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Inside Politics

Trump Facing Legal Threats In Florida, Georgia, DC, New York; Biden Celebrates Falling Gas Prices, Health Care & Climate Bill; Democrats May Have Edge To Keep Control Of Senate; DeSantis Declares War On "Woke Ideology"; Redistricting Creates Primary Chaos For New York House Dems. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired August 21, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Trump's takeover.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I'm a conservative Republican. I love what our party has stood for. But I love my country more.

PHILLIP: His grip over the GOP has never been tighter even as he faces what could be the greatest legal peril of his life.

Plus, President Biden celebrates his biggest win yet, a landmark climate and health care law.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democrats sided with the American people, and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests.

PHILLIP: Democrats say it's good policy, but with inflation historically high, how much will it matter in November.

And how Ron DeSantis became the commanding general of the culture wars.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We must fight the woke in our schools. We must fight the woke in our businesses. The state of Florida is where woke goes to die.

PHILLIP: As he campaigns for MAGA candidates across the country, will Republican voters be willing to ditch Trump for him?

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


PHILLIP (on camera): Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip.

With the midterm primary season just about over Donald Trump has succeeded in defeating nearly every Republican who openly opposed him.

Liz Cheney's blowout loss is the exclamation point. She is the fourth Republican who voted to impeach Trump, and to lose their primary.

Now, four others decided to retire instead of face Trump-backed challengers.


ERIC TRUMP, SON OF FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's not even the Republican Party. It's actually the Trump party. Most of the time endorsements are worth absolutely nothing, no one cares about endorsements, unless Donald Trump endorses you, and then frankly it means everything.


PHILLIP: But those electoral wins are coming as the president is facing serious legal peril on several fronts. Just this month, his Florida home was searched by the FBI, he took the fifth more than 400 times in a deposition with the New York attorney general.

The Justice Department said it's investigating him for possible violations of the Espionage Act, and Rudy Giuliani, a close ally, testified before a grand jury about election interference in Georgia. And on top of all that, the Trump Organization's chief financial officer pleaded guilty to tax fraud in New York.

Yet, in spite of all of this, the Republican Party today is more than ever shaped in Trump's image.

Let's discuss all of this, and more, with Maggie Haberman of the "New York Times," CNN's Audie Cornish and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams.

Elliot, let's start on the legal front. We are awaiting possibly some more information about why the FBI took the extraordinary step to search Trump's home. But there is just a kind of field of problems, a mine field, frankly, of problems for Trump. What do you think he should be the most concerned about?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, goodness, Abby. All of that for a number of reasons. Number one, no prosecutor, no investigator can even get in the door, literally, for a search warrant unless probable cause for a crime is found. It's important to step back and realize that number one, you have investigators in Georgia getting close to that point and number two you had a search warrant executed at the president's home. And then number three, legal woes in New York City.

All of it is incredibly concerning, all of it particularly given that it's the former president of the United States being investigated. It's very hard to say that there's one because the totality of it is such a problem.

PHILLIP: We don't know a whole lot. But, Maggie, what strikes me about this, I'm not sure I saw the FBI search being a potential legal problem coming prior to it happening. Did Trump world anticipate this could be a source of real legal peril for him?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They did not, Abby. That's been one of the keys is how blind sided they were in terms of the sluggishness of their response. You have not seen Donald Trump go to court yet to get a special master appointed to take a look at what was taken. He moves quickly in these legal fights. Part of it, I understand, is they thought this investigation had cooled down.

Now, we reported in the spring that there was a federal investigation into these documents that went with him to Mar-a-Lago, that the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes worth of we later learned they still believed there was more there and all sorts of steps came after that.


The FBI contacted a bunch of people who either worked for Trump currently or in the White House, and Trump's advisers knew about that but they hadn't heard anything other than a subpoena in May, seeking a bunch of new documents. Trump's world is very small right now.


HABERMAN: And the number of people who really know what's going on, every facet of this is thin.

