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Inside Politics

Biden Lawyers Revealed Saturday More Documents Found at His Home; Santos' Week: More Falsehoods, Mounting Pressure to Resign; GOP Threatens Debt Crisis Unless Dems Agree to Spending Cuts; Senate Casting Call in La La Land; Remembering Dr. King. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 15, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Biden's nightmare.

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


PHILLIP: The president plays defense as the White House grapples with a brand-new political reality.

Plus, McCarthy's majority comes back together after a bruising battle.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We are one party. I think what we went through when last week will only make a stronger in the long run.

PHILLIP: Next up, a risky spending fight that could trigger an economic catastrophe.

And the defiant George Santos says he is not going anywhere.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I will not resign. I will be continuing to hold my office elected by the people.

PHILLIP: Even as a growing number of GOP colleagues say it's time for him to go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can't be honest with yourself, you're never going to be honest with your constituents.


PHILLIP: Hello, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Philip.

And the White House was feeling pretty good around this time last week, the House Republicans were emerging from our nasty public civil war, inflation is coming down, and the president's operating numbers are ticking up.

But what a difference seven days can make.


REPORTER: Classified material, next to your Corvette? What were you thinking?

BIDEN: Let me -- I'm going to get a lot of chances to speak to this, God willing soon, but as I said earlier this week, people -- and, by the way, my Corvette is in a locked garage, okay? So it's not like it's sitting out on the street.

People know I take classified documents and classified material, seriously. And I also said we're cooperating fully and completely with the Justice Department's review.


PHILLIP: A special counsel is now probing Biden's handling of these Obama era classified documents that were found at his home, in an office he used after leaving the vice presidency back in 2017.

And things have gotten worse over the weekend. Lawyers for Biden acknowledged finding five additional documents with classified markings at his residence. Now, it's possible that there are more out there, and at least three new Republican committee chairmen are promising their own investigations.


REP. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We're not going to let up. We were already investigating the Biden family influence peddling scheme. This is another facet to it.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Why did he have these documents? When did he get them? Did they get them when he was vice president and then take them with him when he left? He clearly has mishandled them, what is their subject matter?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Who had access to the Biden Center? Who owns the building? I don't know, we know China money funded a lot of the activity at the Biden Center and financed a lot of it.


PHILLIP: Now, to Congressman Jordan's point, we do not know that. And the University of Pennsylvania denies that Chinese money founded the Penn Biden Center in any way, and, of course, what based on what we know so far, team Biden has cooperated with the Justice Department and has returned these documents. This is far different from what former President Donald Trump has done since hundreds of classified documents were recovered at his Florida beach club.

But let's discuss all of this and more with Tia Mitchell of "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution", "Politico's" Eli Stokols, CNN's MJ Lee, and Jonah Goldberg of "The Dispatch".

MJ, this revelation yesterday, there were five more documents that they did not know about that they uncovered this past week really is just a sign of how this whole thing is expanding. It is not just an issue of what they disclosed and when, it also is just the fact that these documents are out there.

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and reporting on this issue throughout the week, I think the thing that I heard most consistently from people close to the White House and Biden allies is just feeling baffled and confused as to how and why the White House allowed this to really become a drip, drip, drip narrative. And that that was an unenforced error that could have been avoided.

I mean, if you look at the timeline, the fact of the White House counsel's office first addressed this on Monday, they knew about the second batch of documents but they did not disclose that information, they really only talked about the first set of documents, and then they were forced to address the second set of documents on Thursday, and use language like the review that Biden's lawyer conducted is not finished, leading everyone to believe, okay, so they probably got them all.


And then yesterday, we have another narrative that further sort of shows that, yeah, there are probably more documents out there. And, again, supporters of the president are feeling really frustrated. They wish that the White House had handled this really differently from the messaging perspective.

PHILLIP: It is such a good point they use that language, saying that the review was done. And we are not even sure, as we sit here today, if that is actually the case. I want to read though, what Bob Bauer, one of the presidents, lawyers said about this yesterday trying to explain how this has played out.

