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Inside Politics

Shrinking U.S. Economy; Average Gas Prices Down; Dems Celebrate Health-Climate Bill; January 6 Probe; Fresh Signs That Justice Department Is Probing Trump's Role In January 6; Trump's Revenge; Trump Hosts Controversial Saudi-Backed Golf Tournament At His Club. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired July 31, 2022 - 08:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): The deal that shocked Washington.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: This Senate Democratic majority will finally take on Big Pharma. This legislation will be the greatest proclimate legislation the Congress has ever passed.


RAJU (voice-over): And the rhetorical battle the White House can't win.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a record job market. Businesses are investing in America at record rates. That doesn't sound like a recession to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're having to cut back a lot right now just to get back.

RAJU (voice-over): So are we in a recession or does it just feel like one?

And does the answer really matter politically?


RAJU (voice-over): Plus new signs the Justice Department's January 6 probe has entered the Oval Office.

NORMAN EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think the indicators are really pointing at severe legal peril for Donald Trump.

RAJU (voice-over): Is Merrick Garland zeroing in on the former president?

And Tuesday's big primaries are another test of Trump's influence over the GOP.

Will they three Republicans who voted to impeach him fight off MAGA challengers?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If your number one job in office is to stay in office, you should find another job.


RAJU (voice-over): INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories, sourced by the best reporters -- now.


RAJU: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju, in for Abby Phillip.

There are 100 days until the midterm elections and events over the past few days could determine the outcome.

On Wednesday, Joe Manchin agreed to support the plan to fight the climate crisis and bring down prescription drug costs. It was a deal 18 months in the making.


BIDEN: The work of the government can be slow and frustrating and sometimes even infuriating. Then the hard work of hours and days and months from people who have refused to give up pays off. History is made. Lives are changed.

With this legislation, we are facing up to some of our biggest problems and we are taking a giant step forward as a nation.


RAJU: But as Democrats were celebrating, new data shows the American economy shrank for a second straight quarter. White House officials fanned out to say that does mean what you think it does.


BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Two negative quarters of GDP growth is not the technical definition of a recession.

GENE SPERLING, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: You do not see the major contraction or layoffs that have ever been consistent in our country with a recession.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: You think about what a recession is, that's businesses shuttering. That's people unable to find jobs. That's not what we're seeing in this economy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: The Republican message, more concise.


REP. KEVIN BRADY (R-TX): Yes. We are in a recession. We have a shrinking economy and paychecks.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Democrats have plunged America into a recession.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): The Biden recession is officially here.


RAJU: Let's discuss this and more with CNN's Seung Min Kim, Punchbowl's John Bresnahan, Jonathan Martin of "The New York Times" and CNN's M.J. Lee.

Now technically, yes, the White House is right. There is a group called the National Bureau of Economic Research and they officially determine if the country is in a recession. They have not said so yet.

Does it matter?

Look at the polls on how Americans actually feel about a recession and the economy. In a CNN poll last week, "How would you rate the economic conditions today?"

Eighty-two percent say poor; just 18 percent say good, the worst since 2011.


RAJU: Not strong.

"Do you think the economy is in a recession?"

Same poll: yes, 64 percent; 35 percent.

Does it matter what the technical definition is here?

SEUNG MIN KIM, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Probably not. No matter how much White House officials try to explain to the public that, no, the NBER have to determine what a recession is, I don't think that matters when you feel like gas prices are still too high, when food is expensive. I don't think that matters to voters.

I think they have to look at other ways to boost the spirits of the American public when it comes to the economy. I think that's a really -- they're having a difficult time doing that. And I think that's why, instead of trying to tell the public it's not as bad as it seems, Democrats I talk to say, you have to start hammering the Republicans.

They need to they will make this worse and we are actually try to improve things.

RAJU: There are positive signs in the economy. Gas prices are falling. The White House is boasting about this. They're down about 80 percent in the past six weeks, below $4 a gallon in 17 states.

But the question is, M.J., are the views of gas prices --


RAJU: -- I mean, this is still high, historically high.

Are the views about how bad things are baked into the economy, into the electorate?

M.J. LEE, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, on the recession front, the White House has been on message, just saying over and over again particularly in the days leading up to the quarter 2 GDP report, we are not in a recession.