But no, they thought this was not going to become an issue. And I think part of it, Abby, is less about the legal implications here, and nor about the fact that they had gotten around him so used to the idea that he gets investigated and nothing comes of it, you know?

He was investigated by Mueller when he was president. He was impeached, not once, but twice, and it didn't result in a conviction either time. He doesn't have the office of the presidency backing him up. We're in a different investigation. It may not result in charges, but he has a different level of exposure than he did before.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: But there's also sort of disregard towards bookkeeping as a concept, the people who push paper around is not a thing to worry about.

PHILLIP: The rules in general. As we cover the Trump administration, they flouted the rules intentionally, and that seems to be part of what is going on.

CORNISH: Or they would say change norms, I guess, is another thing. It's interesting because I think in your world this would be an evergreen tweet, Trump's legal woes, "X," this is a person who has spent their entire professional and political life dealing with legal problems.

HABERMAN: That's right.

CORNISH: This is not a new space for him. HABERMAN: That's right.

CORNISH: This is not a space anybody would have deep concerns about, and they're fund raising off of it.

WILLIAMS: This idea of norms being violated, you're not just talking about how the president gives speeches or how he interacts with individuals in the White House, merely taking certain documents out of a secure facility or having them in your home can be a federal crime.

And even recognizing the deep state is too aggressive and that investigators are coming after you, even making that point doesn't change the fact you might have committed a crime.

PHILLIP: Elliot, I want to ask about you this affidavit, that we may see an affidavit that has more information about what went on in Florida, right? If it is redacted, heavily redacted, I mean, does that really help us or does it create an opportunity for more conspiracies?

WILLIAMS: So, the standard for a judge releasing the document is if doing so would be in the public interest, right? And that's an open question. We can't really define what it is.

Now, in order to redact a document like that to the point that law enforcement will be okay having it made public, you're going to redact everything except the address of Mar-a-Lago and maybe the name Trump.

I think you're going to have a hard time not having 20 pages of black boxes like an old spy movie. Every piece of information in there might suggest someone's identity.

Even saying Abby Phillip had a conversation with three individuals on Sunday morning tips off who we are.

CORNISH: But also decisions cannot be made based on whether or not they will feed conspiracy theories because it is -- everything is grist, everything is fuel for the fire. And I don't think that's like a kind of frame or context we should think about it.

PHILLIP: Yeah, that's a really important point. The other thing that is happening here is that as we were just discussing all of these things surrounding Trump, one of the things Trump may not be going to jail or what have you, but other people definitely are.

I mean, look at -- look at this list of people around Trump, over the years, who have faced real legal consequences for wrongdoing, from Michael Flynn to Allen Weisselberg. It's fascinating that this never seems to deter people from being in Trump's orbit and it's not deterring the Republican Party from hitching their wagon who the people around him are going to jail.

HABERMAN: It's a shocking array of people you have showed who are facing legal consequences for various issues, by the way. We're not just talking about one investigation there.

I do think that you are seeing in one way that people are less willing to hitch their wagon to Trump right now, and that is lawyers. They have been trying to find, and this is who was representing Donald Trump, how many lawyers he has, the fact he doesn't like to listen to his lawyers, the fact that it takes a huge effort to get him to do so by his lawyers always, this is an ongoing story we've been watching, not just since he became president, but well before, going back to when he was advised by Roy Cohn many decades ago.

You are seeing many fewer lawyers who are willing to go out and speak for him and/or hitch their wagon to him and maybe not get paid, a big thing.

CORNISH: I was about to say, the incentive.

HABERMAN: Right, the incentive structure is flawed.

CORNISH: That's the most basic of incentives.

PHILLIP: But maybe they don't get paid directly from Trump but there is a sort of Trump world kind of machine that --


CORNISH: You have to want to be in it. And do you want to be in it with Sidney Powell or all these other people? I mean, that is a lifestyle decision.

HABERMAN: But he has taken the party over, that is very true, in terms of the money and everything else.

PHILLIP: I do want to play this from Liz Cheney, she lost her race this week, making it clear in her mind what the stakes are.