He wrote: Following the initial discovery of the Penn Biden Center documents, whenever a document bearing classified markings was identified, a search was suspended of the box, file, or other space where the document was discovered and the government was then promptly notified. It is for this reason that the presidents personal attorney's do not know the precise number of pages in the discovered materials.

Fine. That part of it is fine, was but I still have a lot of questions about the timeline here. Why didn't they conduct a more thorough investigation of those possible spaces earlier?

ELI STOKOS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yeah, and those are questions they have yet to answer. And, you know, to MJ's point, I mean, the frustration here internally from sources inside the White House, sources that are getting ready to work on this 2024 campaign, this is a group on a president that tout their experience and their competency. And so the thing that I was hearing is not just --


STOKOLS: Right, so they're institutionalist play by the rules, and I think beyond whatever having a deal with a special counsel which is the two words that a White House never wants to hear, you know, they also -- they might also be confident that in the end, this won't really go anywhere. That will be find, but it's going to hang over them for a while, and I think the damaging thing that people are worried about is to that perspective that it just takes some paint off the Biden presidency.

And it's because they are supposed to be the ones who know what they are doing, they are supposed to be the grown-ups, the competent ones, and this is not look like an example of great competence here in terms of the management of this. Not knowing they were there, the White House is kind of started to blame this on aids and people who were responsible for moving the papers, making clear and implying that the president did not know about this. He was not the one involved in doing this. But this is not good and they know it's not good.

PHILLIP: And he is understandably, probably, really irritated this has happened to him. But it is compounded by the fact that he said this about the Trump situation.


SCOTT PELLEY, 60 MINUTES: When you saw the photograph of the top secret documents laid out on the floor at Mar-a-Lago, what did you think to yourself, looking at that image?

BIDEN: How that could possibly happen. How anyone could be that irresponsible. Just totally irresponsible.


PHILLIP: Again, all the caveats, these are actually vastly different situations and intent matters a lot here. But that muddies the waters a lot for him.

And I also think it's extraordinary, Jonah, we have two special counsels now, two -- a current president, a former president, there are a lot of people who never know a life with special counsel's existing, and that's incredible.

GOLDBERG: Yeah. I think part of the problem is that, as a political matter, at least for these debates, they can get pretty stupid pretty quickly, people think that what Biden did isn't as bad as what Trump did, that lets Biden off the hook. And I think it is absolutely obvious that at this point, barring new information, that what Biden did isn't as bad as what Trump did.

But the problem is, is that that's not the standard. The standard in law is wasn't worse than what Trump, did the standard in law is, was it illegal? And if you take the rhetoric that these guys were using against Trump, he had a lot of mainstream journalism talking about normal people who went to jail for doing much less than what Trump did. Well, normal people going to jail for much less than what Biden did, too, and that is just an enormously difficult political thing.

And on this timeline, I agree with what everybody has said, they had two months. It was November that this ball got rolling, you would think, as a matter of confidence, whatever you want to blame on staff, you would just see the enormity of the political problem that could come from this and say, let's search everywhere, now. And they didn't do that.

And so, this drip, drip, drip stuff does, I think, as a political -- matter of political malpractice, fall on Biden, because he should have known the second he was told about any of this, well, let's make sure that we pull this band-aid off as quickly as possible.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION: Right, because that is the point. And not just that it is not just as bad as Trump from a legal standpoint in how that could still have exposure for president Biden, but from a political standpoint, that argument from what he did is not as bad as former President Trump, is not going to play well, particularly among Biden critics or people who are looking to defend former President Trump.

So they are going to both sides it with this new information.


And quite frankly, Biden and his team keep giving his critics more to use against him on this matter, and more ammunition as they tried to defend President Trump.

PHILLIP: Here is another reason that there is a lot of irritation, to put it mildly, in the White House. This is now getting folded into this, basically, a conspiracy world of Biden, and potential Biden investigations.

