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Inside Politics

At Least 10 Killed in Shooting in Monterey Park, CA; FBI Searches Biden's Delaware Home, Finds Items Marked Classified; Santos Scrutiny Not Letting Up As He Says He Won't Resign. Debt Ceiling Disaster?; Ron DeSantis: GOP's Culture Warrior-in-Chief. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 22, 2023 - 08:00   ET




We begin this morning with the breaking news out of California. At least ten people have been killed in a mass shooting inside a ballroom dance studio near Los Angeles. Police say that at least ten more were wounded. And at this hour, the killer does remain at large.

Let's get straight to CNN's Camila Bernal who is joining me now from Monterey Park, California.



So you mentioned ten people that have been killed and ten others that are still in the hospital. In terms of those in the hospital, we are hearing the injuries range from stable conditions to critical condition.

And I want to start from the beginning. The shooting happened at 10:22, more or less, last night. It was a lunar New Year celebration, and we now know that this took place at start ballroom dance studios.

I did speak to someone here at the scene who told me that it is normal for people to come up to this ball room studio to essentially have fun on a weekend or on a Saturday night. But this was also a lunar New Year celebration.

So when authorities got here at around 10:30 we know that people were coming out of that ballroom studio. They were screaming, there was commotion, and police officers and sheriff deputies, they were able to go inside of the business to help some of those people and victims.

Now, we are expecting more information from authorities, because as we know at the moment, they are looking for a man, a suspect in this case. They have not described who this person is or what this person looks like, but they said it was a man and he is now on the loose. We know that he left the scene. It is unclear if he was able to run away or if he was able to get inside of a car. But, of course, they are still looking. And they are looking into motive. I specifically asked the sheriff's department whether they are looking into a hate crime here, whether this was targeted. Here is their response.


CAPT. ANDREW MEYER, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT HOMICIDE BUREAU: As far as the suspect knowing any of the victims, it is too early in the investigation. We did not know that information at this time.

That's -- yeah, we don't know if it's targeted.

We will look at every angle. As far as whether it's a hate crime or not, it is just too early in the investigation to know whether this was a hate crime or not.


BERNAL: So we know the -- we know the FBI, the local police, and the sheriff's department are looking into all of this. We also know that the lunar New Year festivities that were planned for festive have been canceled, Abby.

PHILLIP: All right. Camila Bernal, thank you so much for that report. We will be back to you as soon as there is more information.

And joining me now with their insights and analysis, former Philadelphia police commissioner and Washington, D.C. police chief, Charles Ramsey, and former Department of Homeland Security assistant security, Juliette Kayyem.

Chief Ramsey, thanks for being here.

The latest this hour, ten died and at least ten others have been wounded in this mass shooting. What are the questions that you have this morning about this incident? We don't have a ton of information and, critically, also there is a suspect still a large.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Right now, first, of all my condolences to the families of those that were last not lost last night. Right now with the sheriff's department is doing, along with the police is really combing through all the evidence that they have. They are in the process of gathering video, interviewing witnesses, all of those kinds of things.

They are trying to pinpoint and find out who did this. That's the most important thing. I know there's been a lot of talk about motive. We will get to motive. Right now, we need to find out who this individual is. I mean, this was a lunar New Year celebration, apparently. That goes on around the country.

So police departments around the country now have to think about security at all of these different events. So there is a lot going on right now, but the one question is, who did it, and that's exactly what they're trying to find out right now.

PHILLIP: To that very point, Juliette, the question of who did it. It does strike me that the context of when this happened during the Chinese new lunar New Year celebration could be relevant to this. Obviously, we don't know the motive, but how concerned are you that this could be a hate crime and what bearing with that have on what police look for next when looking for this potential suspect?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, a hate crime is going to be the primary focus for motivation, especially if we've got no witness testimony that the perpetrator was known to anyone or that there was some altercation in this ballroom.