CHENEY: We must be clear eyed about the threat we face and what is required to defeat it. I have said since January 6th that I will do whatever it takes to ensure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it.


PHILLIP: That's a pretty bold statement, considering where we are. I mean, what do you think the chances are that she could succeed?

CORNISH: It's a much broader question because fundamentally this is the culmination of sentiments and ideas for the party. It's not unique to Trump. So, whether that's nativism, whether that's meddling in markets, whether that's the populism and all the things that he does. We've seen that come through the tea party, or some of the other movements. There's a direct thread.

And so, she's talking about rooting out something that is far teacher than Trump. And it's also been a long time rejection of everything that the Bush-Cheney folks stood for, whether that's being a neo-con, the compassionate conservative, all that stuff is purposely and soundly rejected by the base. And she's a flawed messenger, as being part of that dynasty. But it

will be interesting to see if she can marshal the resources of what's left of that center right, pro-business Republican Party to do what, I don't know, but clearly she wants to be at the front of something. People got to be behind you. It's not clear that's happening.

PHILLIP: That's the million dollar question for what happens for Liz Cheney going forward. Elliott Williams, thanks for joining us for this.

And coming up next for us, Democrats savor a hard fought victory, but can the historic healthcare and climate bill save them in November?



PHILLIP: A great week to be an American, that's what President Biden tweeted yesterday looking very happy with himself. Yes, his poll numbers are dangerously low, but he does have a lot to celebrate.

Gas prices keep falling. Now down more than 20 percent in two months. And on Tuesday, he signed his health care and climate bill into law after more than a year of hard fought negotiations within his own party.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every single Republican in Congress voted against lower and prescription drug prices, against lowering health care costs, against a fairer tax system, every single Republican, every single one voted against tackling the climate crisis. Making progress in this country is as big as complicated as ours clearly is not easy. It's never been easy. But with unwavering conviction, commitment and patience, progress does come.


PHILLIP: Joining us now at the table is Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast" and "The Wall Street Journal's" Catherine Lucey. Maggie and Audie are still both here as well.

Catherine, the White House has had quite is change of tone over the last few months. And, in fact, it almost seems like it's going back a little bit to how they were feeling about Biden in the first few months of his administration.

Just listen to Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, talking about how to put Biden in historical context.


RON KLEIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We have a presidency where the president has delivered a largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second largest health care bill since Johnson and the largest climate change bill in history.


PHILLIP: You get all that? There's a list.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Everybody's happy, they're incredibly energized right now, and they do think this answers the questions of premise, they ran on doing big things through legislation, this latest run of bills really show that.

The president now has an argument to take to midterm voters, they think this helps vulnerable Democrats, and they think it's a contrast they can make with Republicans.

But the question, Abby, a couple things, we know the big concern for voters is prices, gas prices are coming down, but they're still high. Back to school shopping is going on, people are concerned. And so, does this bill, though it's called the Inflation Reduction Act, is not likely to do a ton to inflation in short term, does that move voters?

There are things they didn't get to, they made a lot of big promises, they have addressed climate care goals, health care goals, they have things they can point to. But one specific area they have not addressed is helping families, kids, you know, working moms, this bill does not include child care, pre-K, the child tax credit, or paid leave.

They say they're going to keep working on these things. Is that an issue for some voters?

PHILLIP: It's a good point. Those are, especially for pocketbook issues, those are the things that start to matter. It does strike me, though, that one of the big problems that Democrats faced in their malaise of the last year was the sense they couldn't get anything done, that they were in charge, and could not get anything done. And that has changed.

JACKIE KUCINICH, DAILY BEAST WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Absolutely. And I think, instead of Biden himself, maybe he's going to do a road show in some places where he has some popularity, I think you're going to see the Biden-aligned groups where they're going on TV and the radio to make sure voters know, a lot of voters don't know what this means yet.

They might not feel it in the near term but it's largely up to the allies of the Biden administration to get the word out, at least in the near term, why the poll numbers are still what they are.

PHILLIP: And while we're in the summer. I mean, it is the summer, right, it's not like you can take anything that's happening now totally to the bank for the midterm elections. It just seems, to me, there's a possibility that they could be a little over their skis on this.

