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Inside Politics

Garland Announces Special Counsel To Oversee Two Trump Probes; Pelosi Steps Down From Leadership, Ushering In New Era; Ambitious Republicans Test The Waters For 2024 Presidential Bids; Republicans Promise Investigation Into Biden Family Finances. AIRED 8-9a ET

Aired November 20, 2022 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): A bombshell from the DOJ catches Trump world by surprise.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have concluded it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This horrendous abuse of power is the latest of a long series of witch hunts.


PHILLIP: Between his legal peril and election losses, are Republicans ready to leave them behind?

Plus, after history making career, Nancy Pelosi passes the torch.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): For everything, there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.

PHILLIP: What will it change at the top of the Democratic Caucus meeting for the party, and the Congress?

And election deniers defeated in governors and secretary of state races. But that doesn't mean American democracy is safe.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT: We are going to have to figure out how to live together, or we will destroy each other.

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


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

The twice impeached former President Donald Trump moved quickly this week to position himself at the head of the 2024 pack of Republican presidential hopefuls, announcing his third bid for the presidency this week.

But his dominance within the party seems increasingly precarious. He is now being blamed for midterm election losses that will keep his party out of power in the Senate, and now, this: a special counsel has been appointed to oversee criminal probes in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, as well as the investigations into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.


GARLAND: Based on recent developments, including the former president's announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting president stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.


PHILLIP: Trump's response was familiar, an area of grievances, self pity, and baseless claims.


TRUMP: The corrupt and highly political Justice Departments just appointed a super radical left's counsel. They want to do bad things to the greatest movement in the history of our country, but in particular, bad things to me.

Why isn't there a special counsel being set up for them? Tremendous corruption, they're corrupt people. They're criminals. We've done nothing wrong and they've committed massive crimes.

I've proven to be one of the most honest and innocent people ever and our country.


PHILLIP: Trump may also be getting a little help from someone expected voters. Last night, Twitter's owner and chief twit, Elon Musk, said that Trump who was been banned since inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 is now back on the platform.

Let us discuss all of this and more with CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson, Jonathan Swan at "Axios", Margaret Talev of "Axios", and CNN's Manu Raju.

It feels like deja vu a little bit. A combination of Trump going out there and talking witch hunts, but also, he's back on Twitter. What will that mean for him, for our politics this time around?

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Is he back on Twitter? Is Twitter, remember like three days ago where it was like, this is my last tweet. If I knew that was my last tweet, I would've done whatever. I don't know what this says. I don't know what Twitter is. I don't

know what Elon Musk is doing and most Americans don't read Twitter.

PHILLIP: Margaret is all of us, we don't know what's going on.

I mean, the reality is that, just listen to Trump. This is what he said last night about whether or not he would even be interested in coming back to Twitter.


TRUMP: Truth Social is through the roof. It's doing phenomenally well. Truth Social's been very powerful, very strong and I'll be saying that will be getting a big vote to go back on Twitter. I don't see it, because they don't see any reason for it.


PHILLIP: Truth Social, if you're wondering, is the other thing Americans don't know anything about. I think that's the crux of the matter. Can he resist this bigger, it's a much bigger audience on Twitter than he ever gotten to Truth Social? No matter what he says here, there will always be a temptation for Trump to take the bigger megaphone.

JONATHAN SWAN, AXIOS: Yeah, spoken to a few of his aides over the last several months about this question. When Elon Musk was going to buy Twitter, the next question wise, does Trump get back on?

He's saying publicly that he would do it, but pretty much everyone I talked to thinks that he's going to go back on. If he judges that it's expedient and useful for him, which he believes it is, he thinks that his voice directly to the people, et cetera, et cetera.

Now, it's kind of the worst nightmare of the Republican leadership on the Hill, because, and members of Congress, they have to deal with people like Manu running up to them and saying, have you seen Trump's latest tweet? And they say, no, I don't know you're talking about, they run off down the hall.