On the inflation front, I think they are a little bit reticent. Different White House officials asked, are we at the peak and going downhill?

They're not ready to say the worst is behind us but they are saying look at gas prices. They are starting to come down, consistently for a number of weeks now. Reading between the lines, you get the sense that they are increasingly hopeful that inflation will go down.

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": The gas prices are so, so profoundly important to the psychology of the electorate because that's where Americans see it the most. So many Americans are filling up their tanks week in, week out.

I think that's what explains the obsession with this White House. They know that's the big driver in the voter psychology. And they believe that, come Labor Day, if you can point to a map where prices are below $4, they can at least convey, with something of a straight face, that inflation isn't that bad.

And we are bringing it down here. I think, if you don't have the gas piece, that's hard to do.

RAJU: Mixed picture. There has been good news for the Democrats. On Capitol Hill, which we'll talk about later, but there was success to pass a bill to bolster semiconductor chip production in the United States. It has to be passed yet. We'll see if that happens. It could become a law.

But these are things happening now late in the Congress.

Is that enough to resonate with voters in the midterms when inflation is such a big issue?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Clearly no; 82 percent of voters think the economy is in worst shape. We don't start at a normal, coming out of a normal economy. Still drive down any Main Street and there's lots of empty stores. The

economy never really came back since the pandemic. That's the starting point. It is not a normal time.

So I think it's a hard -- folks -- downtowns are still empty. It is not a normal era. This is pandemic hangover. When the economy was going to take off and grow 6 percent or 8 percent, nobody believed that, either.

Now they see the 401(k)s.

Never look at those.

They see them. They see the housing prices now. It is a really complex time and it's no wonder that Americans are scared.

MARTIN: A point about the recent good news in Congress for President Biden, that actually can help him in midterms. Biden's approval numbers largely because of losing support of Democrats.

If Democrats feel better about Biden, he can show progress on an issue like climate, I think it can get his approval back above 40. That little improvement can help in the midterms, because he's got to be back to 40 for Dems to have a shot at holding the Senate.

RAJU: And then, of course, as we know, the president's numbers will have a huge impact in housing prices. But there's a vibe shift in the White House with the positive legislative accomplishments. Just some headlines in recent days about Biden's presidency, "suddenly back from the dead," we'll see.

Fareed Zakaria writes, "Biden is showing that governing from the middle is possible."

John Harris of "Politico, "Wait, is Biden a better president than people thought?" is the "Politico" headline.

Does the White House feel like things shifted for them?

KIM: They're cautiously optimistic. The Manchin-Schumer deal hasn't passed yet. But I think this shows that, yes, this is a good period in terms of legislative actions for the Biden White House.

And it's also a reminder how much of the early part of the presidency, the White House was a victim of its own sky-high expectations. We all presumed all the discussions with Manchin about a big reconciliation package fell apart. And they came in with a massive deal.


KIM: They had set their expectations high on a number of other issues. I think with this White House, when the president stayed out of it and let the Senate legislate, let the negotiators negotiate, that's where he found a lot of success and I think that's a lesson they'll take going forward.

RAJU: And the White House meantime dealing with this other piece of news.

President Biden is back in isolation at the White House after testing positive for COVID on Saturday. He has no symptoms and Biden tweeted out videos to show he is still working.

The president's doctor said this is likely a rebound case, which sometimes happens after people finish Paxlovid.

Another thing that the White House is watching, up next for us, the deal 18 months in the making. All eyes on the 50th vote.

Will Kyrsten Sinema back her party's health care and climate deal?





RAJU: A week ago Joe Manchin was the most unpopular person in the Democratic Party. What a difference a few days can make.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): One senator is going up against his own president, his own party and putting his interests before the interests of the country. And I think it's a travesty.

Welcome in Joe Manchin, delighted to work with you to get this done. Let's get something done for the American people.


RAJU: Now just weeks after talks hit a snag, Manchin revived the party's plan to fight climate change and cut health care costs. Now it's dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): So this is going to bring our energy prices down, bring our gasoline prices by producing more and give us a pathway forward for a transition into a technology. Might be 20 years down the road or whatever. But you have got to plant the seeds now. And we are doing that.


RAJU: This is huge deal. It includes provisions Democrats have been battling for some time. And it's still not law and we don't know where Kyrsten Sinema is. There's been reports and analyses about the plan.