Just take a look at some of the comments being made by Republican lawmakers in the last week.


SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): It can't be that there is one rule for Republicans in a different role for Democrats.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): The Chinese gave a $30 million dollar donation to the University of Pennsylvania as the Biden Center was standing up.

COMER: The Biden residence where Hunter hangs out and we know all of the implications he has with respect to the money he has received from China.

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): There are issues pertaining to the Espionage Act, similar to Hillary Clinton. REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TX): We should dig into this, and I do think

that eventually, in short order, this will really all start leading to talk of impeachment on the front of the House.


PHILLIP: It's not to say that there aren't legitimate questions about who had access to those documents, but it is a series of buzzwords that is going to become more than buzzwords very quickly with a Republican-led House.

STOKOLS: Right, and you get the sense from those comments and what they are saying all the way back to the campaign of last year is that the conclusion has already been found for House Republicans. They are just looking for the evidence, the substance, to stand that up.

And that is another thing that makes a sort of remarkable, because this is a White House that is preparing for this. They were girding for battle with Republicans. They expected House majority to switch, and they were already bringing in people, whether it's more attorneys in the White House counsel office, a new communications person to deal with this publicly, they were ready for battle and so it is just all the more remarkable that they want this faster given that they knew that Republicans were already gunning for them and going to be standing up investigations whether or not they helped them or not.

LEE: And, by the way, if you listen to all of them and you can very easily imagine why Mayor Garland might have found that you have absolutely no choice to appoint a special counsel to look into the Biden classified documents, because, of course, critics were going to say exactly this. The questions about a double standard, if you are going to do this to Trump, and you better do this to Biden, and we know from our reporting that Garland ultimately felt pretty affirmed in his decision when he found out the first statement on Monday night didn't seem to paint a full picture.

And he didn't want the perception out there that the White House has something to hide.

PHILLIP: Yeah, he absolutely had no choice in the matter, and ultimately, I think that even though nobody likes a special counsel, it is probably necessary to restore some public confidence and how all of this is being handled.

But coming up next for us, talk about awkward. The talented Mr. Ripley of Washington, also known as George Santos, tries and fails to escape scrutiny about his questionable past.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Santos, why did you lie to your voters but your qualifications, your past, being Jewish? Why did you lie to them? The voters deserve an explanation about the widespread lies about your past?



PHILLIP: The saga of George Santos is a political drama full of twists and turns. But seems to take a page from another fictional Long Islander, the Great Gatsby, but this is no drama set in a novel. We are still learning more about the lies that the congressman told voters about his entire life, and, at least eight House Republicans are now calling for Santos to quit.

He insists though that he won't, but is refusing to answer questions from intrepid reporters like our very own Manu Raju.


RAJU: Mr. Santos, why did you lie to your voters about your qualifications, your past, being Jewish, why did you lie to them? Don't voters deserve explanation about the wide spread lies about your past? How can you be trusted with sensitive security information, Mr. Santos?

REPORTER: How can you say -- how can you say your voters elected you if they didn't know who they were electing?

RAJU: (INAUDIBLE) authorities about fraud charges you're facing? Mr. Santos, why won't you respond to any of these questions about your past?


PHILLIP: The wait for that elevator to open is like the longest 15 seconds of your entire life when you are running from Manu.

But, Jonah, I mean, the reporting this weekend and Friday from "The New York Times" and CNN has confirmed this, is that basically Republicans knew.


PHILLIP: Our Pamela Brown and Sonnet Swire write that there was trepidation among consultants and donors and Republicans that Santos wasn't telling the truth, and, among those who were concerned, according to a source, was Dan Conston, the president of the Congressional Leadership Fund PAC, who was also a close associate of Kevin McCarthy's.

So, does that surprise you at all?