So, you know, I don't now. I don't have any reporting that he's going to go back on, but most people around him suspect --

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, that is the concern -- that's absolutely right. That is the concern.

With Truth Social, Republicans can say they didn't see it because --


SWAN: Most people didn't.

RAJU: When he tweets, it's right in the middle of what people are seeing, what people are consuming, what the media has consuming and that forces Republicans to respond, which has been such a headache during the Trump presidency. If he does get involved in this, I'm sure he won't be very many people in Capitol Hill who are happy about this.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it has been such a boon to Republicans that they have not had to deal with us on a regular basis. I think that we are entering this perfect storm for a lot of these establishments. We have a Georgia runoff in a few weeks, Trump has declared that he's running again, he's maybe going to be back on Twitter. I feel like I'm hearing a lot more nervousness about what this could mean in amping up the frustration of the American people with the kinds of stuff that they have twice now rejected.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, Republicans are quite worried about this, particularly in the Georgia runoff race. It's December 6. Does Trump insert himself there because now he's obviously running for president, people are covering him much more. Does he get back on Twitter?

It is a different landscape, right? It's even a different media landscape. I think that one of the big questions we all have is how, if he tweets, in the way that he used to, does the media do wall-to- wall outreach coverage in the way that a lot of us did in the past?

At this point, can he, what could he tweet dike a cause outrage at this point, right? He fomented an insurrection. He's been racist. He's been sexist. He's been terrible in so many ways. He was part of the culture that there would be outrage.

We'll see who he is on twitter, and we'll see what the reception, is not only from the media, but --

TALEV: But you see, the media is saying, we're not going to do this again, but they're starting to do it again. And you're seeing Republicans saying, it's time to move on, but if you have 16 Republicans in a GOP primary, guess what we're going to be? It's right back where we started.

PHILLIP: Speaking of deja vu, here we are again. We have another special counsel in all of these Trump cases. He is facing so many investigations. Two DOJ ones, classified documents, January 6. Then there is the January 6 select committee, which is on the way out the door.

The Georgia investigation, which a lot of people say might be has biggest problem, the house ways and means tax probe, the Manhattan D.A. is on his case, and the New York AG is also investigating his companies for fraud. There is a lot going on that is looming on the horizon for Trump. Will it matter?

SWAN: I mean, if he gets indicted, surely. It's hard to gauge, especially in this Republican primary electorate. We don't want to make sweeping in predictions about what an indictment my due to a Trump's approval rating in the Republican primaries. There's probably a few who will love it, a few voters who will think it's not great.

Donald Trump sees the special counsel through the lens of his personal experience with special counsel, which was with Robert Mueller, which he sourced this unending witch hunt. So, while most people expected this to happen, Trump views it through that lens. He's been told by his advisers that being a presidential candidate does not demonize him from indictments.

I've been told by people who are close to him that he still sees it as politically advantageous -- sorry, legally advantageous, to be alive political candidate in this context.

RAJU: He's following the same playbook as he did with Mueller, saying this is a witch time, calling it left-wing prosecutor. You know, this is a career prosecutor at the Justice Department, but the difference between Mueller and, now, remember he was the president then. The reason that Mueller did not come to a conclusion and said it was -- he should prosecute it on the issue of obstruction in the Mueller report, because he was bound by justice department policies, same you can't charge a sitting president.

He's not a president, he can most certainly be charged. So, this is a much different circumstance with Trump. He's done a lot of legal exposure.

HENDERSON: Yeah, I mean, he has said that he won't partake in it, but I don't know that he has a choice in terms of partaking in it. But he'll certainly use the same strategy. You know, I mean, he has taken so much -- over the last few weeks, not only with the sound defeat of election deniers, his candidates in all the midterm elections with this news.

He will say, this is good for him. It will certainly bind that 30 percent or so of the Republican Party to him, but again, this is not good for his chances overall.

