Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

January 6 Committee: Trump Deliberately Did Nothing To Stop Riot; White House Doctor Says Biden's COVID Symptoms Are Improving; Election Deniers Could Win Top Jobs In Swing States; January 6th Committee: American Democracy Remains Under Assault; Mike Pence's Playbook; Sharp Divide Among GOP Senators On Same-Sex Marriage Bill. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 24, 2022 - 08:00   ET





MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): Summer finale.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): Donald Trump's conduct was a complete dereliction of his duty to our nation.

RAJU: The January 6 Committee says Trump sat back and watched as rioters attacked the Capitol.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): It was the final action of Donald Trump's own plan to assert the will of the American people and remain in power.

RAJU: After eight explosive hearings, what's the impact on the ex- president's political future and how closely are prosecutors listening?

Plus, the latest on President Biden's health.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: We feel quite optimistic that the president is on the way to recovery.

RAJU: We could be back to a normal schedule this week but what about long COVID?

And Mike Pence's delicate dance.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER PRESIDENT: The Republican Party is the party of the future.

RAJU: He's fighting a proxy war against Trump in key midterm primaries. Can he emerge from his ex-boss's shadow to launch a viable 2024 campaign?

INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters, now. (END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju, in today for Abby.

It was an attack on democracy directly overseen by the president of the United States. That is the message the January 6 committee sought to convey to the American people over the past month and a half. It painted a picture of a president obsessed with overturning the election culminating in a violent mob he egged on and then did nothing to stop.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Are you aware of my phone call by the president of the United States to the secretary of defense that day?


CHENEY: Are you aware of my phone call by the president out United States to the attorney general of the United States that day?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you hear the vice president or -- excuse me, the president ask for the National Guard?


GEN. MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You're the commander in chief, you've got an assault going on on the Capitol of the United States of America. Nothing? No call? Nothing? Zero?


RAJU: After eight hearings, here's what the committee wants voters asking.


CHENEY: Every American must consider this: Can a president who's willing to make the choices Donald Trump made during the violence of January 6 ever be trusted with any position of authority in our great nation again?


RAJU: They also hope prosecutors are taking notice.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): There needs to be accountability -- accountability under the law, accountability to the American people all the way up to the Oval Office.

LURIA: The Department of Justice doesn't need to wait on us to do something. I sure as hell hope that Merrick Garland has a criminal investigation into Donald Trump.


RAJU: Let's discuss all of this and more with Hans Nichols of "Axios", Marianna Sotomayor of "The Washington Post", CNN's Kasie Hunt and CNN's Jeremy Diamond.

Now, look -- looking at everything they have learned over the last several weeks here, in the hearings, revelations from this. Trump repeatedly told by campaign aides, DOJ officials he lost, to continue to pressure state officials to decertify the election results, a whole host of other issues, coordinating fake electors scheme, pressuring the Justice Department to falsely claim election fraud, trying to force the Secret Service to take him to the Capitol. There's questions about witness tampering. No concern over Mike Pence's safety.

Kasie, what do you take away from what we have learned so far?


Manu, I think that the place where this seems to be having the most impact is within the Republican establishment, such that it is. I mean, you've seen, there's evidence this week, "The Wall Street Journal" editorial board, "The New York Post" editorial board both saying, look, these hearings might be a farce, that's how they look at them on the right in many cases, but quite, frankly, what we learned about Donald Trump is completely unacceptable.

And I think you're also -- I'm starting to pick that up from some of my Republican sources who are hoping to work for other Republican candidates in a 2024 presidential primary. Now, I think the trick with that is that if there's a whole bunch of people who are going to get run against him, it kind of clears the way for him if he's going to run for the nomination.


But I feel like there's a lot more willingness than there was before among elites in the Republican Party to challenge Donald Trump.

RAJU: Yeah. And, listen to what Senator John Thune. He's a number two Republican. I asked him last week whether or not he wants Donald Trump to run for re-election.


SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): My guess is there will be other candidates and he has a loyal base of followers but I also think there are a number of other attractive Republican -- potential Republican candidates who at some point make their decisions about running or not.