[08:20:05] HABERMAN: Look, I think that there are many weeks left to go until Election Day. We don't know. I will say that as we know, this doesn't all take place in a vacuum, and we will talk about this later.

But this gets compared against a Republican field of candidates that is, in some cases, pretty flawed. I think that Democrats are feeling good for that reason. But the simple fact, voters tend to see these acts through the lens of the president as opposed to through the lens of what happened in Congress and through the Senate, that this was a deal between Schumer and Manchin in large part.

But it takes that point off the table as something that can be argued against Democrats. I think it makes Biden sort of seem less radio active to some Democrats who were concerned about campaigning with him. I'm not convinced that Biden's poll numbers, which are obviously not good, and in some cases rival where Trump's were, I'm not convinced it translates negatively to other candidates. We will see.

PHILLIP: Yeah, we have in the polling seen that disconnect --

HABERMAN: Exactly.

PHILLIP: -- happening to the Biden's approval.


CORNISH: I agree with you, your last point, but not how you got there. Actually --

PHILLIP: Tell us more.

CORNISH: Anyone lies in bed being like Manchin really signed onto this.

HABERMAN: No, I'm saying the opposite.

CORNISH: Yeah, okay, yeah.

HABERMAN: I think voters see everything through the lens of the presidency.

CORNISH: Yeah, just who landed there, like the malaise on the way, that's what we talk about. But it's the idea that, you know, and this is from the man who coined BFD, you've got to pass something that people can go out and campaign on.

HABERMAN: That's what voters understand.

CORNISH: It makes a difference to drive around and see gas prices at $4.99 and $4.29 and not $6.99.

PHILLIP: I do want to play this. I mean, this is an ad from a Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur about Biden.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD ANNOUNCER: Joe Biden is letting Ohio solar manufacturers be undercut by China. But Marcy Kaptur is fighting back, working with Republican Rob Portman, protecting our jobs.

Marcy Kaptur, she doesn't work for Joe Biden. She works for you.


PHILLIP: Totally different going on over there.

LUCEY: It's -- I mean, some of these competitive gas prices are going to be hard for Democrats to hold, and you see this, this is not a new thing, we've seen this in past midterm elections with unpopular presidents where candidates try and distance themselves.

And this is an issue, as you've talking about, does the president do a road show? Where is he helpful? Where is he popular? Where can he go? The White House wants to put him on the road. They want to put the cabinet secretaries out.

They want to do all of those things. The other issue, going back to trying to sell something and get things out there, is that how many people even know what these laws are. The infrastructure bill --

PHILLIP: I have always for years been skeptical of this video that a road show to sell a bill is something that will change people's minds. It's about how they feel their government is or is not working for them.

CORNISH: If you're the party in office, you either run against something or for something.


LUCEY: The law that passed last year, they made a big point, getting people out there and talking about, polling shows people don't know what that is.

PHILLIP: Exactly, here we are a year later, but we'll see how this all goes.

Coming up next for us, the Trump-backed candidates dominated the GOP primaries. But are they mainstream enough to win in November?



PHILLIP: For months now Republicans have been predicting this year could produce a red tsunami at the ballot box, and yes, the GOP still favored to take the House. But Senator Mitch McConnell is now downplaying expectations in the upper chamber.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Senate races are just different. They're statewide. Candidate quality has a lot to do with the outcome. Right now, we have a 50/50 Senate, and a 50/50 country. But I think when all is said and done, this fall, we're likely to have an extremely close Senate.


PHILLIP: Now, McConnell didn't name names, but he could have been talking about Pennsylvania's Dr. Mehmet Oz defending his ten homes. Or J.D. Vance of Ohio arguing that domestic violence victims shouldn't seek divorce. Or maybe it's Georgia's Senate candidate Hershel Walker revealing he had undisclosed children.

Now, one of thing that all of these candidates have in common is that they were handpicked by one Donald Trump.