GOLDBERG: It does -- at this point, I'm very difficult to surprise by any of this stuff. And I do want to say in all props to Manu who does a great job, it's now becoming sort of a man bites dog story about the lies, and soon, we are going to the point of inflection where reporters are like, Representative Santos, why did you tell the truth about this? Because it turns out everything you said is not true. Yes. So I think, as we talked about before, a lot of these dynamics -- our system at scale and also sort of institutionally is not well designed for very close ties, very close elections, going from the Florida recount all the way up to Congress. And when the majority of the House hinges on essentially four votes, you just have a much higher tolerance for jackassery than you normally would.

If Kevin McCarthy had a 30-seat majority, Santos's future would be much easier to predict, but these guys -- they thought every vote counted, they knew the red wave wasn't actually coming in. So they had a much higher tolerance for, you know, political fraud.

PHILLIP: Dating back even to the campaign, potentially, which means -- I mean, honestly, that it seems like kind of complicit in this deception of voters, don't you think?


MITCHELL: Well, I think this is another example that we saw in the midterms of Republicans having a candidate quality issue, and they knew that much for months.

PHILLIP: Candidate quality, the word of the year, 2022, two words of the year, I should say.

MITCHELL: But Republicans decided they had to go with the candidates that they had and I think once Republicans saw that the writing was on the wall, that Santos would be the Republican nominee for this seat, that they want it because they knew their majority was going to be slim, they stuck beside him. And we saw that with numerous candidates in both the House and the Senate.

Now, of course, he is probably on the more extreme version. But think about Herschel Walker on very somewhat similar terms as far as lying about his resume and having a lot of problematic things on his resume, and the party still stuck beside him because they wanted him to win because they wanted to seat.

STOKOLS: And they got it.

PHILLIP: And they got the seat, and in some ways, I don't know, maybe they didn't expect -- this is a Biden district. I mean, it's not actually a heavily Republican-leaning district.

It's interesting to me, Eli, that all of these Republicans in New York who consider themselves a majority makers, who flipped seats, many of them are really the ones who are out front saying that this guy has got to go.

STOKOLS: Yeah, I mean, it's interesting. The White House has looked at these races and said these the Republicans we think we are going to go to and talk to you and say you are going to need to be with us on some bipartisan things if you want to be reelected because you are the district that the president carried, and George Santos is obviously an easy one for a lot of these people given everything that has come out. But the funny thing is that I had some initial conversations with

people in the White House, and they were talking about George Santos as someone that maybe they could work with, because maybe Republicans knew about this, I'm not sure the White House did, and Santos, because he'll say anything, had said some things that were, yes, I'm open to working with this administration on some things. And so they're actually optimism of working with him, whereas now, you know, he's just a complete laughingstock.

PHILLIP: Yeah, he was making a name for himself because he was kind of an unconventional Republican, it turns out that most of that stuff was not true.

But this is the interview from his past week that raised a lot of eyebrows. He is confronted about a critical part of this which is where he got all of his money.



REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): One of the principal critiques I've heard is that a lot of money was donated to your campaign by you, $700, 000, I believe. Where did it come from?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Well, I will tell you where it didn't come. It didn't come from China, Ukraine, or Burisma.

GAETZ: Is there anything else you can say about the work you did that was the origin of those sources?

SANTOS: Look, I've worked my entire life. I've lived an honest life. I've never been accused of any bad doing. So, you know, it's my -- it's the equity of my hardworking self that I invested inside of me.


PHILLIP: I've invested inside of me myself. Just look at this, look at what we are talking about here in terms of his finances.

Back in 2020, we have evidence that he made about $55,000 from Link Bridge investors. Fast forward to 2022, you are talking $750,000 from his Devolder Organization, and then if you look at a list of assets, which he had none in 2020, potentially millions of dollars? These are real serious questions, and I invested in myself is not going to cut it as an answer.

LEE: Yeah, and news flash to Mr. Santos, you have been accused of some bad doing? I don't know if you have been reading the headlines, but no. I think that, clearly, every day, it feels like we are getting more and more lies from the congressman, and more, frankly, just sketchy stories about him.