RAJU: Republicans want a crowded primary field, at least Republicans here in Washington. HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Look, I mean, Kasie's point

is basically about math and that is that the more candidates get in, the easier it is for Donald Trump to hit the number he needs and we can have a debate --

HUNT: Let's call it 30 percent, right, of the primary electorate.

NICHOLS: Right. The floor and the ceiling are similar for Donald Trump and if there's 16 candidates in, that 30 percent looks strong and the reality of how the primaries. We spent time in the states. What matters is who's in first place as you keep moving on, and it's survive and advance. And he can do that with 30 percent, if that's the number.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: This is giving me flashbacks with 2015, 2016, right? How long do we talk about this idea? Like, will the anti-Trump vote coalesce around one candidate? And I think Republicans, as much as they want a crowded primary field they wanted at the beginning, and that's fine, but the question is, will they eventually get the act together to coalesce around a candidate the way they didn't in 2016?

And not only are the stakes higher this time, but also, Donald Trump's appeal is solidified, it's more hardened than it was back in 2016, at least with that 30 percent of the Republican primary.

RAJU: It is interesting to see the impact of the hearings on Trump's standing. We've seen some poll numbers, look at this, from the NPR/PBS/Marist poll, does Trump still deserve great deal or good amount of blame for January 6. In January, 53 percent said yes, 57 percent say that in July.

But if you look at a different poll from Reuters/Ipsos poll, Trump shouldn't run for president in 2024, just 26 percent in June said he should not. Now 32 percent. What's this tell us about where the Republican base is? Primary electorate is in viewing Donald Trump standing?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Yeah. You know, this has been the question for the January 6 committee, when you ask, you know, is this changing hearts and minds? Do you really think this is having an impact? We are seeing that through the polling.

Will it actually? You know, that's still the question that will be determined in this midterms. We've seen that Trump has been successful with some endorsements in some places and also been rejected and a lot of these Democrats are hoping they can run against a Trump acolyte to try and make a difference of extremism actually be able to make the democracy argument. But, you know, I think it also just goes down to how conservative a district is, how conservative a state is, to see just how much influence he still has.

HUNT: I think some of the reality here to though. Republicans know and I'm sure you know this from your reporting on the Hill, but in a general election, once you move past our primary, Donald Trump is a capital L loser. They all know that. They want to move beyond him because he would like to win their elections.

They did better in 2020 than he did. They're likely to do better in 2022 the more that they can avoid this conversation being about Donald Trump. I think the same is going to hold in 2024.

So if they can pick somebody else, they got a much better chance of beating the Democratic nominee.

RAJU: And, you know, Thune does and -- clearly doesn't want Donald Trump to become -- the run for president. But maybe because the nominee he may support him.

I do want -- he told me that last week, he said he will support him and you'd expect Republicans eventually to fall in line despite their apprehension now. I do want to talk about one moment from the hearing that happened last week when Adam Kinzinger, the Republican, one of the two Republicans on the committee, discussed what a White House employee said to the committee about Donald Trump's state of mind in the aftermath of the attack.


KINZINGER: On the screen is the last photograph of the president that night as he went to the residents. As he was gathering his things in the dining room to leave, President Trump reflected on the day's events with the White House employee. President Trump said nothing to the employee about the attack. He said only, quote: Mike Pence let me down.


RAJU: I mean, Jeremy, you covered the Trump White House. Was he generally surprised that Pence did not do what was completely unprecedented and unconstitutional, to simply say the votes don't matter here?

DIAMOND: Donald Trump is very much the guy who's always like, so you're telling me there's a chance, right? I think he likes to hold on to the possibility of whatever he wants until the very last possible second. And I think that's very much what's happening here is he was not only trying to convince Mike Pence up until January 6th to, quote, do the right thing as he said and to go against the constitutional duty to certify the votes.


But he was holding out hope for it. And I think ultimately, not only was he disappointed, generally disappointed. But I don't know, it's difficult to, it's difficult to get into that mindset. But the reality is that's where Trump was.

RAJU: That's where the committee has shown. He really tried to get this result changed ended all sorts of things including that effort with Mike Pence. But there still so much question about what comes next. What does this Justice Department do? What does Merrick Garland, the attorney general, do? Now, he told reporters last week that no one is above the law. But he

also doesn't seem to be in any sort of rush.