So, here we have a classic situation, which Trump helps candidates sail through to the nomination in their primary. But they get to the general election and, suddenly, they are a huge liability. And this is more pronounced, but particularly pronounced in the Senate, where you have to run statewide. These are not gerrymandered ruby red districts where you can get by just being a far right candidate.

CORNISH: We've already witnessed, as we mentioned earlier, the Tea Party years, for example, right? There's a shift going on.

And nothing comes out of McConnell's mouth by accident. That was a statement that will work even if they win. It sets expectations low if they don't and by saying candidate quality without saying which one. It means even if the ones you were hoping would win don't, like suddenly maybe you're referring to some other guy's candidate quality.

PHILLIP: Well, hey, Trump didn't take it that way.

CORNISH: I listened too closely, I think.

PHILLIP: Trump didn't take it that way. He put out a statement saying basically McConnell is disparaging our guys, his candidates. He knows who McConnell's talking about.

But when you look at some of this polling, it's really -- I mean for Republicans who thought that this year was going to be a blowout for Arizona. Mark Kelly is up. He is one of the most endangered Democrats in the senate.

In Wisconsin, Mandela Barnes is up over Ron Johnson. You know, Wisconsin has always -- was always going to be a competitive race. But I think Democrats thought that they would be at more of a disadvantage at this point in the cycle.

HABERMAN: There's one factor that we have not talked about on this show yet which is the Roe v. Wade decision. And that's --

PHILLIP: Yes. HABERMAN: -- I think that that is factoring into a number of races you

are seeing in this poll, and you are seeing how it is, you know, playing out.

I think it has energized Democrats in a different way. I think that it has made people look at what Senate contests mean. Senators approve of Supreme Court justices. And so I think it has become another tool for people to run on.

But I do think look, candidates and campaigns matter. And as particularly in Pennsylvania, which you just mentioned, you have seen Dr. Oz stumble repeatedly. He has made, you know, what we used to call gaffes in the pre-Trump era, right.


HABERMAN: We don't say that word really anymore. But it does sort of evoke a George H.W. Bush supermarket scanner moment, right. And it's stuff that's been pretty surprising to watch.

And you know, Trump, I should point out, while he's complaining about McConnell, McConnell is actually putting a lot of money into these races whereas Trump is sitting on tens of millions of dollars that he's not.

KUCINICH: Speaking of that, and you're talking about states that aren't ruby red, Ohio is pretty ruby red.


KUCINICH: I mean Trump won by eight points there, 3.1 million Ohioans voted for President Trump. And J.D. Vance is right now behind in the polls. If anyone (INAUDIBLE)

PHILLIP: And also struggling to raise money.

KUCINICH: Yes. And McConnell just -- McConnell aligned group just put like $28 million, and I'm sure they are super excited to spend in Ohio in September.

But that is not a state where you'd think they'd be dumping money. And that race is closer than it should be if you are a Republican watching that race. And Ryan has -- is a good candidate to run in that state. He is running a good race. But still, Ohio is a very red state.

PHILLIP: Speaking of the money, though, I just want to show folks this. The National Republican Senatorial Committee made some news by actually cutting their ad funding in a bunch of key states -- in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

There are a lot of red flags being raised about what's going on at the NRSC, about how it's being managed. But it's also pretty telling that they can't rescue some of these candidates who are struggling to, like J.D. Vance, raise money. and are being kind of blown out in some cases on the air waves.

LUCEY: Fund raising is going to be strong and (INAUDIBLE) -- Ohio obviously is very red.

But Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, you know, Wisconsin, these were always going to be swing states. These were always going to be tough races. And these candidates are making it more challenging for Republicans.

And also to Maggie's point about Roe, when you have a swing race that could be the (INAUDIBLE) point or two, that's where Democrats see the opportunity with an energized voter race, that this could get them over the finish line in some of these cases.

PHILLIP: As Maggie pointed out about one Dr. Oz, the whole crudite incident, it's not just about that. I mean I think it's signifying of other things. He spent a lot of the week going back and forth about how many houses he has with John Fetterman.