You don't want to close off other potential motives, but you also don't have to be blind to, as you say, the context. The context is that the nation had seen an increase in hate crimes against the Chinese and Asian American communities, then focusing this weekend, you have the largest celebration for those communities. The lunar New Year, a well-known parties and well-known parades, highly publicized family events.

You then have an area in California that is of predominantly Asian area. And so all of those things obviously are relevant for looking at motive and the context of which this mass killing occurred.

And then, it just picking up on what Chief Ramsey said, even though we do not know the motive, every made mayor and police department this morning is assessing what their security planning and communications planning are to the community because there's events today.

Sunday is the continuation of the lunar New Year. We know it's been cancelled in Monterey Park in California, obviously. But there are lots of other celebrations throughout the United States and we are going to have to focus on those as well.

PHILLIP: And, Chief Ramsey, as the manhunt remains underway, what does it say to you that police didn't really offer much of a description of the suspect beyond that it is a male? And also the weapon, what kind of weapon made have been used in this crime?

RAMSEY: Well, I mean, it is very early in this investigation, so they are just in the process now of interviewing witnesses and going through video, trying to get more information on a suspect. Police can't speculate. They have to really try to develop facts before they put it out publicly.

They probably have a pretty good idea or know exactly what kind of weapon, just from the shell casings, that was left behind, but it is still so early in the investigation they are holding a lot of things a little close to the vest. But I am sure as the day unfolds, more information will come out specifically about the type of firearm, whether or not there were any eyewitnesses, do they have video, all those kinds of things. And if they can pinpoint a suspect, a vehicle, or anything, they will

put that out pretty quickly because, again, a person is on the loose and highly dangerous. And they want to get him off the streets as soon as possible.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Juliette, I mean, it is very early in the morning, 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time in Los Angeles, people are just waking up to this news. How essential is it that law enforcement tracked down the suspect, and if you are living in the L.A. area right now, how concerned should folks over there be about their safety?

KAYYEM: Well, this is -- this is a man hunt for a mass murderer of a major event. So you are obviously going to have increased concern. The mayor of Los Angeles in the area surrounding Los Angeles will likely speak to the public in the next hour or two to both assure them that the manhunt is ongoing, ask for their help, and the kind of crowd sourcing we've seen in the past and these kinds of investigations, cars identification, anyone who may know something or have heard someone say something about this kind of violence.

And, also, an increased police presence in these communities. The Asian-American community had already been living with fear, whatever the motive is in this case, it doesn't matter to them, right? In other words, they are going to perceive it as a hate crime towards them. So you will see increased police presence, and community outreach in those communities.

PHILLIP: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, certainly, this history, especially the recent history of a surge in anti-Asian hate in this country looms large here. As well as the tragic history of mass shootings and mass violence in this country, especially during incidents like this.

Chief Ramsey and Juliet Kayyem, both of you, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

And we'll keep you all updated on the latest on that case as it goes on this morning, but coming up next, for us, there is a big development in the Biden classified documents probe, and we'll have the latest on that, coming up next.



PHILLIP: Another major development in the probe into President Biden's handling of classified documents dropped last night. Six more documents with classified markings were found at the president's home in Delaware on Friday after FBI agent spent nearly 13 hours searching the property.

Now, those documents were both for this time as vice president and his time and the senate. The surge was voluntary, Biden's team says he's still fully cooperate with the DOJ.

And yet, the development marks a clear escalation of this probe, which is been overseen by a special counsel. Let's discuss all of this and more with our panel, Jonathan Martin of "Politico", Amy Walter of "The Cook Political Report", NPR's Tamara Keith, and CNN's Paula Reid.

CNN late night developments in this case, that seems to not be going away for Biden. What's the significance of this in your mind?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, this is incredibly significant because first of all, we have the FBI doing their search here. Before now, all voluntary searches conducted by the president's team, but they had received some criticism for who had conducted the search, particularly in a journey without the proper clearance to review classified information. So, there are as a lot of information about why would you send some people -- than hand them over to DOJ.