NICHOLS: That's the sort of part and parcel of Merrick Garland, right? He's a deliberative jurist. He's a judge. He's going to take, a look at the evidence, he's going to weigh everything.

I think the comments this week were significant. That no one's above the law. Potentially for Donald Trump, his bigger problem is the department justice, his promises happening down in charge of the D.A.'s office.

And they, A, have a different state statutes of have a different sort of element of the law that they need to prove to potentially go after Trump, potentially indict him. And B, they have a different sort of power structure. You are D.A. in Georgia. You don't need to worry about having the same calculus that Merrick Garland does.

So, there is legal peril but we just no one at this table to pretend to know what's going to happen in terms of the future indictment.

RAJU: No one really has a clear -- in the Justice Department, but Democrats -- I'm sure you hear, they think that Garland is going too slowly.

SOTOMAYOR: Oh, yeah, they wish they could if they could pass a law and make him act, they would do it. But of course, that's not the reality I think Luria made a very good point though in that clip that we showed earlier which essentially says you know what, it would be kind of ignorant to assume that the DOJ isn't paying attention, right? To just --

HUNT: We know they are.

SOTOMAYOR: Right, exactly. And that is likely, there's a lot of stuff that they would be doing already behind the scenes. We don't know the exact moment they particular --

RAJU: And we do know that the January 6 committee is sharing information, really starting to, with the Justice Department however does that go. What is it just a moment decide to do? So much in the weeks ahead.

Up next to us, the current president beginning day four of his COVID isolation. We've got the latest on his health.



RAJU: President Biden is on the men. His doctor says Biden's COVID symptoms, quote, continue to improve three days after his diagnosis.

Now, meanwhile, the White House says it is business as usual and Biden's battle with the virus isn't causing for revamping COVID protocols. And the president may have hit pause on his travel plans but aides say he's plowing ahead with his agenda from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to start by apologizing for my voice. I'm feeling much better than I sound. You're reading today on gas prices, we have some really good news. Gas prices are coming down.


RAJU: Joining me now is CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen.

Dr. Wen, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

What -- given the -- White House says that things are getting better for the president. But given his age and given those concerns, what concerns do you have about his health and you have concerns about long COVID as well?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, the good news is that President Biden's general prognosis is excellent, as is the prognosis of anyone in his position. Yes, he does have age, risk factor, but at the same time he is otherwise pretty healthy. He's vaccinated and boosted times to. Even if you just got the first booster, you are well-protected against the illness. The second booster protects you further.

And then he also got Paxlovid, started very early on at the course of his illness. That further reduces the chance of hospitalization and more severe illness.

Now you asked about long COVID. I think that there is a difference between symptoms that are annoying and may persist and we may see them, we may see the president still being hoarse or having a bit of a cough or maybe weeks to come. But true long COVID to the point that things are the president may have debilitating fatigue or something like that, I think the chance of that is very low.

And we should all be comforted in knowing that his symptoms are pretty mild thus far.

RAJU: What do you think about the way that the White House has been disclosing the information about the president's health? Do you believe it has been transparent as it should have been?

WEN: Initially, I gave the White House very high marks because they told us immediately about the president's diagnosis. They talked about his symptoms. They also said he started on Paxlovid and all that was excellent, that was exactly what should be done from a medical and public health standpoint.

I do think that the White House should make the treating physician available for questions. And for whatever reason, the one physician, Dr. O'Connor, doesn't want to answer questions from the media, There should be a team of physicians treating the president. Here, we're talking with the president. It's very normal for there to

be a team of physicians treating any patient. And in this case, somebody on that medical team should be able to answer questions. I think they should give the president's exact vital signs and give a full explanation from the individual seeing the president. Not secondhand through people like Dr. Jha, and Dr. Fauci, who are excellent communicators but we really need to also hear directly from the person or the people treating the president.

And I think that would also be a good teaching moment for the country, to better understand what kinds of symptoms are to be expected from someone having COVID, and how those symptoms should be treated.