One said it won't do much to reduce or increase inflation, "The Wall Street Journal" headline about higher bills for manufacturers. She is worried about taxes' impact on businesses. But she has not said where she's coming down.

Should it make Democrats nervous?

BRESNAHAN: Oh, absolutely. Sinema would vote against this if she thought she had to. She doesn't have the cover of Manchin. She had that on the filibuster and other issues. Manchin is now supporting this deal, is a co-author. So I think that's an issue. I think there's going to be enormous pressure on her from the president, from Schumer.

I think Democrats would negotiate with her, also. So if she needs something changed, they'll give her something. But you know Sinema. She'll take her time. She kept saying -- she ran away from us the other day.

Kept saying we'll see what happens when the bill gets on the floor and the parliamentarian is done. She is playing for time. But she is a wonk. She will go and look at this stuff and, to her credit, understand the legislation and come to a position. But I think she will be there in the end.

RAJU: She has been behind some of the biggest bipartisan achievements of this administration. She's gotten heat from the Left for refusing to change filibuster rules that led to the voting rights legislation stalling.

And there's a potential of her facing a primary challenge in 2024, including from congressman Ruben Gallego.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ), MEMBER, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: She can't pass this because of a crunch (ph) of wealthy people, mostly from New York and California. I think there will be some consequences at the ballot box for her.

I don't think it's very prudent for her to stop such groundbreaking legislation for a very small group of wealthy people, most of which don't even reside in Arizona.


RAJU: How much do you think the pressure from the Left in the possible primary is weighing?

MARTIN: She is very conscious of her colleague in the other chamber and she knows the primary is coming. I don't think that drives her decision entirely on the issue. But knows that torpedoing this bill could make her steep climb in the primary a bit steeper.

KIM: Too, on the taxation provisions, what we look at with Sinema, back in the fall she was favorable of a 15 percent minimum corporate tax rate. That 15 percent level is something she is OK with and which is why I think she and Manchin picked that level, hoping that that convinces her. We don't know about that level in this economic situation. As we know,

that's not a big figure in the grand scheme of this deal. They could get rid of that if Sinema demands it. I think we should look at the past positions.

LEE: I would also say that the branding of this new package is just so telling. We have gone from Build Back Better, which has been dead for a number of months, but the name of the new bill is completely different: the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

RAJU: Not very subtle.


LEE: It goes to both Manchin's own reservations.


LEE: And he had been very public about those. He didn't want anything that would either send the message or, in reality, put additional pressure on inflation. That was something that he cared about a lot.

When the president came out and was taking the victory lap and he brought up the name Build Back Better, you could imagine White House officials, "No, don't go there."



BRESNAHAN: One more thing. This is 100 days out.

If she were to block this bill, what does it do to Warnock in Georgia?

They need something to run on.

Her own Mark Kelly in Arizona.


BRESNAHAN: But I think that the stakes are enormous.

MARTIN: Discuss Joe Manchin?

This is important. There's a perception of Joe Manchin, on perhaps Twitter, that he is not a DINO, he's not a real Democrat. He almost always is there in the end.

BRESNAHAN: Absolutely.

MARTIN: He's fickle. He is reactive to the latest information.


BRESNAHAN: Hard to pin down.

MARTIN: But he gets it at the end of the day. It's not his personal interests. That's just who he is.

RAJU: There would not have been a --


RAJU: -- $2 trillion economic package at the beginning of the Congress if not for Joe Manchin.

MARTIN: He's sensitive about the perception. By the way, we had a conversation in which he is talking to James Carville in 2021 and he says, "People don't understand. I'm a real damn Democrat."

This weight is on him. He won't change.

RAJU: That's -- all this talk about changing parties is just talk.


BRESNAHAN: He would just be a Republican backbencher. In the Democratic Party, he is the 50th vote.

MARTIN: He's on five Sunday shows. He is the only one needs to be watching right here.


RAJU: But there's been -- he has had this good relations with Republicans because of the way he stood up to filibuster rules. But the Republicans have been going after him over the last few days.

You've seen backlash over the Democrats cutting this deal in other ways. But one is senator John Cornyn, tweeting, going after Joe Manchin and was just absolutely critical on the Senate floor about this deal.


CORNYN: How is this chamber supposed to function if we don't have at least some modicum of trust in what our colleagues tell us?