TALEV: I think the only thing, the only argument in any way that this could be good for him, is special prosecutors often take a long time or get bogged down and things. This is someone whose most recent experience includes war crimes --


PHILLIP: This is Jack Smith, who is the special prosecutor appointed.

TALEV: Jack Smith of the -- prosecutor -- International Criminal Court at The Hague war crimes investigations and prosecutions and public corruption cases back in the U.S., including against police officers gone rogue.

So this is someone who is not going to be politically bound up in any of this, or worried about. It he has a tremendous amount of broad experience and understands the imperative to move swiftly.

PHILLIP: And, of course, I mean, the American people play a role in all of this. Again, Trump lost the last time around, in part because people are kind of sick of the chaos. And it feels like we are about to be in a brew of more chaos for at least the next two years. RAJU: Yeah, and, of course, the question is, will Republican primary

voters agree with that? Do they want to move on? That's going to be the first question.

And will also be interesting to see whether Trump's allies on the Hill echo his claims of being a victim of the witch hunt here, if they go after the special counsel. Some of, that from the House judiciary -- trying to attack him on Friday, a lot of them are saying there should be a council -- a Biden administration who is happening on the Justice Department, were seen some of, that but will that go along with his playbook and demonize the special counsel? Or will they keep an open mind? This is a serious investigation.

PHILLIP: It very much is. But coming up next for us, Nancy Pelosi is stepping down and she's passing the torch to a new generation of leaders. What that means for the future of the Democratic Party, next.



PHILLIP: A seismic shift hit the Democratic Party this week. The first woman to serve as speaker of the House has decided to step down.


PELOSI: Our Founders gave us their -- their guidance, e pluribus unum, from many, one. They could not have imagined how large our country would become or how different we would be from another but they knew we had to be united as one.

With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect.


PHILLIP: Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision clears the way now for a new generation of leaders, one, that looks decidedly different from the team that steered the caucus for nearly two decades. And the question however this morning is, can this new guard fill the vacuum that will be left behind by the most powerful woman probably in the history of American politics.

We are back now with our panel. Manu, really a historic moment for Pelosi, two decades of House speakers, right?

I actually want you to take a quick look at this. Nancy Pelosi has been in the Congress since 108th Congress. Republicans have gone through, one, two, three, four, five speakers in that time? That's extraordinary.

RAJU: It is extraordinary. And it's extraordinary how she's able to maintain such discipline over her caucus, over that time period, especially in the majority, being able to coral members, stealing fear among her members who are concerned about crossing here.

Now, this will be a different Democratic leadership -- not just generationally, stylistically. Hakeem Jeffries is much more message disciplined than the speaker was. She had the inside game like nobody else on Capitol Hill. He has to develop that and does have a lot of support within the caucus.

The difference is the really stepping into, this is the minority. Being the House minority, you're really just an opposition force. You're not trying to put together an agenda. You're not trying to keep your caucus together. That's a much different challenge. He does not have to worry about that.

And he's got the advantage of a Democratic Senate that can stop bills that the House Republicans will pass, a Democrat in the White House that could veto bills if it somehow got to his desk.

So, he has -- this will be a learning experience for him, he does not have as much responsibility if he were in the majority.

PHILLIP: And, of course, Pelosi is staying on in the Congress. I guess some people interpret this is a little bit of a condescension, but perhaps it was more of a security blanket for her conference. It is, when you take a step back, Nancy Pelosi is just this political figure who is a lightning rod on the rights, and a hero on the left. With her being gone, Republicans don't have anybody to, well maybe they can still vilify hair, but they don't have anyone to vilify anymore. Hakeem Jeffries is perhaps not the same kind of figure.

HENDERSON: Listen, I think they will try, can probably have some success in vilifying Hakeem Jeffries, right? In some ways, they were able to do that to Nancy Pelosi. She's sort of San Francisco liberal. She is also a woman, so it's sort -- it's easier and that we're.