What we've learned is that they went to the U.S. attorney in Chicago, because the special counsel, Robert Hur, he hasn't started yet. So, they volunteered to allow the FBI to do their search, and I think a significant that they actually did this because prior to this, the attorney and struggle, they did not score any searches.


He didn't do any searches. He didn't even wait for the searches they were doing to be over before recommending a special counsel.

So, even though the special counsel hasn't started, we see things continuing to move along. But this is definitely a chef. The FBI is now conducting this investigation. They continue to find additional documents, and while they want to emphasize how they're cooperating, to differentiate this from Mar-a-Lago, the average voter was worried about the price of eggs isn't going to make that distinction.

PHILLIP: Yeah, but the key thing is that they keep finding documents. Cooperating is one thing, but why are there still documents.

And, Paula, interestingly, as we just mentioned, there were some documents from his time in the Senate. That was almost 15 years ago. And on top that, some indications that the FBI may have taken some handwritten notes to further evaluate, not clear whether that information was classified or not, but what do you make it that?

REID: Well, there is probably more to. Come we know that there are other locations that have not been searched it all. This could potentially be searched. So, there absolutely could be more documents.

We talk to many sources in this case. No one can say definitively that there are not going to be more discoveries. This is a research of a place that has already been surged at least once. It's possible they can go back to their Rehoboth Beach house, we searched, that it's unclear if they're going to go back to the Penn Biden Center. It is -- everyone should be prepared for discoveries of more material.

PHILLIP: From a political perspective, this is coming literally the day the search happen, literally the day after Biden said this to reporters in off the cuff reports. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: We're fully cooperating, looking forward to getting this resolved quickly. I think you're going to find, there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I have been following with the lawyers have told me they want me to do. That's exactly what we're doing. There's no there there.


PHILLIP: There's no there there.

TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: There is a high level of wishcasting on his part, hoping that this thing will be over with. And I think the president has a times, all of his public remarks have said, god willing I'll be able to say more later because God willing, this will be over is the implication.

And certainly, the level of cooperation and the emphasis on the president's lawyer statements, that were fully cooperating to try to move this investigation along, there really is, I think, from his -- from the White House perspective, a hope that this will not hang over them for the entire presidential campaign that isn't even launched.

PHILLIP: Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill in particular are pretty predictably seizing on this, just a sampling of some of the comments that have been made over the last couple of days. "Where doesn't Joe Biden have classified documents?" writes the Judiciary GOP's Twitter handle.

Elise Stefanik says, he is a grave threat to our national security.

J-Mart, I mean, on the one hand, none of these individuals seem to care when there are hundreds of documents found in Mar-a-Lago, but at the same time, this is a Republican House majority.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a gift. It's a gift. It's a gift from the gods of party unity for Kevin McCarthy and his inner circle who have been desperate to find some way, somehow to unify the party after his recent unpleasantness and Lord knows this is the best thing that they could imagine falling from the skies. So, yeah, they're embracing it.

What's striking to me is the Democratic relative silence. I mean, there is no lack of ambition in the Democratic Party. They're looking at a president who is, as we all know, going to be in his 80s here, somebody who now has a classified document issue. Yes, not quite the same. Does that matter politically? Not so much.

When does somebody step out, and does that happen at all this year? The force field around Joe Biden politically with his own party is so striking to me. Does that last all of 2023?

Importantly, if Donald Trump is not the threat by the summer or this fall, that Democrats think he is, and he's clearly not going to be the nominee, are Democrats going to wake up one day and say, I don't know, should we nominate somebody who is 81 against someone who's in his 40s?

PHILLIP: I mean, the force field is both striking, and really surprising considering they were not the hugest fan of Joe Biden to begin with.

MARTIN: Yes, right.

PHILLIP: But, Amy, this Biden political team, they have a perspective that the Washington noise is the Washington noise, and what's going on in the country is what's going on in the country.