How can we negotiate in good faith and get things done after together the majority leader and the senator from West Virginia pull a stunt like this?


RAJU: "Pull a stunt." They cut this deal. Mitch McConnell played hard ball, too.


KIM: Joe Manchin actually doesn't react well to pressure from Republicans and I think when McConnell threatened to block the China competitiveness bill, that did not go over well with Joe Manchin. That is not an insignificant factor in this. RAJU: He was facing pressure from the Left, getting behind Build Back

Better, held hostage in the House. That didn't work and this didn't work. And it's interesting to see the dynamic play out. Fascinating discussion. Critical week ahead.

Next, the Justice Department ramps up the January 6 probe and prepares for a legal battle with some of Donald Trump's top aides.





RAJU: There are fresh signs that prosecutors are looking at Donald Trump himself as part of their criminal probe into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Among other developments, two men that served as top advisers to former vice president Mike Pence appearing before a federal grand jury. Prosecutors are preparing to force close Trump aides to testify.

And then the attorney general responding to critics who say that the probe is too passive.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We pursue justice without fear or favor. We intend to hold everyone, anyone who was criminally responsible for events surrounding January 6, for any attempt to interfere with the lawful transfer of power from one administration to another, accountable.


RAJU: CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins us.

Katelyn, can you put all the developments -- there have been a lot in the past week.

And what does it mean for the investigation?

Is Trump a possible target?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That is possible. This is the first quarter of a major, major criminal investigation. We should understand that now.

It took a while. There's rioters up on the grounds of the Capitol prosecuted.


And then in recent weeks, there's all these things that the Justice Department is doing that put them right in the circle of Donald Trump and looking at Donald Trump himself.

This court fight that we were writing about this week that we are understanding will be happening it could be happening under seal so we might not know exactly when it begins.

That's not just about Donald Trump and people around him and the Justice Department. It is about the Justice Department versus Trump himself, his statements, what he was saying and trying to get people in the investigation to share what they knew about Trump.

And these other parts of the investigation, I mean look at the list. It's subpoenas about Trump campaign officials in this electors' probe. What they were talking about. There are searches of private attorneys working for Donald Trump, people like John Eastman; people at the Justice Department, Jeffrey Clark, Ken Klukowski. There's been grand jury inquiries about rally organization and then there are people from the office of the vice president talking to the grand jury about what they knew.

That's where the court fight comes in. And the only thing that we understand they haven't been able to share is what they heard Trump himself saying. It really is an investigation that is getting to Trump himself and his actions.

It doesn't mean he is a target at this point, it just means that there's a fact-finding process going on and at some point Merrick Garland will have to make some sort of decision if he hasn't already about the policy of what do you do here with this?

RAJU: Yes.

POLANTZ: Is there enough to bring a charge? And do they want to potentially charge a former president for actions he took while in office?

RAJU: It is just so much pressure on Garland about this investigation. There's a lot that has happened and a lot that just don't know about where this investigation is.

Listen to some senators. (INAUDIBLE) tell me about what they think Garland could do.


SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The mounting evidence indicates to me that an investigation is well warranted. And there are these serious consideration or prosecutions.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): I hope in every instance Judge Garland will just be fair and even handed and believe in the rule of law and the equal protection of law.


RAJU: Do you sense that Garland is feeling the pressure? M.J. LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, there has been that

pressure on Merrick Garland for a while and I think there had been this growing narrative and particularly among Democrats that the DOJ was acting too slowly. Perhaps that he was being too deliberative.

Obviously we have a lot Democrats who would prefer that he sort behave as this hard charging prosecutor as opposed to this deliberative lawyer and legal mind.

But I will say, I think everything that Katelyn just laid out obviously shows that there's either growing momentum or that this has all been in the works for a while now. And I think it's just a really good reminder particularly when it comes to the DOJ and how it operates.

Just because we don't know at any given moment all of the ins and outs of what the investigation might be focusing on, what might be entailed in an investigation doesn't mean that these things aren't happening, right.

RAJU: Yes.

LEE: For the Democrats to be frustrated, you know, there's a political element there. But again, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have a full picture of what exactly is going on.

RAJU: What's interesting was that, you know, Garland came out publicly last week and gave an interview with NBC News, he revealed (ph) this thinking. Why do you think he decided do go public? And what are your sources telling you about his state of mind right now?