He's a Black man from New York, I'd imagine the vilification sort of writes itself, and we'll see lots of that.

But it is interesting. This is historic figure, Nancy Pelosi, such an inspiration to so many people on the left, particularly women. I was in the beauty saloon while this was happening and people were just raving about Nancy Pelosi. Somebody called her the Beyonce of politics.

PHILLIP: I never heard that one.

HENDERSON: Indeed. And so, she was able to break through from official Washington and really I think connect with ordinary folks across the country.

PHILLIP: The Beyonce of politics.



HENDERSON: Right. So, instead of album sales, we have ad money spent attacking her, $227

million spent.

RAJU: That's it? Got to be more than that.

PHILLIP: I'm with you, Manu.


It actually seems smaller than you would expect considering how central she has been to Republican attacks in that time. But now she's leaving and in her place is perhaps a leadership team that's going to be younger, more diverse.

It is designed it seems to me, Pete Aguilar and Katherine Clark, along with Hakeem Jeffries, a leadership team that might be elected that perhaps is designed to reflect the Democratic Party as it is right now.

TALEV: Right. You could argue with Nancy Pelosi's leadership team a woman from San Francisco, a white man from Maryland, and then you got Jim Clyburn, right, who is iconic black political leader from South Carolina.

There's some diversity in that team also.

PHILLIP: Sure, yeah.

TALEV: It's just 30 years older than the new team. A generation and a half. It is time for reset and going to stay to guide that reset. I do think that early in her rise up from as minority leader and then majority, leader Republicans realized they had an opportunity to begin to vilify her and to try to turn her into a Hillary Clinton type figure. She was not always that person.

The other thing that I noticed is only in the modern context of the Democratic Party do we talk about Nancy Pelosi or Hakeem Jeffries as centrists. They're progress and liberal lawmakers, but not overtly activist as the people on the left.

PHILLIP: Some newer --

SWAN: Sort of useful to a certain image to portray. Vast personal wealth fairly which was sort of fairly visible, was something that was quite useful if you're a Republicans to say, these are people hypocrites.

I remember interviewing Bernie Sanders a year and a half ago and he was -- he didn't mention her name but clearly implying saying he's worried about us portrayed as an elite coastal party and alienating non-college educated voters. So, she actually served effectively in that role. I think it is harder to do that with Hakeem Jeffries.

PHILLIP: I thought this quote from Hakeem Jeffries --

SWAN: You disagree with me? What part? (CROSSTALK)

HENDERSON: I think he's Black. His name is Hakeem.

SWAN: No, no, no, on that -- on those grounds.

HENDERSON: No, no, that's right but I think there's a different sort of framing --

SWAN: Sure.

PHILLIP: I don't think politicians need help to figure out how to attack but not how to attack a Black progressive from Brooklyn, so, to Nia's point.

But coming up next for us, 2024 GOP hopefuls make first moves but are they ready to tackle the former president head on? That is next.



PHILLIP: You may remember that in the 2016 election Donald Trump faced and defeated 16 opponents for the Republican nomination. So now the question for the Republican Party is this. Will history repeat itself or will a strong enough candidate emerge to take him on directly?

This weekend, at the influential Republican Jewish coalition conference, we got a look at that answer that very few were willing to go there including the one man considered to be his most formidable opponent, potential opponent who ignored him completely.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We delivered the greatest gubernatorial victory in the history of the state of Florida.

When you stand up for what's right, when you show people you're willing to fight for them, they will walk over broken glass barefoot to come vote for you and that's exactly what they did for me on November 8 in record numbers.


PHILLIP: Now look. I don't think it's a huge surprise that DeSantis wants to toot his own horn in that context but this weekend was really clearly a platform for the potential 2024 hopefuls and DeSantis notably didn't take veiled swipes at Trump, he took no direct swipes at Trump, he is choosing to just ignore him.

SWAN: Because he doesn't need to. He doesn't need to.