That race is now being kind of fought on ground that is very, very favorable to Democrats. That is anything that is not the economy is favorable to Democrats. I mean listen to Dr. Oz now having to explain why he was in the grocery store looking for crudite, whatever.


DR. MEHMET OZ (R), PENNSYLVANIA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: I was exhausted. When you're campaigning 18 hours a day. I've gotten my kids' names wrong as well. I don't think that's a measure of someone's ability to lead the commonwealth.


PHILLIP: When you're explaining you're losing, I guess is how it goes. But I mean they are not talking about the thing that they thought was going to be their strongest suit this fall.

HABERMAN: Well, I mean, he is in the sense that he's talking about how many houses he has. There's that. But when you are debating how many houses you have as the grounds you're fighting on, you have a problem. "I was exhausted" tends not to work very well with those either.

I mean look, there is a reason that first time candidates, part of what we saw with Trump is that because Trump was a first time candidate who won the presidency in his first campaign, there is a whole lot of why not me among celebrities on TV, like Dr. Oz. That is what he is, like a bunch of other candidates we have seen.

And the reality is that actually Donald Trump was part of the pop culture fabric for 30 years before he ran. And voters felt like they knew him even though they really didn't. But they felt like they did.

And I think a lot of other people are stepping into that thinking they're going to have the same thing and that's what you're seeing here.


PHILLIP: Meanwhile, this whole Mar-a-Lago raid situation in Florida has created now another opening for Democrats. Because this is what, you know, Marjorie Taylor Greene is, I guess, selling on her Web site. It's a defund the FBI T-shirt.

I mean first of all, wow. But also, what a gift to Democrats who have been battling back this whole defund the police thing from Republicans. Now the Republican Party has to deal with this kind of rhetoric.

AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: I think I want to come back to the Roe v. Wade thing just for one second, the reason why that issue can be run on is not a general fear mongering anymore. It's the idea that you can say now there's something on the ballot here.

Oh by the way, how are they going to enforce that here? Is there a prosecution happening over here? There are actionable things to show the governor -- to show the voter, I'm sorry -- this is your world if you vote this way.

And that is very significant, and it's very different from just sort of generally talking about the economy, or crudites, you know, or even the handmade feel (ph) costumes. All that stuff seems very vague. But now people are going to actually have to look each other in the eye and say am I ok with enforcing such and such a law against women, against you know, children, et cetera.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They tried in Kansas but they --


PHILLIP: Exactly, Kansas is really something people should watch.

And a national abortion ban is being discussed in this country.

CORNISH: In each --


PHILLIP: Let's be clear about that. So that is not a hypothetical thing.

CORNISH: Exactly.

PHILLIP: And it is very much on the ballot.

Coming up next for us though, can Ron DeSantis fight the culture wars all the way to the White House?


GOVERNOR RON DESANTIS (R-FL): -- Not have kids in elementary school having lessons on gender ideology. You do not take a six-year-old boy and tell him he may actually be a girl.



PHILLIP: Welcome back.

Mike Pence spent Friday like any self-respecting presidential hopeful at the Iowa state fair. And also not giving straight answers about his political ambitions.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After the first of the year, my family and I will do as we've always done and that is reflect and pray on where we might next serve, where we might next contribute.


PHILLIP: Now, Florida's governor Ron DeSantis is staying away from all the early primary states, at least so far, but instead he spent the past week campaigning for MAGA candidates in Arizona, in Ohio, in Pennsylvania, and also promoting his brand of culture war politics.


DESANTIS: We must fight the woke in our schools. We must fight the woke in our businesses. We must fight the woke in government agencies. We can never, ever surrender to woke ideology. And I'll tell you this, the state of Florida is where woke goes to die.


PHILLIP: The woke is definitely something that you say when the word ceases to have meaning. But DeSantis is doing something very strategic despite the fact that he's not like Pence going to Iowa, going to the state fair, doing all that jazz. But he is being strategic. Does he really have a lane?

HABERMAN: He definitely has a lane. The question is whether he's sharing it with Donald Trump and whether or not he actually wants to be in a, you know, cage match with Donald Trump. And I'm not convinced that he does.