POLANTZ: Well, you know, this is something -- what he's saying is basically what he's been saying since the beginning of this year, the one-year anniversary where he's saying we're going to follow the fact where they lead us. One thing that's really interesting about this compared to the last time that Donald Trump was under criminal investigation which is the Mueller investigation is that was a spectacle where the Mueller team, the special counsel's office really was taking the lead and Congress kind of took a backseat to that.

Garland is sort of saying things now filling out little tiny bits about what they're looking at saying, you know, we're following these things.

But really, it is the House that's attracting all of the attention. They're the ones that are doing this investigation, stepping forward, getting people on the record, fighting battles, getting Pat Cipollone, the former White House counsel in to talk to them first.

And so that sort of allowed Garland to take a backseat and we may be hearing more from him in the coming week, but you know, he is a very reticent guy. He's a very lower c conservative guy. He's a former judge. And so he won't going to ever try and get ahead of things here.

RAJU: Yes.

POLANTZ: In the way that you might have seen maybe in Bill Barr.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NEW YORK TIMES: You don't want to give the Trump folks any fodder at all to say that they're being political, they're weaponizing DOJ.

And I think that he is ever conscience of the fact that every i and t that he has to dot and cross have got to be done with utter precision. Otherwise the Trump people are going to jump all over him for saying this is a witch hunt, you're persecuting him. I think that is a big explanation for why he is being so small c conservative as you said.

RAJU: Right. Yes. It's a great point. And speaking of Trump, he came back to Washington for the first time since leaving office this past week. These investigations looming over him but clearly setting the stage to run again.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Murder in our country is up 51 percent. Every day there is stabbings, rapes, murders and violent assaults of every kind imaginable. Our country is now a cesspool of crime. Our country is going to hell -- it's going to hell very fast. It is a very unsafe place.


RAJU: Incredibly dark speech. I mean is this what the platform for him to run again?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I think you can kind of take his campaign message in 2016 and kind of turbo charged it.

RAJU: Yes. That just sounded just like the convention speech --


KIM: It's too dark but it's in a much darker place. And I think that's what he's hoping to see among many other things. I also think he's going to run a campaign of revenge. Go out and tell his voters that this campaign -- or go out and tell the lie that this -- the 2020 election was stolen from me and this is part of our kind of efforts to get it back.

Now, I think that there are Republicans obviously who are also eyeing 2024. They want to look for a more forward -- they want to kind of pursue a more forward-looking message but I think Trump as a force is just too dominant of the Republican Party. We expect him to announce a bid in the coming weeks and we'll see just how kind of darker and more graphic like his campaign message gets.

RAJU: Yes. And we know Republicans don't want him to do that. McCarthy indicated that he does not want him to announce before. He's got these investigations looming. So much happening here.

And coming up for us, is voting to impeach Donald Trump a political death sentence for Republicans? Three of them are facing primary voters this week. Peter Meijer told me he's hoping to be judged on his entire record.


REP. PETER MEIJER (R-MI): My goal as a member of Congress has been to serve this district, to focus on the results of the district. We have been all about substance, all about legislation, not the performative stuff that maybe just trending on social media.




RAJU: Ex-president Trump's top targets for defeat this year are not Democrats. They're the ten House Republicans who voted to impeach him. Three of them on the ballot this week. Michigan's Peter Meijer, Washington State's Dan Newhouse, and Jaime Herrera Beutler each face Trump-backed primary challengers.


JOHN GIBBS (R), MICHIGAN CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: He made the possibly the world's biggest career ending move in history. He's paying the price for it.

LOREN CULP (R), WASHINGTON CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: We get rid of rhinos like Newhouse who are traitors to his constituents.

JOE KENT (R), WASHINGTON CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: I challenge a Republican to show me where Jaime Herrera Beutler has stood strong on anything that even closely resembles a conservative value.


RAJU: Now, here's what Congress Kinzinger had to say about what these races mean for his party. "I think if they win, there's still a battle. There's still a fight. If they all lose I think it means we are doomed in the near term."

Jonathan, we're going to see these primaries play out on Tuesday. Look at where the 10 who voted to impeach Donald Trump, where they currently stand. Just most of them either are retiring, some lost their primaries.

Only one so far, David Valadao of California, he advanced to a general election. Three key ones on the ballot on Tuesday. How do you see this playing out?