He spoke through that victory. Trump had a terrible night and now he's got a legislative session next year which his advisers see potentially as a platform for him, you know, after that, I think it finishes around May.

If he has a very aggressive legislative session in Florida when he takes on culture war issues, like he's been doing, then him to policy, gets a huge national megaphone, Trump will be effectively running against himself. So, Trump is declared, DeSantis is silent doing his thing, and Trump is out there saying whatever it is, attacking people, using nicknames.

You know, that's a pretty good position to be in if you're Ron DeSantis, not directly engaging and letting Trump kind of hit himself. I still think everyone is getting excited about Ron DeSantis. He's untested. He hasn't gone into this cauldron with Trump. We'll see how that goes.

PHILLIP: Hey, I'm with you. Look, he is a very popular governor of Florida but we have no idea how this will play out on a national stage.

HENDERSON: He beat Charlie Crist. I mean, let's face it, that wasn't a very tough race for him, granted, he did do quite well. You know, everyone has something to say until they're punched in the face, right? Mike Tyson's favorite, you know, sort of quip about getting --

PHILLIP: And also the mantra of all the other people that--


HENDERSON: Yes. And we saw how he laid waste to so many people. Marco Rubio who was on the cover of "Time Magazine" as sort of the savior of the Republican Party.

Listen, I think you will have Republican consultants try to sort of make Ron DeSantis happen in the, you know, corridors of power at onset in different TV settings. But voters are still pretty attached to Donald Trump, right.


HENDERSON: Republican voters --

SWAN: He has picked up quite well in Republican primary voter polls. Like there has been a shift since the midterms.

HENDERSON: I think that's right but I think --

SWAN: It's significant.

HENDERSON: -- these sort of attachment that even if it's only 30 percent to 40 percent of Republican primary voters, they're still with Donald Trump.

Listen, I think if you are Donald Trump it is worrisome that he probably can't go any higher, if he does seem to be taking on water. And is there somebody like a Ron DeSantis or Mike Pompeo, whoever might run, who can capitalize on that? TALEV: But that enthusiasm -- it is early enthusiasm and I don't know

what it means. But it is real. You cannot manufacture that whether it's in the halls of the Republican Jewish Conference or whether it's just with voters at large or even at Trump rallies, there's enthusiasm for Ron DeSantis among people who are interested in him inside the Republican Party.

And I think for DeSantis, one of the challenges is that he is not actually officially in a contest with Trump yet.

And the other -- one of the other challenges is that you talked about Jeb Bush. Florida is quite a different state now than it was when Jeb Bush was governor. I covered Florida when Jeb Bush was governor. And if Ron DeSantis was the governor of Pennsylvania I don't know if his reelection campaign would have gone that way with those margins or if his policies on schools or culture wars or Disney would have played out the same way.

Florida is a really good state to get some experience as a Republican governor before a presidential run but it is a unique state.

PHILLIP: That is a very good point because Florida -- I think we may need to start talking about Florida in a different way. It is no longer the swing state that it once was and that might mean different things for Ron DeSantis.

But I do want to just make a point that there were a couple of Republicans who took on Trump at the Republican Jewish Coalition Conference. Here's two of them.


GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN (R) MARYLAND: Trump was saying that we'd be winning so much we would get tired of winning. Well, I'm sick and tired of our party losing. The reason we're losing is because Donald Trump has put himself before everybody else.


PHILLIP: So Manu, Larry Hogan we all know, he's been pretty consistent but when voters hear the kind of off again, on again of Chris Christie now turning on Trump again I think it really does seem to suggest that some of these direct criticisms, I mean they haven't been having an effect.

RAJU: Yes.

PHILLIP: And just doesn't seem like they will.

RAJU: I think the one thing that is there (INAUDIBLE) point out is that the argument that Republicans will make against Donald Trump is that he has lost. He lost against Joe Biden, they lost the 2018 midterms. They lost the House.