Isaac Dovere, our colleague here at CNN wrote in a piece of interview at CNN, people around the president talk about the, quoted, D.C. elite making, quote, D.C. noise. And they argue that the attention to these documents may prove to be only the latest passing obsession.

What's your take?

AMY WALTER, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: I mean, there is an ephemeral- ness to all this, right? We know that in the next day or so, we're going to have, for example, in Fulton County, we're going to have the announcement about whether we're going to see the report from that special grand jury, looking into President Trump, right?


So, we can have an entire new news cycle about, okay, well, we have this classified documents, but oh my gosh, all right, here we have in Fulton County grand jury, making a decision, or at least we're getting to see the report on how they viewed the president, and his allies in trying to overturn that election in Georgia.

The thing that I will see for the D.C. elite piece, and only insiders care about it, I sat in a bunch of focus groups this week, and when asked, what are you seeing, hearing, what's going on in the world, what's going on in Washington? All of them said the classified documents.

Does it mean that this is the issue that's most salient for them? No. But is it breaking through? Absolutely, because to your point, it's something that people can understand. We heard this whole thing about Mar-a-Lago in these documents, and classified, and all the jokes about that. And now, oh, it's also happening with him.

MARTIN: They all do it, yeah.

PHILLIP: It's been in the news, so it's easier --

STEWART: How sticky it is, that's always the question, but it's definitely breaking through.


Paula Reid, thanks for bringing that latest news to us.

And coming up next, George Santos is trying to avoid the full truth about his life, but as those deceptions keep piling up, so will the questions from reporters.


REPORTER: Your take on the committees. People are saying you're not fit to serve on the House committees.

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Sir, you're blocking the elevator door.

REPORTER: Given your experience and your history, just your reaction to that.

SANTOS: I have no comments for you at the moment.

REPORTER: Nothing on the House committee seating?





PHILLIP: He's been dodging the press for days, but now, embattled Congressman George Santos is back in his home state, and he's facing another week of intense scrutiny. Our cameras were there on the ground, as a Republican lawmaker landed in New York's LaGuardia Airport yesterday.

And when he was asked about his whereabouts this week, Santos's answers or lack thereof, raise even more questions.


REPORTER: Congressman --

SANTOS: Email me, find my email.

REPORTER: Congressman, you haven't spoken to me.


SANTOS: I have zero -- I have zero takes for you guys right now. My take for you guys right now is that I'm focused on serving the American people.

REPORTER: Have you met with your constituents here, yet?

SANTOS: Yes, they have, plenty. I went to D.C. last night for a meeting and I'm back here today. I was here all week, and it's been fabulous serving the people.

REPORTER: Congressman, who did you speak with?

SANTOS: That's classified.


PHILLIP: Among the latest revelations we're learning, CNN has uncovered immigration documents that showed that Santos's mother was not in the country on 9/11 despite his claims that she survived the terrorist attacks. When he was pressed on this issue, well, let's just say, sometimes silence speaks volumes.


REPORTER: Congressman, was your mother at the World Trade Center on 9/11?

SANTOS: Look, this is not how you conducted interview.

REPORTER: Was your mother at the World Trade Center on 9/11?

Was your mother in the World Trade Center on 9/11?

Where was your mother on 9/11? Where was your mother on 9/11? Where was your mother on 9/11?


PHILLIP: It is just amazing, Eva. Eva, thanks for joining our group here.

You've been in this district. Lying about his family's heritage, Jewish heritage, line about his mother being in the towers on 9/11, and he claimed, later, that she died as a result of being exposed to smoke and particles on 9/11. That is incredible.

How long is he going to be able to walk by?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: You know, we will have to see, Abby, but yes, he couldn't answer the question. It is a lie. Immigration records show that his mother was not even in the country at the time.

And I think the problem for house Republicans as this is not going to let up. This is sort of going to dominate the hundred and 18 Congress. Questions about Santos. Committee hearings haven't even started yet.

Could you a magic in the circus that committee hearings are going to turn out? How is he going to be able to exchange with people during these hearings, asking the questions, all of this baggage? I think it really weighs down the conference.