MARTIN: I think you have to separate Valadao, Herrera-Beutler and Newhouse from that group. Why? They have all basically gone to ground where they come for Donald Trump. They have zipped their lips. They don't give interviews about him. They don't air their grievances. They mostly have stayed mute on the advice of Kevin McCarthy who is, by the way, Valadao's neighbor in California and has told him and had told the two Washingtonians basically you can survive your primary. Just don't talk about Trump.

The others obviously for different reasons have decided not to take that course. Peter Meijer has been very outspoken over the course of the last year and a half and could pay a price for it on Tuesday. It's the same lesson with Brian Kemp in Georgia.

You can survive a Trump-backed primary if you're willing to turn the other cheek and not be mean to Mr. Trump.

RAJU: Yes.

MARTIN: Guys, if you confront him and don't turn the other cheek, then you're probably going to lose.

RAJU: Yes. And Meijer told me when I was in Grand Rapids last week. He said that this issue comes up. It comes up when the voters come up and ask him about it. He has to explain his vote.

He is not backing away from it in any way. And he's facing a candidate named John Gibbs, Trump-backed candidate who told me that he agrees with the Trump false claim that the election was stolen.

He's got a history of controversial comments including this one.


GIBBS: I think one analogy that you could look at here is the Mafia. For many years, you can never arrest them. You know they're throwing guys off roofs and stuff but all you can get them for was tax evasion and money laundering because you don't have legal and investigation framework in place to catch him. Just because there's no convictions in those court cases, that doesn't mean they weren't doing stuff.

So I think there's some similarities there with this election stuff we are seeing.


RAJU: So I asked him why -- there's no evidence that the election was being stolen. He said one analogy you can look at here is the Mafia saying that the Mafia, there's no evidence that the Mafia was killing people but they were killing people.

This is a person that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has propped up hoping that he would win the primary because it's easier in the general election and they're facing blowback over that.

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Yes. And he's -- I mean he is extreme on a number of issues. He (INAUDIBLE) abortion, he doesn't believe in exception for rape and incest. I mean he's pretty hard line. I do think the Michigan Republican Party is a fascinating -- what's going on there is fascinating, the Devos fight and now Devos who, you know, resigned after January 6, Betsy Devos, she is now putting money into the races. And now she's written a letter saying, you know, she's asking Trump to endorse her candidate for governor.

I mean the party is at war with itself. This is exactly what's happening in Michigan is happening in the Republican Party across the nation.

And you know, the Democrats trying to exploit this I mean it would infuriated and some other Democrats who are like why are we putting money into the, you know, the hard line Republican candidate. I mean you're talking about tens of millions of dollars.


RAJU: And look, this is a race that actually Democrats can pick up because of redistricting. It's now facing the Biden plus nine district. A rare pickup opportunity for Democrats in the House.

But there are also other problems on the Republican side and the ballot come Tuesday in Missouri. Eric Greitens who had to resign in disgrace for sexual misconduct allegations, which he's denied but he's a very controversial candidate. He could win his primary in Missouri. What does this say about the Republican efforts to take back the Senate if he were to win that primary?

KIM: I mean if Missouri becomes a problem for Republicans then that is as major issue for the GOP because obviously you only really have to, you know, flip one seat in the Senate for Mitch McConnell to be majority leader again. But now we, you know, Democrats feel good about their prospects in Pennsylvania. That's obviously going to be a state that they feel that they can flip in their column.

But if Missouri is in play at this point and that depends heavily on who emerges as a victor of the Republican primary then that is not good news for Mitch McConnell. It would be onerous (ph).

RAJU: Trump so far has stayed out of that but he has gotten behind Blake Masters in Arizona to try to unseat Mark Kelly. Another big race for both sides potentially to take back the majority.

Blake masters, Greitens, both of them say they would not support Mitch McConnell if he were to become the Republican leader. He has become an issue on all these primaries as these primary candidates have aligned themselves with Trump.

LEE: That's right. I mean there are a number of candidates that I think GOP leadership would find to be extreme headaches were they to make it to Congress. I think one point that is worth making is on the discussion about Democrats getting in to support some of these extreme Republican candidates there's obviously a really interesting discussion about whether it is ethical to do so. Is that sort of the right thing to do politically but also worth pointing out that some of these right wing extreme candidates they have a lot of momentum whether or not Democrats are getting involved or not, right.