RAJU: As the president dealing with that, Doctor, cases and hospitalizations are surging quickly as ever. Look at that map on your screen. Hospitalizations are ticking up, deaths, too. Experts are worried about it getting worse when the weather gets colder in the fall, and Congress has not approved more money to stockpile those vaccines and those tests.


How important is that money, that Congress has not approved for months? It's been sitting out for months. How important is it in the country's response to this pandemic?

WEN: It's really important because we need better tools as we move forward in this pandemic. Right now, we do have Paxlovid. We also have one monoclonal antibody that's effective. But what if there are variants to develop in the future to which these treatments don't work?

We need to be investing in the research, the development of those treatments now. We also need better vaccines. Wouldn't be great if we had a pan coronavirus vaccine rather than playing whack-a-mole with trying to predict which variant is going to be the next variant, and then always being behind in developing the vaccines?

We really need an Operational Warp Speed part two. That's what I wish Congress is funding. Now, we also need more of existing treatments, existing vaccines, but especially taking to account the mood of the country.

I mean, we are not going to be able to get mask mandates back as much as some public health experts want that and maybe a sore thing to do from a stopping transmission standpoint. But it's not going to happen. So then, we need to focus on what will Americans tolerate? And that is testing vaccines treatments.

So let's adequately fund that. I think it will be a major mistake if Congress waits until there is a really lethal new variant that's overwhelming our hospitals again before investing the funding that we need for prevention and preparedness.

RAJU: Yeah, two plus years of this pandemic is still not over yet.

Dr. Wen, thank you so much for your time, your expertise this morning. We really appreciate it.

And up next for us, democracy under attack. A pro-Trump election denier could be the next governor of Arizona.



RAJU: The central message of the January 6th hearings has been that American democracy is still under assault.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): The forces Donald Trump ignited that they have not gone away. The militant, intolerant ideologies, the militias, the alienation and the disaffection, the weird fantasies and disinformation -- they're all still out there, ready to go. That's the elephant in the room.


RAJU: You can see it in Republican primaries all across this country. Pro-Trump candidates who still deny the results of the last election. And one of them, Arizona's Kari Lake, who's running for governor in Arizona.

She spoke at a Trump rally there on Friday night.


KARI LAKE (R), ARIZONA GOVERNOR CANDIDATE: I know for a fact we will no longer accept rigged elections. Who's with me on that?


We have a wide open border. The cartels are in control. We have this illegitimate President Biden who is allowing it to happen.

Yeah, but the fake news wants us to think that that guy got 81 million votes. Okay. All righty.


RAJU: Again, no evidence of widespread election fraud has ever been proven. People investigated this. Those challenges were turned over, rejected by the courts.

NICHOLS: The president's own attorney general.

RAJU: The president's own attorney general, on and on and on. But it's very easy to imagine a scenario where here's a Governor Lake who refuses to certify the election results in 2024.

And she's not the only one. There's Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania running for governor there. There's also secretary state nominees in Michigan and Arizona. This is happening all across the country. NICHOLS: Yeah. And, again, no one in the state knows how that will

shake out. There are things that the Senate and the house can do. The Electoral Count Act sort of strengthen the institutions to some extent, but, you know, and I don't have a crystal ball. It seems like Ms. Lake is leading in the polls out there.

We're going to find out from the Arizona race what's sort of the pro- Trump bona fides get you. I think a more interesting race will equally interesting don't see more interesting is what happened in Washington state, because there you have to Republicans who are up on the same day August 2nd the voted to impeach Donald Trump, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse.

That to me is the one that I'm really looking at. If those to get through, we see that there isn't a huge section for challenging Trump. You can rejoin and say --

RAJU: Right, right, right. But, look, I mean, Trump is still added, which is pretty remarkable. That we learned last week that he called up the Wisconsin assembly speaker, very powerful member of the Wisconsin state assembly, Robin Vos, urged him to decertify the election.

That's not a thing. You can just certify the election. Obviously, it's impossible to know a Trump's thinking. But why do this?

HUNT: Well, I mean, I think Donald Trump, we understand everything we're going to understand about why he does this. It's -- he can't stand the fact that he lost. He clearly did everything he possibly could to try to get, bend the system, break the system so that he can stay in power and he failed.