PHILLIP: And just to be clear, he claimed that he got something classified on the Hill while in Washington. I have some questions about that too.

MARTIN: The classified week, Abby. The classified week. Yeah.

PHILLIP: Something tells me that's not true.

But the other thing that came out this week is this photograph that, allegedly, is George Santos in drag in Brazil, at a festival.

Listen to his answer when asked about whether he dressed in drag.


REPORTER: Congressman, were you ever a drag queen in Brazil?

SANTOS: No, I was not a drag queen in Brazil, guys. I was young and I had funded at a festival. Sue for having a life.


PHILLIP: So, is that a denial or a confirmation?

KEITH: I think he was saying he wasn't a queen, like maybe he wasn't that good at it. I don't know.

MARTIN: (INAUDIBLE) but not a queen, likely.

KEITH: But, so, the question of how long can this go, the answer is as long as he's willing to tolerate it, and as long as the voters are willing to tolerate it. So, this could probably go at least two years, as long as he's willing to just suffer through being confronted lie after lie --

MARTIN: Unless there's charges. Unless there's charges, right?

KEITH: Well, even then --

WALTER: He's still there, right.

KEITH: -- it's going to take a while for his trial.

WALTER: If he's indicted -- that's right, it'd take a while.

MARTIN: He can stick at indictment. A conviction, it's harder to stick at. I think the only way it ends unless McCarthy says ok, I'm going to give away a seat -- is he gets convicted of some kind of criminal charge.

Otherwise if he's willing to do this and the if cameras also follow him he'll keep on -- I mention that the Biden classified docs was a gift from the gods for the House GOP conference. Boy this is a gift from the gods for the news here because it's just a gift that keeps on giving.

There's new revelations every week about his various backgrounds and doings and stuff he is making up and it's obviously a huge embarrassment and distraction for the House GOP. But I just don't think Abby, they're willing to give away that seat.


MARTIN: He's the one seat in the House.

PHILLIP: A lot of things can happen, you know, in Congress and so every single seat matters when you're Kevin McCarthy.

But just on to the point about the drag queen thing, I mean I don't care. I know you guys don't care. He could be a drag queen if he wants.

But this is why it matters. Here's him talking about the so-called "Don't Say Gay Bill" in Florida.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): As a gay man I stand proudly behind not teaching our children sex or sexual orientation. That's incumbent on the parents not educators. DeSantis, you have my full-blown support and I support your decision to protect our children's innocence.


PHILLIP: So behind all of these lies are actual kind of policy statements that he's been making as well which just calls into question everything again.

AMY WALTER, EDITOR IN CHIEF, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Right. Well, and he has a vote. I mean this is the other piece of all of this, right, in a house that's so narrowly divided that, you know, he is potentially a deciding vote on real policies.

So for all the -- you know, we can laugh about all of the silliness of him walking through the airport and not answering questions there's something incredibly relevant and it does say to voters at the end of the day, right, what is Congress even there for? It lowers the stature of everybody in that body, right, when you're defined by the lowest common -- it's the lowest --

PHILLIP: Just to that point former congressman Peter King -- New York congressman wrote basically that. He asked how do committee members still sit for this guy in their midst? Every time he speaks he is going to be basically a spectacle.

By the way, Eva, he popped up this week at an I guess a temple.

MCKEND: It looks like a Hindu temple.

PHILLIP: Not really clear what that was about. What is he doing at this point?

MCKEND: I mean that's all he is going to be able to do, maybe make these unannounced visits that his staff is able to coordinate. But this really I think speaks to the frustration of the constituents that I have been hearing from.

He can't really hold any kind of town hall meeting announced in advance right without that sort of dissolving into a circus. Congress at its core is a collaborative body. Many lawmakers have indicated that they do not want to work with him.

And so ultimately, you know, representation matters. And that's what it's about. And this calls into question his ability to be able to do this. Lawmakers in the House they spend a lot of time ensuring that their districts have federal funding for certain projects.