It isn't as though they're only being propped up and only getting attention because of Democratic money and funding that's going in. There's an appetite for these kinds of candidates and these kinds of forces within the GOP in place already.

RAJU: Yes. And this is also not a strategy that's not uncommon. We have seen done this -- seen this before. Sometimes it worked. We'll see if it ultimately comes back to bite them.

But coming up for us. Donald Trump hosted a Saudi-backed golf tournament in his New Jersey club. 9/11 families say he's taking money from killers.



RAJU: Former President Trump is hosting a Saudi-backed Liv Golf tournament in his New Jersey golf club this weekend, just 50 miles from Ground Zero in Manhattan. Families of 9/11 victims, who blame Saudi Arabia for the attacks, say they are outraged and warn it could cost him.


BRETT EAGLESON, FOUNDER, 9/11 JUSTICE: We have a lot of NYPD members. We have a lot of FDNY members. You know, typical groups that you would expect to vote along the conservative lines. They say that the former president is basically dead to them. That he is aligning himself with an evil kingdom, an evil regime. He's putting money over America.


RAJU: Trump says this isn't all about America First. This (INAUDIBLE) -- is not America First. 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

MARTIN: It's Trump Inc. first, and it's the bottom line of Trump Inc. to put a finer point on it, Manu.

Look, he -- the former president is trying to do two things. Make money for his organization and to stay relevant on the public scene. And this is a way for him to do both. And no, he's not thinking very deeply, I don't think, about the ethics of it.

RAJU: right. And I mean the things that he has said have been rather striking as well. I mean listen to what he said in response to the criticism that he received.


TRUMP: I have known these people for a long time in Saudi Arabia. And they've been friends of mine for a long time.

Nobody's gotten to the bottom of 9/11, unfortunately, and they should have as to the maniacs that did that horrible thing to our city, to our country, to the world.


RAJU: Nobody's gotten to the bottom of 9/11? There have been extensive investigations about this.

BRESNAHAN: Yes. And he said differently as president. So I mean, he knows who is behind the 9/11 attack. He's doing this because he can't, you know, he can't justify why he's doing this now. He's doing it for money. He can't come out and say that. It's game (INAUDIBLE).

He's just doing it for the money. He's doing it because it pisses people off. And you know, he's in business with the Saudis. There's a lot of opportunity for him to get his golf courses with professional golfers.

This is like -- this is his dream. This is everything like all coming together at once.

RAJU: And the PGA shunned him. It's a way of him to get back -- against the PGA tournament. And you know, Trump has had this long history with Saudi Arabia, with the Saudi Crown Prince. He, of course, downplayed, don't dismiss the role of the crown prince in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the American-based journalist.

And Jared Kushner's firm, six months after leaving the White House, a fund tied to Jared Kushner and had ties to MBS, invested $2 billion in Jared Kushner's company. This is a long relationship between the two.

KIM: Right. And it's actually a pretty interesting contrast with the current president who obviously got a lot of criticism earlier this month for his trip to Saudi Arabia. But if you look back and look back at the actions of the Trump administration, both Jared Kushner and President Trump took MBS at his word when the crown prince told them that he had no role in Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

Now that is not what U.S. intelligence says. So what they have been so willing to kind of take the side of Saudi Arabia in so many aspects, particularly this. And you kind of have to wonder why.


RAJU: Yes, and Saudi Arabia presents a complicated -- it's complicated for the current administration as well. They're not profiting off it the way that the Trump family is clearly here, but Biden's had his issues, too, with the Saudis.

LEE: Yes. And I think these families sort of feel like there are all these political figures and elected officials who will easily target and go after and criticize the Saudi government until the very moment that it's not in their interest to do so, right?

Whether it's because they are going to fund a golf tournament, whether it is because they can produce a lot of oil. That's exactly the situation that we saw as Seung Min pointed out with the Biden administration, right? This was a president that until recently had said this was supposed to be somebody who we're going to make a pariah. We're not going to be engaging with them in a political way, in a serious way, until gas prices skyrocketed here in the U.S. and it became really important for him to make that kind of outreach.

RAJU: Yes. Another Trump controversy. Of course, he shrugs it off. We'll see what happens next.

That's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Pat Toomey.

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