But the bottom line is that there is no real mechanism right now that can be triggered for him to resign. What would need to happen is Republicans around him would basically need to call on him to resign in mass. We have no indication that we are at that point yet, or, those stories and accusations and lies about him would just need to be fundamentally different.

Like, for example, he gets -- again, just as an example, he gets convicted of some crimes back in Brazil or something like that, where the Republican Party decides, this guy is no longer just an embarrassment, but he is really serious stain on the party and could affect our own chances of reelection for example two years from now. And that is just not where we are right now.

PHILLIP: It's not happening, he is getting his committee assignments, McCarthy has basically said he can work his way back to redemption in the House of Representatives.

But coming up next for us, budget brinkmanship is next. The White House says that Republicans are holding a loaded gun to the head of the global economy.



PHILLIP: We're just over a week into Kevin McCarthy's speakership, and we are only now a learning of some of the details of what he promised to conservative hard-liners in order to get that gavel.

But here is a big one. McCarthy promised a vote on telling the Treasury Department to pay some of the bills, but not others, if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling. That is according to Chip Roy, one of the initial McCarthy holdouts, who then later supported him.

But what most experts say is that that just wouldn't work, and that it sets up a big clash that might end up in an economic catastrophe.


MCCARTHY: If you have a child, and you give him a credit card, and they spend the limit, so you increase the limit again and again and again? When does it end? We've got to change the way that we are spending money wastefully in this country.


JEAN-PIERRE: There is going to be no negotiations over it. This is something that must get done.


PHILLIP: So an analogy for this proposal, of paying some bills and not others is like basically you deciding I'm going to pay the light bill, I'm going to pay the electric bill and the gas bill, but not the mortgage, and just hoping that everybody is ok with that?

TIA MITCHELL, Washington CORRESPONDENT, "ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION": Right. And sometimes real American families have to make those decisions sometimes when you're running low on cash.

The stakes are much higher when you're talking about the U.S. federal government. And now the stakes are higher for Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Yes, he had a smooth week last week but this is the real test. And there really is no clear path forward with these hardline Republicans indicating that they're going to stand in the way of a clean debt ceiling limit increase.

PHILLIP: And the details of all of this is just really being whispered about. And Jonah, you may recall -- I mean this is not entirely a new idea. It's bubbled up before among conservatives but I think most people would agree it is not really all that workable and yet McCarthy has basically said we're going to vote on this. Maybe just a signaling?

JONAH GOLDBERG, EDITOR IN CHIEF, THE DISPATCH: Yes. I mean I think it's too clever by half but there is a problem, you know, as conservatives watched a lot of this stuff. Whenever there's a government shutdown and a government shutdown is just stupid -- let me just stipulate that. But -- and they're bad -- they're bad for the country, they're bad for our solvency and all that.

But there's this tactic where the federal government will shut down the most popular aspects of government first to sort of highlight the problem with the shutdown so like social security offices, the Washington Monument, national parks -- the things where people actually interact with the federal government and I think that's part of the thinking here, learning sort of bad lessons from previous shutdowns.

I kind of -- what I find fascinating about this is you had four years under Trump, you know -- wild, hypocritical, unprincipled spending by Republicans. And now -- and everyone said, you know, the Tea Parties are dead, you know, fiscal responsibility is dead and then Republicans find themselves, many of the same people who are very Trumpy find themselves impossible not to go back to a sort of a Tea Party stance of like limited government stuff.

And the only thing that bothers me about it is I welcome more fiscal responsibility but none of them are willing to understand -- admit the hypocrisy for the inconsistency of it. And I don't think that voters are going to miss it either.

PHILLIP: At the end of the day, the government has to pay its bills because the consequences are not just to the United States economy, it's really to the global economy of which the U.S. economy is a bedrock.