What happened here in 2022, they should have won the senate they believe. They lost the Senate. They didn't win as big. They blame it on Trump.

Can that appeal to voters -- Republican voters? Because the Republican base voters don't necessarily blame him for what happened on January 6 or the chaos that happened in the Trump administration but winning is important to voters, even base voters that appeal to them. And that's going to be that argument that (INAUDIBLE), disappointment here (ph).

PHILLIP: So at the RJC this week, I mean a ton of Republican hopefuls. Here's -- speaking of on again, off again -- here is Mike Pompeo joking -I mean he is joking but making an interesting point about what they could all be facing.


MIKE POMPEO, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Who knows? The next time we're together, we could be on a stage, multiple podiums. Who knows who else might be with us? Who knows?

And who knows who will be between us? And who knows what nicknames we might have?


PHILLIP: Who knows? But the nicknames is a light-hearted thing but it just goes to show, it didn't take much for Trump to really swipe away at some of these people just giving them a nickname that stuck.

HENDERSON: Look somebody -- I think if you're somebody like Mike Pompeo or Mike Pence, the problem is you sort of owe your prominence to Donald Trump. You served in their administration so how do you kind of thread the needle there on the one hand touting Donald Trump but also running against him.

So it's going to be interesting to see what happens in the nicknames that come about in these next many months.

PHILLIP: And that is also true of Nikki Hailey, former U.N. Ambassador who at one time said she wouldn't run if Trump was running and now this weekend has said basically we'll see.


But coming up next for us, Republicans win back the majority with a promise to fight inflation. But now they are making clear that their quote "top priority" lies elsewhere.


PHILLIP: It is now official. Republicans will take back the House but with a slimmer than desired majority and a majority nonetheless. So the question now is what will they do with this power?

Voters have made it clear that they want the focus to be on fighting inflation but just within hours of clinching control the first big Republican news conference wasn't about that. It was about this.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): This is an investigation of Joe Biden, the president of the United States and why he lied to the American people about his knowledge and participation in his family's international business schemes.


COMER: This committee will evaluate the status of Joe Biden's relationship with his family's foreign partners and whether he is a president who is compromised or swayed by foreign dollars and influence.


PHILLIP: The very first -- well, tweet from the House GOP Twitter account was this. "The Biden crime family must be investigated as a matter of national security. Hunter Biden's laptop is real. Joe Biden is the "Big Guy".

If you are not online and pretty steeped in this stuff that tweet, does that make any sense to you?

HENDERSON: I mean I'm so steeped in it. I don't know that it makes any sense to me. I think this is going to be a hard sell for Republicans to portray Biden in the way that they like to portray Hillary Clinton and the way that they like to portray Pelosi in some ways, as well.

Americans just don't really believe that he is this person, right. They generally believe he's sort of a decent, hard working guy. They might disagree with his politics.

But listen. This is going to be an attempt to really make a dent in him going into 2024. And we'll see how it works. I think one of the questions is do Americans sort of look at this and say, listen, shouldn't House Republicans actually be tackling real issues that make a difference in our lives rather than trying to portray Joe Biden as sort of the head of some crime family?

PHILLIP: Which is not to say that the Hunter Biden questions shouldn't be investigated and they certainly are being investigated.

SWAN: He is under investigation.

PHILLIP: He is under investigation.


SWAN: From the Justice Department.

PHILLIP: Right. The question is, I mean if you listen to Comer's language the Biden family -- they're trying to blur the lines to engulf Joe Biden into this. And the question is will that strategy work?

SWAN: I have no idea whether it will work or not. And what they are obviously looking at is Hunter Biden and Joe Biden's brother and the fact that Hunter Biden, in particular, has made a lot of money clearly using the perception of influence and connection to Joe Biden including while he was the sitting vice president.

But this is also needs to be seen through the lens of Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy is fighting for his life to be the speaker. He has a problem on his right flank. And what he is trying to do right now is signal to that right flank, including through direct promises in some cases to people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, that we are going to pursue your objectives and this is one of the key objectives of the hard right of the Republican conference.