But, you know, one of the things I think we've learned from the January 6 committee that applies to all these races but particularly these governorship race in Arizona, you mentioned Pennsylvania, secretary of state races, is the importance of officials who are standing up and are willing to stand up for the system and for the truth. Because yes, we've also learned from the January 6th hearings that the guardrails held, the system held.

But man, it held just barely, barely. And it held because people like Brad Raffensperger in Georgia. I mean, these are people we never -- or the fact that Brad Raffensperger is a household name is kind of insane.


RAJU: Right.

HUNT: But he's -- I mean it's deserved and that means that each one of these positions potentially -- it's potentially as important in 2024 as he was in 2020.

RAJU: What is interesting too that we are seeing these races play out is the way that Democrats are handling it. They're meddling in some of these Republican primaries trying to prop up these candidates who they say are extreme but are propping them up because they think they can beat them in the general election.

Look what the Democratic Governors' Association ran in Maryland, this ad.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Meet Dan Cox, Donald Trump's handpicked candidate for Maryland governor.

Cox worked with Trump trying to prove the last election was a fraud. 100 percent pro-life. He's fighting to end abortion in Maryland. And Cox will protect the Second Amendment at all costs.


RAJU: I mean Larry Hogan, the Maryland governor, a Republican, said the Democrats are playing with fire. Are they?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, well first of all, I think we need to acknowledge that it's a clear strategy, right. Because not only did we see it in Maryland but we've seen it play out across gubernatorial races in several other states. You know, Josh Shapiro running ads for Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania comes to mind, for example.

And look, they are trying to get the more extreme candidate to face the Democrat in the general election. They believe that it gives them a better chance.

But of course, it raises the questions like Governor Hogan raised about them playing with fire and the dangers of it. If Democrats are going to say throughout this January that democracy is under attack how can you then also go ahead and prop some of these candidates up?

HUNT: It is a huge risk.


DIAMOND: And It is not only a risk. We also know that Democrats, their argument is that look this lane would not exist if it were not for Republicans not being strong enough in their condemnation of these types of candidates and for allowing this lane to effectively exist. But it is a risk.

RAJU: They've done this before, too, Democrats have. And Republicans sometimes meddle in Democratic primaries. Democrats sometimes do that in Republican primaries. Can it work and especially in House races, too they're trying to do this.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. You know, it is interesting. Just about a month ago Pelosi, and you know this better than anyone, told her caucus in a private meeting, you know, we're not going to win on the democracy argument. We have very strong (INAUDIBLE) that everyone is paying attention to inflation and the economy. And, you know, that's what we should be sticking to especially those frontline members. But you see it still happening. A lot of those front line members also say privately I would much rather run against a super MAGA-Trump acolyte because it just makes it easier. They don't want to run to against a Glenn Youngkin because it just makes it so much harder, right, for someone like him --

RAJU: Right.

HUNT: -- to paint him as Trump, if he is much more toned down. that candidate is talking about Republican issues without the whole big MAGA label behind them.

DIAMOND: And we also know that that's going to be one of the Democrats' central midterm message is. I've been talking to folks at the White House or, you know, President Biden is preparing to make his entry into kind of midterm campaign mode. One of their key arguments is that the Republican Party is extreme and it is more extreme than whatever you may think about the Democrats leftward pull (ph) and so having these kind of candidates certainly helps to play into that argument.

HUNT: Well, I mean look, the challenge here and my question and we don't have the answers yet, we won't, until November but in the past it's been true that both parties have played this game. They've meddled in primaries.

It's also been true that for the most part, those extreme candidates like a Todd Akin in Missouri against Claire McCaskill didn't actually go on to win.

We are now in a much different political environment. And if you want to believe what Liz Cheney and what many of the people in the January 6th Committee are saying, it's that everybody -- everybody who cares about democracy needs to clean up their act and make that their number one priority.

And so that is my question for Democrats. Like ok, you've got this political message about our democracy and about what's important. Propping up these kinds of candidates like in a Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania or a Kari Lake potentially in Arizona, that is contrary to everything else that you are telling the American people about where you stand and what you believe and what's important.

And if we end up -- if it ends that some of these extreme candidates that they propped up get elected and actually do make moves in 2024 that jeopardize our presidential election process, like they're going to have to answer for that.