But I thought it was interesting this past week, McCarthy coming back -- coming into the speakership, they're passing a bunch of bills and on the senate side Senate Republicans are like, hmm, these guys not sure they know what they are doing. And here was McCarthy's response to a reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. KEVIN MCCARTHEY (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I don't know. Is the Senate in this week? What did they do this week? I sat down with all the Republican senators and talked to them about ways that they could be more productive. They didn't pass one appropriation bill last year.


PHILLIP: That is a drama that is going to reoccur, let's say it, over the next year.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: And one the White House may look to exploit. I mean you saw the president two weeks ago with Senate Minority Leader McConnell in Kentucky while Kevin McCarthy is getting dragged on the floor and having to go through 15 votes ultimately.

You know -- so the White House knows that they may have some allies in some Senate Republicans who want some cover from the new House majority themselves because they don't want to be associated with the small group of the Freedom Caucus that is effectively running the House floor and pushing for things like what we talked about on the debt ceiling and threatening the country to default.

And so it's going to be interesting where that goes and if that relationship sours further, whether that just sort of drives everything off a cliff or if that's something that, you know, the White House and the Senate can align enough that there can be some pressure to at least get things to the floor in the House where you get some moderate Republicans and Democrats to move legislation.

M.J. LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Democrats and the White House have been plenty happy to draw the distinction between Senate Republicans who can be reasonable, they can be adults in Washington. And then there's crazy guys over there, the House Republicans.

But I think when we're talking about Kevin McCarthy and the different negotiating tactics that he has used, the different concessions he made (INAUDIBLE) when it comes to the debt ceiling, that's fine. That's fine to talk about.

But I think the real issue for him is this fight is about to expose the really tenuous position that he is in and that he is now a House Speaker without much power and without much control because what is to say that these members, these colleagues that did agree to these concessions won't just suddenly take them back?

He can't say well, we had a deal. We had a deal so that I could become House Speaker and you better stick to that deal. There's just no mechanism for him to enforce those concessions.

PHILLIP: And now, it only takes one of them to call a vote, to put him up again on the gauntlet.

[08:34:51] MITCHELL: Yes. And that's -- I don't even think it's going to be as much as them taking back what they agreed to. I think it's going to be them requiring Kevin McCarthy to stick to every single agreement to the letter. And the minute he steps outside of what they believe is what was negotiated both in writing and not in writing, all these the hand shake agreements over four days of 15 rounds of voting, he promised a lot of things to a lot of people as far we understand. And the minute they believe he did not uphold his promises, any one person can then call for a vote to have him removed.

And we know Democrats are not going to step in to save him.

PHILLIP: Not at all. And he hasn't even started negotiating with the other side of the aisle or the other chamber yet. This is just the negotiations happening within the Republican conference.

But coming up next for us, California free for all. The crowded Democratic battle for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat which she has not vacated.



PHILLIP: There's about to be a big casting call in California for a very coveted role. Who will succeed Dianne Feinstein?

Now just about every ambitious politician in the Golden State is looking at this race including Health Secretary Xavier Becerra, Representatives Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff. And Porter was the first out of the gate this week. She is hoping voters remember these viral moments with her famous inanimate co-star.


REP. KATIE PORTER (D-CA): What about the out of pocket costs for a complete metabolic panel?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma'am, I would have to pass on that as well.

PORTER: You have any idea. You want to take a ballpark?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can look it up but I don't recall. I don't have it in front of me.

PORTER: $412 per pill. How about the price -- let's get into more recent where your memory may be jogged. How about 2017?

Stock buybacks and dividends I the question, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to come back with a number for that over that period of time.

PORTER: $50 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: And of course, you may remember on the House floor as chaos was unfolding, this was Katie Porter reading a book -- "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a" -- can't say that last word at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning.

But the point is she is trying to like ride this viral energy, this grassroots energy into the Senate.

STOKOLS: She is not shy, right. She's got a big personality so it's not shocking that she would be the first one out of the gate before Feinstein has even made clear that she's not going to be a candidate for another term, which we don't know at this point.