You're going to see more episodes like this because that is what they're going to do. There's no mystery about this. And Kevin McCarthy is green lighting and encouraging it right now in an attempt to shore up his right flank.

PHILLIP: There's a real -- I mean the real question Manu about whether or not McCarthy has the votes and of course, you were pounding the pavement this week on Capitol Hill to get us some answers. And here's a little bit of what some of the members told you.


REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): There are definitely at least five people, actually a lot more than that, who would rather be waterboarded by Liz Cheney than vote for Kevin McCarthy.

REP. MATT ROSENDALE (R-MT): Has to have regime change. We have to. Look, Kevin is a pleasant person. He is great at fund raising.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are the chances McCarthy is speaker?

REP. ANDY BIGGS (R-AZ): Well he doesn't have -- he doesn't have the votes.

RAJU: Does Kevin McCarthy have 218 votes to become speaker?

REP. BOB GOOD (R-VA): I think it's very clear. Kevin McCarthy doesn't have close to 218 votes.


PHILLIP: Ok. So maybe he doesn't have the votes but who does?

RAJU: That is really the question here because he had 188 votes to be nominated speaker by the Republican conference last week. He did not get 31 votes. He needs to get 218.

But this is why Kevin McCarthy's team had spent so much money and effort to build what they called a quote "governing majority" so they can sort of push these folks who are going to be their detractors, the hard-nosed to the side ultimately to get the votes to become speaker, ultimately get the votes to become -- to pass an agenda.

This is going to be the real challenge going forward because we're looking at a majority that might have 221, 222 seats meaning he can only lose 4 or 5 seats.

Now there are lots of -- there's a lot of time between now and January 3rd when the elections happens. There will be a lot of promises made, a lot of assurances for key committee assignments. Perhaps he can pick up some votes there. Maybe some ways that he promise to change business.

They want more power over the speakership. Maybe he's given in to some of these demands so he can get there. There are negotiations where someone could vote "present" instead of voting "no". And that lowers the threshold below 218.

So there are a lot of things that will happen behind the scenes. But there's still some questions of whether he can get there.

TALEV: But look at Nancy Pelosi's trajectory two years as leader in and out of speaker or the minority. If Kevin McCarthy does ascend to the speakership, he's going to want to hold it for more than two years.


TALEV: And I think one of the real governing challenges for him is that he's got the right flank that's applying pressure on him now but that very thin majority was won with the help of districts that Biden won in the 2020 race that even if some of the Republicans that are congressmen-elect now are conservative, they're still moderate districts.

Like you look at them on the map, they're moderate districts. And if they go too far into investigation land without showing progress on legislation, particularly the economy, that could be problematic for them in holding the majority for more than two years.

RAJU: It's going to be -- it goes back to the initial point of why they're focusing so much on investigation because they can do that with unilateral subpoena power in the House Republican majority.

Passing legislation, getting the conference together is going to be really hard even on messaging bills will have no chance of becoming law, getting those folks, those 30 or so folks from the Biden or swing districts with the 40 or so folks on the right to unite behind an agenda is incredibly complicated especially in a conference that's very difficult to keep together.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean the -- I mean the power right now is on the right but that's not really where the center of gravity in American politics is right now.

But now on to a developing story out of Colorado and a new nightmare for some families there. A shooter killed at least five people and injured 18 others in a mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub. The rampage happened at Club Q in Colorado Springs and police say that the suspect is in custody and is now being treated. There's not word yet on a potential motive.

We'll be right back.



PHILLIP: The voters didn't just crush the GOP's hopes of a red wave, they also stemmed the tide against the loudest election deniers winning in battleground states from Nevada to Pennsylvania. And after taking aim at these candidates on the campaign trail, former President Obama had this to say on "The Daily Show".