RAJU: Yes.

NICHOLS: And it's just not contrary. It undercuts the whole argument.

HUNT: It does.

NICHOLS: Yes. I mean when Democrats tell you that the greatest threat to democracy is Donald Trump-like candidates and that the very fate of our republic rest on defeating and at the same time, they're bolstering them for partisan advantage in a tight race, the first argument -- both arguments can't be true.

RAJU: Right.

HUNT: Yes.

NICHOLS: And so it is -- you see why they're doing it and you see there in their obvious strategic advantages and --


HUNT: They're more likely to win an election if they do.

DIAMOND: And it will probably work in most cases. But there is that.

HUNT: But it might not. That's the difference.

NICHOLS: And it's not just because, you know, some of our moms are listening but in the back of my head I always hear like be careful what you wish for.

RAJU: Yes.

NICHOLS: That's just because the little -- the little thing I just keep hearing on these arguments.


HUNT: I mean they wish to run against Donald Trump.

RAJU: Right. They do. And --

HUNT: In 2016, look what we got --

RAJU: And they lost. And they'll win again.

It's certainly possible. This Midterm is so critical.

And next, Mike Pence tries to escape from Donald Trump's shadow. What's the playbook for handling his former boss?



RAJU: Mike Pence seems to want the presidency but first he'll have to go through his former boss. He's not taking on ex-president Donald Trump on directly, instead it's been by proxy like in Arizona. Both men were there on Friday to stomp for rival GOP gubernatorial candidates.

Trump's speech a familiar list of attacks and conspiracy theories. Pence's was standard Republican fare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you get out and vote for Karrin Taylor Robson and this Republican team you can say yes to a future of freedom for Arizona. You can say yes to the more cherished values of life and liberty. You can say yes to strong borders, safe streets and great schools, a growing economy.


RAJU: Now, he did not mention Trump but in two tweets afterwards he was more direct about some people want this election to be about the past but if the Republican Party allows itself to be consumed by yesterday's grievances we will lose.


NICHOLS: I wonder who he is talking about there.

RAJU: What is the playbook here for Pence?

NICHOLS: They like the split screen. Pence's team like the split screen. They're looking for opportunities to draw the contrast. Now, they're not going to directly draw the contrast. They're going to go right up to the line which is what we saw there.

Now look for the future to have potential split screen moments because they like being the other person and the other candidate in the ring.


NICHOLS: They probably won't jump in though into places where they don't think they can win, right. They're not going to pick fights with Trump just for the sake of the split screen. They're going to look for opportunities where it suits them and this is clearly one where they like the numbers, they like the dynamic.

RAJU: And it's just so interesting to see the Pence evolution. He was the loyal servant behind Donald Trump doing what he wanted. Defended him to the nth degree. Just take a look.


PENCE: I can tell you firsthand our president is a man with broad shoulders and a big heart. His vision, his energy, his optimism are boundless.

Because of your determination, because of your leadership the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more.

President Trump is a doer. And few presidents have brought more independence, energy, or determination to that office.


RAJU: He's come a long way.

DIAMOND: He certainly has and as Mike Pence tries to figure out how exactly he's going to run against Trump in a potential 2024 primary, one of the interesting things is that he in many ways has made his own path much more difficult because he, like so many other Republicans in the wake of the 2020 election indulged Donald Trump's lies about the election.

Yes, ultimately Mike Pence stood in the way of the full, you know, accomplishment, the full realization of those attempts but in the week after the election he, like so many Republicans indulged this to the point that you now have such a large swath of the Republican primary electorate that believed those election lies and now Mike Pence can't be the guy to go out there and say, well, that wasn't true when he indulged it for so, so long.

HUNT: Sure. I mean I think, he and others created a problem for themselves in the Republican base, no doubt. I don't think we should minimize what Pence actually did on January 6 because there was a lot. Everything was riding on his shoulders and he, you know, as the January 6th Committee has outlined made the decision to go against it and, you know, frankly watching those clips that you could split (ph), Manu, you could be forgiven if you're Donald Trump for thinking that Mike Pence might actually do what you wanted in a situation like this.