All of that, it really calls into question the ability to be effective for that community.

PHILLIP: It's about constituent service. And if you can't -- if you have no influence on Capitol Hill it really calls all of that into question.

But stay with us. Coming up next, the U.S. is careening toward a showdown over the debt ceiling. Who will blink first?



PHILLIP: The leaders in Washington are playing a game of chicken and the fate of the global economy is hanging in the balance. The U.S. Treasury hit that $31.4 trillion debt ceiling cap on Thursday which has forced the U.S. to use what are known as extraordinary measures to keep paying its bills.

Now, the White House says that the debt ceiling should be raised immediately and that Republicans should get nothing for it.


KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is something that should be done without conditions. There shouldn't be -- we should not be negotiations around it.

CECILIA ROUSE, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: This is about congress making good on paying for the legislation and the bills and the obligations that it has already passed.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The president is not going to negotiate around the full faith and credit of the United States.


PHILLIP: Republican hardliners on the other hand are demanding budget cuts.


REP. SCOTT PERRY (R-PA): If he wants to take it to the brink then the fault and the blame will lie on the president of the United States.

REP. ANDY OGLES (R-TN): Any debt ceiling has to include cuts and so the whole idea that the sky is falling is really just kind of an empty threat.

REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): You don't just get the ability to expand the credit cards without having the necessary spending reforms. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Now, this is a revival of a tactic that was last employed during the Obama administration with to be fair nearly disastrous consequences for the nation. But we are living through it again, Tamara.

Do you think that the White House can continue to say no negotiations, period, the end, we'll talk about all that other stuff later?

KEITH: So I would say ask again in May. Like, the U.S. has bumped up into the debt ceiling but the Treasury secretary can use what's known as extraordinary measures to extend this out into some time in June. So ask again in May when the deadline feels more urgent on both sides.


KEITH: I will say that the president is supposed to meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Kevin McCarthy said it is about talking about the dealing with the debt. The White House says, oh no, said we are just having a meeting.

PHILLIP: With all the congressional leaders will just be there.

KEITH: Yes. It's just like -- (CROSSTALK)

These are not negotiations beginning. But, you know, I think that as this gets closer it will get more urgent.

But it is just stunning having covered this story in 2011. You could close your eyes and think you were in 2011. The arguments are exactly the same.

PHILLIP: Yes. And 2013, as well. One of the groups that we are looking at probably for the next two year, these moderates. Republicans in these Biden districts. Here's three of them.

Brian Fitzpatrick: I don't think that a clean debt ceiling is in order.

Don Bacon: The GOP can't demand the moon but Biden can't refuse to negotiate.

Mike Lawler: They are no longer in a one-party controlled government and it requires negotiation.

So what is the significance of these moderates saying that as we sit here, January 22, we could be doing this for another six months?

MCKEND: Yes. Listen. They can shift their weight around a little bit. They do have power with such small margins.

I think that the issue though is that this has the potential to become really a political loser for Republicans. This conversation about debt ceiling and then I think sometimes a similar argument around government shutdowns both sides end up really bruised. And I actually think Democrats might have an opportunity here because often Democrats are viewed as being weaker when it comes to talking about spending and economic issues. But actually the economic issues the Democrats champion are popular with most Americans, like expanding the social safety net, like expanding the child tax credit.

So if it shifts to that territory, Democrats actually might have a strong argument to make.

PHILLIP: And just I think a big factor in all of this, there's a real question about whether the United States can avoid a recession this year or go into a recession this year. And this will be a critical part of it.

We should point out Amy, that when we talk about the debt, you know, the deficit this is where I think Republicans were silent for the four years of Trump when he racked up 25 percent of all of the U.S. debt since 1789. Racked up in four years under Trump, added $7.8 trillion to the debt.

Nobody was talking about it then. This is both parties are responsible for where we are so can Republicans really make this argument that suddenly now it matters?