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because of some really concerted efforts in a lot of important states, some of the most egregious, prominent, and potentially dangerous election deniers, they got thumped. They got beat. And particularly in the secretary of state races and in some cases, governors' races where in the next presidential election you could have somebody who could really do some damage.

There, I think we held the line. What we have seen now for a whole host of reasons is a creeping sense that if the outcome is not what we want, then we can do whatever we want and say whatever we want in order for us to win. And that is profoundly dangerous.


PHILLIP: So Margaret, for our battleground states, the ones that decide largely our presidential elections, election deniers were denied. Is that the extent of the key threat to democracy or is there more to worry about?

TALEV: I mean, once the Pandora's Box is opened, the problem persists. and there are actually a number of members of congress who either are incumbents who are reelected or incoming who have either outright questioned or sort of soft questioned the results of the 2020 election who are kind of willing to poke the bear if it allows them to mobilize their base, and so I think there's an ongoing concern about this persisting in future elections just because top governors, secretaries of state, and attorneys general in certain battleground states weren't elevated, it doesn't mean that there isn't still a problem playing out, both in Congress and in legislatures.

PHILLIP: And to that point, there was this really, I mean, I say fascinating but really terrifying story in the "Associated Press" about a Washington state county auditor race. This is Patty McGuire. He says this. "There are all kinds of stories about the election denier secretary of state candidates who lost purple states but secretaries of states don't count ballots. Those of us on the ground, whether we're clerks or auditors or recorders do.

Patty McGuire lost his race to an election denier by 100 votes. That kind of situation is playing out all across the country to the point where there's so many of these potential races we can't even keep track of it. HENDERSON: I think that's right. And part of it is because millions

and millions and millions of actual voters are election deniers, right. A lot of these folks at the secretary of state level and governors level lost but they got lots of votes and some of them came really close, right.

Kari Lake lost in Arizona but that was a nip and tuck sort of race. So that is a huge problem. It doesn't seem to be going anywhere. And we saw what happened on January 6th. Those people were election deniers, and it ended up being a very violent day for Americans. And there's no sense that those folks, average Americans who are voters who can also infiltrate some these workings in terms of elections and vote counting, they can sort of infiltrate that too.

RAJU: Yes. I don't think we'll really know until the next election cycle if there are some of those folks who simply will ignore the results of an election to do what they want to do. I mean we saw this last year also in New Mexico. This has happened on the local level, what will happen then.

It will be interesting to see in Washington how much what happened impacts the rhetoric we hear from a lot of the Republican members particularly in the House as they come in with a new majority.

PHILLIP: There are at least two dozen new election deniers that are going to be in the House.

RAJU: Right and they had -- there's some talk -- thee was some talk last year that perhaps they would -- there would be some investigations into the 2020 election results. We're not hearing much of that right now. But we'll see if there's push among some of those folks in the rank and file who want to go that far -- go much further than Republican leaders who recognize that this is a losing argument.

SWAN: At least in the short-term there's a sense that this is a losing issue politically. So It wasn't an accident that Donald Trump in his announcement speech didn't say the 2020 election was stolen.


SWAN: You know he still wants to say it. You know it's still there.


PHILLIP: And it's only a matter of time.

SWAN: Of course. I'm not saying he's like, you know, he'll say it this afternoon by all likelihood. But the fact that he didn't say it in that scripted speech which had a big audience and was an important speech is because his advisers desperately, desperately tried for him not to do that because they think it's a political loser. It's not for moral or ethical reasons, to be clear.

PHILLIP: Exactly.

SWAN: It's for political reasons. PHILLIP: And when you talk to them, they know that this is just --

they're going to do the best they can to keep it out of his mouth, but they can't really control what Trump says and does, and it's front of mind for him. He talks about it all the time when there is not a teleprompter in his space.

But 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 scan that QR code that is at the bottom of your screen.

But stay with CNN. Coming up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include the likely next House Democratic Leader, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries.

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