I mean that was Pence's history up to this point. You know I think the challenge for Pence I think, Hans you're absolutely right because it's all about getting oxygen, right.


HUNT: If you want to run in the Republican presidential primary and Pence standing up to Trump is going to get him oxygen from this table -- from, you know, across kind of the media landscape.

I think the challenge for them is again going to be being one of many because if there are many challengers to Donald Trump it is much more likely that Donald Trump is going to walk straight up, nail that primary and receive the nomination in 2024.

If Pence is there with Ron DeSantis, I mean how long the list, Nicki Haley, Mike Pompeo and we could go and on -- that probably hands Trump the nomination.

RAJU: And to that point. I mean look at a poll that was out from the Times and Siena College asking who would you pick as the GOP nominee. 49 percent say Trump. DeSantis is the closest at 25 percent. Pence at 6 percent. I mean of course, it is super early, these poll numbers.


NICHOLS: What was Biden at?

RAJU: Exactly. Right, exactly.

It's concerning, no question. But, you know, look at what one Republican strategist told your newspaper, Marianna. She said, this is Sarah Longwell. She said, "We ask people what about Mike Pence and we get a lot of eh. That's the sound that people make." He doesn't seem to jazz up the base.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. You know, it's interesting. There is the difference between the base and what privately I think a lot of politicians on Capitol Hill want and to everyone's point of how Republicans kind of did this to themselves they ginned up this base that is just obsessed with Trump.

They love Trump. And they like a DeSantis like Trump, right. But on Capitol Hill I mean I think I think one of the poignant moments of the week was again happened behind closed doors and Mike Pence actually visited a sizable group of HHouse Republicans and it was Congressman Chip Roy, conservative from Texas who stood up --

HUNT: Ted Cruz's former chief of staff.

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. stood up and said thank you for counting the votes. Thank you for what you did essentially on January 6. None of these guys want to talk about January 6 but it got a round of applause from a number of people in the room and that is kind of the feeling that we've always heard along the lines of you know what, I don't want to talk about Trump. I kind of want a Republican in the mold of a Mike Pence but again they follow the base.

RAJU: Yes. And look --


RAJU: -- you know, the Republicans on the Hill were happy with what he did on January 6 but was the Republican base?

NICHOLS: Yes, right. That's the big question.

HUNT: They were chanting "hang Mike Pence" at that rally.



NICHOLS: I mean it's the question of is the establishment and the base aligned? And I think we're going to find out.


NICHOLS: I mean Mike Pence -- right.

HUNT: No, they're not.

NICHOLS: But you know, are they getting closer, right? I take your point. I think the challenge for Mike Pence is to make this about the future. And I think that's what he's clearly going to do. So one word we're going to hear from Pence over and over and over -- future, future, future -- he wants to look forward, not backward.

RAJU: Yes. And it will be a fascinating race if he indeed does run.

And up next as Congress moves to protect same-sex marriage members offer personal appeals on the issue.


REP. MARK POCAN (D-WI): I want to make sure that my husband Phil can visit me in the hospital. I want to make sure my husband has my earned benefits for retirement and social security. I want to make sure that my husband is taken care of just like your spouses are taken care of.




RAJU: Efforts to protect same-sex marriage have gained new life on Capitol Hill triggered by the Supreme Court striking down Roe v. Wade. 47 House Republicans joined all House Democrats to enshrine federal protections for gay marriage.

But it needs ten Republican votes in the Senate to become law. So far it has five and one of the interesting five there is Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. He's of course, in a difficult reelection race. He voted for this.

Marianna, do you think that there could be 60 votes in the Senate. It appears that they're moving in that direction. Do you think they'll get there?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. It is quite possible. I mean it was pretty striking to even see that you could get 47 House Republicans. Obviously that's still a small number in comparison to the entire conference.

But it really did surprise Democrats and it really shook senators into action in saying oh we can actually put this on the floor. We can do this.

So I think there is a genuine effort. It is one of those issues that appears to be less controversial than, for example, contraception which is other two House Democrats are trying to codify, trying to make sure it becomes settled law. That one did not get enough support. It probably won't in the Senate either just because Republicans really can still argue against that. But you can't do the same with?


HUNT: Which is a remarkable sentence, let's just stop for a second.