Look, we don't know whether Donald Trump is actually running. We know that everybody around him says he's running. It is advantageous to Donald Trump to talk about running at a time when prosecutors are looking at him. So I think you have to just put that aside.

But let's say in a world that he does run, they would be sharing that lane. And depending on which DeSantis adviser you talk to, you hear, that's ok, he's going to do his own thing or he's not really sure he wants to, you know, or at least his advisers are not sure that he wants to go ahead and, you know, do what Ted Cruz did in 2016.

PHILLIP: But the play here for DeSantis seems to be Trump, but less crazy. Trump, but less controversial. Trump, but less whatever. And it almost seems like he feels like he can do that even while Trump might be in the race, which is a real gamble when you see, you know, the history of it all.

LUCEY: The Trumpism without Trump. But as we all know, and certainly Maggie knows, I mean Trump tends to blot out so much else in his path.

HABERMAN: Exactly. Exactly.

LUCEY: And so the idea that DeSantis is almost sort of trying to straddle lanes a little bit, you know, close to Trump, but I could be in this other -- you know, anti-woke space.

But as we've seen before, like with many other people, the idea that you can kind of like hold hands at a distance with Trump but not bear hug him and have it work out, it never goes at all.

HABERMAN: And this is where, you know, we didn't talk about this, about the Mar-a-Lago search, but there has been a real rallying around Trump effect among Republicans from that, which has been it surprised a lot of Republicans frankly who had been hoping that this would leave quietly, hoping that this would leave some mark.

DeSantis was one of the first people to put out a statement. DeSantis is the governor of the state where this happened. That was not, you know, politically advantageous for DeSantis.

Now, whether that has legs, I don't know. But let's say that something developed from this investigation, DeSantis is now on the record defending Trump. And so let's see where that goes.

LUCEY: And also before the raid we saw a lot of polling suggesting that people like Trump, but they might be ready for something else. That sentiment might be shifting.


HABERMAN: And that's certainly short-term, I think. But that is --

PHILLIP: One of the other things that DeSantis is doing to just do on with this is the election. He says he doesn't believe the election was stolen, fine. But he's campaigning for people who do.

And then on top of that, he's got this election integrity force that arrested 20 people, that is 2-0, 20 in the great state of Florida. And some of these people -- I mean, they are felons who were convicted but they were not aware that they were ineligible to vote.


PHILLIP: This is the "Miami Herald" writing that five of those arrested on Thursday on voter fraud charges told the "Herald Times" that they believed that they were able to vote, and had faced no issue registering. They said that they would not have voted had they known that their previous convictions made them ineligible.

It just so happens in the state of Florida that some people with felony convictions are able to vote, but others are not. It's confusing in that state. But it almost seems like trying to cherry pick 20 people to make a case about voter fraud that is not significant to change any outcome of any election.

But that's what DeSantis is doing to play (INAUDIBLE) with a certain part of the Republican Party.

KUCINICH: And really blowing it out, right, with a press conference, and making a very big deal of these 20 people. And it's all serving this larger purpose of putting DeSantis in the center on the national stage.

Because remember, during -- after the election he called Florida the gold standard. How their elections were run. And governors they hold that very jealously right onto that power.

But I think DeSantis is playing -- is doing this kind of dual tracking, right. If Trump does not run, he has made the trip to the states. He is currying favor with key Republicans and kind of lying in wait, right. I mean that seems to be what's happening.

PHILLIP: And picking a lot of fights with people to make the point that he can fight. Just take a listen to a sampling of it all.


DESANTIS: Disney has done a lot to partner with the Chinese Communist Party, and really has made a fortune over there.

The NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women's athletics.

Big tech is now the number one institution for censorship in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will they ever retire Dr. Fauci?

DESANTIS: You know, if I had my druthers, you know, you take him and you chuck him across the Potomac.


PHILLIP: This has essentially all made him basically a Twitter sensation in conservative circles, but remains to be seen whether that is something that works for voters out there in the country.

