the progressives. Because it really is to me one of the big storylines of this past week. it's really, really important.

You can hear them get very testy about the absence of climate stuff in this infrastructure. You're hearing them getting really testy about voting rights which is why the Justice Department made all those announcements beefing up their teams and taking steps to safeguard voting rights.

And to Perry's point --

ZANONA: Israel, Ilhan Omar --

KNOX: Absolutely.

ZANONA: I mean the divisions are really starting to --

KNOX: And so I -- so I'm really glad you mentioned that because I think that is super important over the past week.

I also think that in the White House, they don't believe that there are that many voters in 2022 who will look back at 2021 and say, well, we didn't get an infrastructure bill, but we tried to be bipartisan.


KNOX: I Don't think anyone is going to vote based on that outside of the United States Senate.

PHILLIP: Right. They believe that it's about the result that matters.

KNOX: Absolutely.

PHILLIP: Not necessarily about the process. And I think we all know at this table that no one cares about the process except maybe us.

Up next, how Vice President Harris is tackling her sprawling and complicated new portfolio.



PHILLIP: Vice President Kamala Harris has been given a to-do list loaded with all but impossible tasks. Immigration tops that list and was the focus of her first foreign trip. But she drew criticism for telling migrants, do not come to the U.S. Border, and for not yet visiting the actual U.S./Mexico border.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You haven't been to the border.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I haven't been to Europe. I mean I don't understand the point that you're making.

I've said I'm going to go to the border. And --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When are you going to the border, vice president?

HARRIS: The administration has asked -- I'm not finished. I've said I'm going to the border.


PHILLIP: It's just a little cringeworthy, and I know that her allies in the White House and elsewhere are watching it and just kind of wondering what is going on. How poorly did this go for her in her first foray onto the world stage?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, it certainly didn't go the way the White House wanted it to go. And again, immigration, as you mention, is a hot potato no one wants to touch. And Harris has been dealt it and so she has to handle now what Biden had to handle when he was VP which is relationships with the Northern Triangle. And, of course, Republicans have been trying to clump that in with the border and the board situation and attacking her on that.

Now, did the trip go the way they wanted? No. In 2024, 2028, if she decides to run are people going to remember this trip? I don't really think so.

PHILLIP: Yes. That's definitely true. This is one event, maybe it's the first, but it's one. But there are some broader questions about is this part of a pattern. I mean even in the campaign, she struggled with press interviews, had some major flip-flops on the campaign trail.

I mean, is this part of a pattern for her? And should it be troubling to her advisers and allies and people who want her to succeed, that it's still happening even as vice president?

KNOX: I mean to be clear, she was going to be asked this question. And the fact that they didn't have something better than I haven't been to Europe is fairly notable.

Republicans have been pounding away at this issue for weeks and for months. You can argue that going -- physically to the border serves no meaningful policy purpose except ok, I saw the border, I saw what conditions are like there.

But the fact that they didn't have a response, that they didn't anticipate this is, I mean -- it's malpractice.

ZANONA: Can we also just point out the Republicans have been hammering Kamala Harris, right. But they have been really struggling to define Joe Biden and villainize him Biden.


ZANONA: And so instead they turn to Kamala. Yes, it makes sense, immigration, that riles up their base, that really excites them. But you also have to look at who are the other politicians they tend to demonize? Speaker Pelosi, AOC, Maxine Waters -- it's women and it's women of color.

PHILLIP: Right. Yes. And to that point, this is what happened on Fox News this week, which will surprise no one.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what happens when you choose a vice president based on gender and skin color rather than actual talent and expertise.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're seeing that disaster unfold right now.

RIVERA: That's way -- that's so mean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's mean. It's actually true.

RIVERA: She was attorney general. It is --


PHILLIP: To be fair, Geraldo just jumped in and said that's mean. It's also racist and sexist. But this is the kind of attack that she's facing, at the same time they know this was coming. Should she not have something on her agenda where she can get a win out of this at the end of the day?

HARWOOD: Well, I think pretty much anything a vice president is going to be tasked with is going to be difficult. I think that comes with the territory.

I do think as Melanie indicated, they're targeting her in part, because she is a black woman, and race is the number one issue for Republicans right now. This is a white party that's rallying white -- aggrieved white Americans who feel like they're losing control of their country.

And so that's why we talk about critical race theory all the time on Fox News. I do think that some of the criticism that Harris got was misplaced. Criticism for saying, do not come, that's exact little what Joe Biden has been saying since the administration started.



HARWOOD: Completely expected. But as Olivier indicated, this was a completely anticipated question, and the obvious discomfiture she had over the getting asked it, the nervous laughter -- that's kind of a tick that she has that I think she's going to have to get over and display more command and confidence as she looks to the future.

PHILLIP: Especially because as we have been discussing, she will be perhaps the number one target for this administration, republicans basically preparing for her to be Joe Biden's successor. So that is -- we know that that's coming and it seems like her team probably should get prepared for that.

But that's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Join us back here every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern and the weekday show as well at noon Eastern time.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.

Dana's guest include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. Have a great rest of your day.