HUNT: It is true what you said, but it's remarkable for sure.

Look, Manu, we have you to think for a lot of this. I mean what Senator Rubio said to you in the hallway this week, I think really, potentially changed the game on it because it was -- the way he put it, calling it essentially stupid was so direct, I think it turned a lot of heads and made people realizes this is not an issue -- this is really a settled issue politically in the United States.

I mean it's part of -- it's actually remarkable how quickly it changed through the 90s and 2000s from something that was a cultural hot button to something that people really do accept. And even in a state like Florida, I think it's really it's telling.

RAJU: Yes. And he called it a stupid waste of time. And you know, this is a party that is still struggling on the issue of gay marriage.

Listen to what Senator Rob Portman said to me. He, of course, is one of the Republicans who have been out front in support of this issue. He said this to me earlier this week.


RAJU: Do you feel that Republican views on this issue are changing?

SENATOR ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): Well yes, Yes, I think that's obvious when you look at the House vote, when you look at the shifting sentiment about this issue throughout the country.


RAJU: But to Kasie's point, Republicans are still divided on this issue.

NICHOLS: Yes, they're divided but they don't want to have this fight. It's so obvious. That's what we learned this week. They just want to move on and just, you know, focus on inflation, focus on the issues that they think favor them. And it's clear pretty clear that they want to move quickly and get this done with.

I don't see any evidence to the contrary but you guys are talking to as many members as I am.

DIAMOND: Yes. I mean I've got to say though. I think that obviously it's fair to focus on the fact that 47 Republicans voted for this. That that is remarkable when you think about where the party came from.

But I think it's equally as remarkable that 157 House Republicans voted against this. This issue -- I mean there's so much -- such overwhelming support for gay marriage in the United States. Donald Trump really did a lot to try and move his party past this issue by not making it a flashpoint during the 2016 campaign. Obviously his policies in government were a bit different as it related to LGBTQ issues.

But nonetheless, I mean this is an issue that has overwhelming support and yet three-quarters of House Republicans are voting against this. I think that's worth noting.

RAJU: It's interesting because there is a cultural war dynamic playing out in the midterm elections. Democrats are embracing the issues as the economy, inflation -- some things that put their party on the defensive. But there are some LGBTQ issues in which Republicans are also embracing like, railing the trans issues. In particular there was a poll of 55 percent of Americans from a Washington Post poll saying Americans oppose letting transgender girls compete on girls high school teams. The ACLU noted that there are already a record number of bills at the state level to curtail LGBTQ rights. How much of an impact do you think this is going to have in the midterms?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. You know, it's interesting. You talk about it on Capitol Hill. You haven't heard that argument as much when we're talking about this bill in particular. But it possibly can -- it does splinter a little bit, especially when you're talking about transgender women in sports. That actually, I even heard it from some Democrats privately saying that could be an issue where you could find people saying reasonably, ok, that doesn't seem to be something that I agree with.

How big does it play? I think it depends on district, state, right where that can probably be a stronger argument. It's likely not going to be your biggest issue, especially when Republicans talk about inflation, the economy and all that.

HUNT: We know too -- I mean, Jeremy, you know this having covered the former president. He's out there doing rallies. He's still out there doing rallies and he's now started openly mocking trans people from the stage and trying to get cheers from the crowd.

It's really difficult for people who are in that situation. I think one person to look to on this is Spencer Cox, the governor of Utah, who essentially when this came up in his state, pointed to the fact that they were talking about a vanishingly small number of people and they were talking about legislating around trans issues.


HUNT: He was saying that you know, four or five people who are this kind of a situation and that we need to look at this from a compassionate perspective. Like these people he said in this letter, already have so many challenges, why are we starting to make it harder?

I think, you know, For Democrats broadly, on some of this cultural issues, if they can make Republicans look extreme they're going to win from a political perspective.

But Republicans are in a box in primary situations. I think that explains a lot of votes and views.

RAJU: No. No question about it. It will be an interesting dynamic to play out.

And I want to thank you all for watching it with us. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Don't forget, you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcast and you can just scan that QR code at the bottom of your screen.

Up next, STATE OF THE UNION with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. See you next time.