I think what was surprising to me was not that Katie Porter did it, but that she had the Elizabeth Warren endorsement in the bag and she put that out there immediately and that kind of legitimized her early candidacy.

It's not going to scare other people out of the field, but it's really unique. I couldn't remember another time when one sitting senator looks at another sitting senator and says I'm going to endorse somebody else for your reelection.

PHILLIP: There is so much awkwardness there. I mean Di-Fei has not said she is not running. The White House was asked about this this week. They effusively praised her because it's awkward.

But Warren came out and said this is the person I'm endorsing. Porter is raising a ton of money already even though, I think some her California colleagues were criticizing her. California is facing a crazy storm season right now but it just goes to show, the fighting is going to be fierce for this seat.

GOLDBERG: Yes. No. And particularly -- I mean Katie Porter is a sign of -- she's basically -- she's like a Bernie bro candidate, right. She's part of this new performative, Twitter, social media- driven, sort of own the con version of like own the libs stuff.

And that's a sign that we hadn't had this kind of -- the climate that we have now, we have not seen someone run in California for a Senate seat in this kind of climate before. And I suspect it will be a -- it will be a blood bath for the Democratic Party.

PHILLIP: Yes. To put it mildly.

GOLDBERG: Yes. I was trying to find again Sunday morning appropriate.

PHILLIP: Part of the dynamic here is California itself. This is a state, extremely diverse. You don't get Senate seats coming up that often. One was recently vacated by Kamala Harris who's now the vice president, a black woman, one of only two ever to serve in that seat.

And when you have this kind of demographic breakdown in the state of California, you know, a possible candidacy by a Barbara Lee becomes very important. Xavier Becerra becomes very important. How does this play out. MITCHELL: Right. And I think that's part of the calculus for Representative Porter. She wanted to get out there, get out front, start raising the money, try to get some support because it is quite likely that some major constituent groups might get behind another candidate when it is all said and done. It's quite likely that the establishment might get behind another candidate like an Adam Schiff.

So there are other candidates that could get support in ways that I think Representative Porter knows that might now -- she might not get it but what she can do is harness her ability to kind of go viral on social media, raise money nationally and I think she hopes she can build up a war chest and put herself ahead.

Now, being out front also opens her up to that early criticism as the first person but I think she took that risk because when other candidates arise they're going to upsides that she can't compete with.

PHILLIP: And of course, this is foreshadowing really could be a very nasty 2024 for Democrats. It's just a tough map. They have got nine incumbents up for re-election and one seat vacated that has just been vacated by an incumbent.

These are going to be tough races, many of them. You're talking about people like Jon Tester and Senator Manchin -- like unicorns. Democrats inhabiting very, very red seats.


LEE: Yes. It is a very bad map for Democrats coming up. And we do often talk about those three races that are going to be toughest for Democrats but that's sort of only the beginning.

I mean there are other complications if you look across the country. For example, what's going to happen in Arizona? While Sinema hasn't said that she is going to run But if she does Democrats face the potential problem and complication of does this end up becoming a three-way race.

You look at Michigan. Debbie Stabenow has said that she is going to retire. It is a state that's been good for Democrats recently but it's certainly a state that they can't take for granted given the political climate right now.

PHILLIP: And here we are at the beginning of 2023 and the jockeying has already started for some of these races.

And also I mean I think there's going to be a lot of work to be done to keep some of these incumbents in their seats so they don't throw their hands up and say this is just too tough.

STOKOLS: Right I mean you have a seat and a race in Ohio. And if Sherrod Brown decides for whatever reason -- he's not running, I mean that's a lean Republican seat at least. There's no indication that he's not going to run for another term but there's just -- but that's a tough race for him even given his reputation is history there. PHILLIP: Yes. And Republicans are going to be doing their best to

nudge Manchin and Tester out of their seats as well. We'll see how that works.

Coming up next for us, the president is on his way to Atlanta, Georgia this morning to deliver a sermon on democracy from the temple of racial justice.




DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVL RIGHTS LEADER: Until brotherhood is more than a meaningless word at the end of A prayer but the first order of business on every legislative agenda, let us march on ballot boxes.


PHILLIP: It's been more than five decades since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called on black Americans to use their hard-earned right to vote as a means to keep fighting for social justice. And his words still resonate as the nation commemorates what would have been the civil rights leader's 94th birthday.

So ahead of Martin Luther King Day, President Biden is traveling to Atlanta, Georgia this morning to deliver a major policy speech at the landmark church that was once led by King and is now shepherded by Georgia's Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock.

Now, many presidents have made the pilgrimage to this historic site, but Biden's visit marks the very first time a sitting U.S. President has addressed the Sunday morning church service.

Tia, you are "Atlanta Journal Constitution's" Washington correspondent. You have a new piece about this important speech from Biden today. And, you know, if you've ever been to a Sunday morning service, you know, it's an extraordinary moment for a politician to stand at that pulpit. What is Biden going to say?

MITCHELL: We expect Biden of course, to reference Dr. King's legacy, but put it in the framework of what kind of America -- what kind of America do we have now and what kind of America do we want to see?

We know that Biden has focused a lot on protecting American democracy both by speaking out on entities or initiatives that he thinks are anti-democratic, but also on things like voting rights and election protection.

So we expect him to address all of that, but again, in the framework of Dr. King's legacy we also expect him, of course, to talk about his first two years, what he's accomplished and give us a little bit of a preview of how he plans to move forward for the remainder of his term in office. PHILLIP: And look, it's no exaggeration to say that President Biden

wouldn't be President Biden if it weren't for black voters. It's a crucially important constituency for him.

And we are about to get started on 2024. He could be announcing a presidential reelection bid soon. And these are the numbers that I think his team is probably going to be looking at when it comes to the black vote.

You've seen since 2018 a little bit of a dip here nationally in Democratic support and a little bit of a rise in Republican support. But I think the more important numbers are at the state level.

In some of these battleground states, you're seeing the share of the electorate comprised of black voters going down. Turnout becomes a crucial issue here.

LEE: Yes. And we can definitely see the stop today as a stop on Biden's way to announcing a reelection bid as CNN reported this week. Right now how Democrats and people around the president are operating is that all systems are a go. He's expected to make a re-election announcement soon.

And there were places at the midterms where Democrats saw black turnout dip in places where they didn't want to see that dip and it remains really important for President Biden to continue staying connected to these voters.

So it's no surprise that this is the event and this is the kind of speech that we would see him giving on this Sunday.

PHILLIP: Almost a year ago this time, this was President Biden in Atlanta, Georgia again talking about voting rights.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm making it clear. To protect our democracy I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed, to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.

Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?


PHILLIP: That didn't happen, obviously. And he was criticized actually for that speech on both sides.

STOKOLS: And he walked back the comments about George Wallace a little bit after Republicans were, you know, bristling at the comparison. And as you point out, the Senate did not take that up. They did not change the filibuster rule. There still is no federal legislation protection voting rights. On top of that, the president's student debt relief which was a big thing for black voters, that was announced but it's been held up by the courts. There's nothing on police reform. [08:54:53]

STOKOLS: And so yes, this president has a case to make about the historic nature of what he's done putting a black woman on the Supreme Court, having a black woman as vice president. They have made progress in some other areas. He's given a lot of fiery speeches.

But in addition to what states like Georgia have done in terms of changing the voting laws and making it harder in some cases for black people to vote, what the president has and hasn't done is also part of what Democrats I think are looking at when they try to figure out why are these voters not turning out the same way they did four years ago.

PHILLIP: Lots of agenda items still to be done that were promises that he made to black voters and communities of color on the campaign trail.

But that's all we have time for today. Thank you for joining us.

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include the chairman of the House Oversight Committee Republican James Comer, plus the top Democrat on that committee as well, Jamie Raskin.

And thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. I hope you have a great rest of your day.