CORNISH: Well, it certainly works for a segment of voters. And we're also witnessing maybe a difference in party style, right. We talked about these different strains of the party.

Do you go to Iowa, walk around the butter cow and say you're not sure you're running like Pence, which is what everybody has done since time immemorial or do you go around saying all of the key words for people's -- for the culture wars, right in the state where it matters?

And, you know, this is the guy who is talking about yanking the special tax status for Disney, that was signed in by a Republican. This is a kind of this in a nutshell image of how much the party has changed.

PHILLIP: Yes. Absolutely.

Coming up next for us, clash of the titans in New York City. It is the biggest Democratic primary showdown of the year.



PHILLIP: A little bit of breaking and goods news for the Bidens just into CNN. The White House announced that first lady, Jill Biden has tested negative for COVID for two straight days and she is now leaving isolation. She'll leave South Carolina later today and head to join her husband in Delaware.

Meanwhile back here at the table, Representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney are two of the biggest and most powerful names in New York City politics, but only one of them will be back in Congress next year after a court-ordered restricting left them vying for the very same seat.

They were both elected to Congress back in 1992 and for three decades rose through the ranks of House leadership together. And now they are fighting for political survival and their race is creating some awkwardness for National Democrats who are taking sides in the marquee race.

I mean this has been a real, you have two committee chairman going up for the same seat now. It's really pitted Democrats against Democrats and they're taking sides. They are endorsing, they are -- they're taking sides in a very unusual way.

HABERMAN: So, it's very hard to primary an incumbent in general. In New York it is really very hard which is why you have had both Nadler and Maloney in office for so long and now they're primarying each other. And it's an ugly, ugly primary. And it has gotten incredibly nasty in its final days.

Most public polling shows that Nadler is pretty comfortably ahead. We'll see what happens when the polls come out. Maloney has started, you know, saying increasingly pretty hostile things about him and about how he is these days and how he's performing.

This is not where Democrats want to be right now, just given the fact -- and this has no broader implications. It's just that it's an ugly race that gets attention.

But it does speak to the fact that specifically the redistricting process in New York was its own hot mess.


PHILLIP: The other thing that kind of got attention in the recent weeks was this debate moment in which both Maloney and Nadler seemed to kind of hedge on this idea of whether they would back President Biden if he were to run again.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Too early to say. It doesn't serve the purpose of the Democratic Party to deal with that until after the midterms.


REP. CAROLYN MALONEY (D-NY): I don't believe he's running for reelection.

President Biden, I apologize. I want you to run. I happen to think you won't be running. But when you run or if you run, I will be there 100 percent.


PHILLIP: Straight to the camera that really gets you in that clip.



HABERMAN: But I don't think you're running.

KUCINICH: Yes. But I don't -- but I still don't think you're going to do it. I mean that is -- that is something that you don't really want in a district that they're running, that kind of headline. You think that she would want to be talking about things that actually benefit the district. But you know, we'll have to see if that matters.


KUCINICH: She's also been making the case that she's the only woman in the race. That's -- and it's worth putting on the table because of the abortion issue. But again, those moments are probably not helpful to her case.

HABERMAN: She's been making the boys' club argument.


PHILLIP: Yes. We have to point out that Nadler has been getting the -- by and large, has been getting the endorsements of sitting Democrats.

LUCEY: The "New York Times" endorsed him. Schumer endorsed him.

CORNISH: But you're making a smart point. I mean if you're a woman candidate who came out of -- who came out of the gate in 1992 --

LUCEY: You don't want to step aside.

CORNISH: -- being a woman was -- you know, part of the history that time.


LUCEY: And in a year where, as we've been talking on the show, Roe is a big issue for women. That's a strong argument.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean that is an issue not just in this race but also over in New York 10 where you have a handful of Democrats running, including several women, some of them making the case, elect a woman in this district. It's a big issue especially in a year in which abortion is such a pivotal issue for the Democratic Party.

But that is it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Coming up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper. Jake's guests include Democratic Senator Mark Kelly and Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw.

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