WALTER: They are making that argument, of course. And what's so different about -- it does feel very familiar to 2011. The big difference is I think both sides are more dug in now than they were even 2011.

So the moderates, you're absolutely right. They don't want to look as if they aren't serious about making budget cuts, right. They don't want to be seen as oh well, we are just Democratic lite or we're going to be with the Democrats on this issue. So they need to hold their ground as well.

And Democrats are saying exactly your point. This is hypocritical. They're going to lose on this just like they lost in 2011, just like Newt Gingrich and his party overreached in 1995. Republicans can't help themselves. They'll overreach, they'll get the blame.

And at the end of the day, to your point, when there are extraordinary measures taken is one thing but if we see a downgrade of the faith and credit of the United States, it has an impact on everybody, right. And that's something --


MARTIN: Including Kevin McCarthy's speakership.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean look, they're going to take it to the brink, JMart, I mean do you think that it's clear -- I mean it seems like the White House actually thinks that the history of this is clear. 2011, 2013 -- Republicans were blamed.

MARTIN: Yes. And that's the assumption again that Biden and the White House can get out there and say MAGA, MAGA, MAGA. And hey it worked for us in the midterms and we'll just keep portraying them as extremists. And this is the way this extremists move and it's all upside for us.

That's the bet that they're making. We'll see if it pans out. But I think to your point, I think Kevin McCarthy is going to be unlikely to cave until he absolutely has to if then at all. Why? Because his speakership is in the balance.


MCKEND: But you have to question the sincerity of some of these arguments. Because some of the very same spending that these Republicans bemoan, they actually voted for and then go back to their districts and celebrate those wins.

PHILLIP: Or they didn't vote for it and they go back to their districts and celebrate the wins.


PHILLIP: And of course, Kevin McCarthy, to your point, JMart, it only takes one of them to call up a vote to kick him out of that chair. So we'll see how that goes.

Coming up next for us though, Ron DeSantis is widely believed to be eyeing a White House run in 2024 but the question that some supporters are asking, will voters find him likable enough to elect him as president?



PHILLIP: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is back in the headlines for doing what he does best, picking fights and waging culture wars. In just the last week, he continued his attack on COVID vaccine and mask mandates pushing a new law that would ban them permanently.

Then he ordered Florida universities to provide detailed information on health care provided to transgender students.

And to round it all out, his administration banned high schools from offering a new advanced placement course in African American studies.


PHILLIP: So what's his issue with it? Well, he says that the fact that the class includes topics like the movement for black lives and black queer studies and black feminism and reparations, that as well as the inclusion of black authors and historians whose writings, the governor's office claim, touch on critical race theory and black communism.

So this should come as no surprise to everyone. Ron DeSantis is searching for this fight, but is that going to be enough? WALTER: Well, he's fighting two wars right now. He's fighting the war

for the Republican nomination and making sure that he's getting himself positioned in front of the people who were going to look for other choice other than Donald Trump, both the donor's class -- probably not as much the donor class but the class of constituents that he needs to win in a primary.

But the other worry he's eventually going to have to face is how does he pivot to be a candidate to win in states that aren't as red as Florida, right. He's got to be able to.

We learned this lesson in 2020. We learned it again in 2022. The candidates who succeed in Pennsylvania, in Arizona, in Georgia are the ones who aren't trying to run as the emblem of a red state or an emblem of a blue state.

I mean I think Brian Kemp ran probably the best re-election campaign in the last year, in part because he was able to do that balance so well between keeping the base happy, but winning over the purple.

PHILLIP: And let the records show Amy just said the red state of Florida which once was a purple state.

But JMart, you've got a story out on Ron DeSantis, but it takes a look at something that people (INAUDIBLE) about a lot if you talk to Republicans.

MARTIN: Right.

PHILLIP: Just an excerpt from your piece. You write, "The griping for now is mostly coming from Republican donors, some of whom crave contact with politicians nearly as much as lower marginal rates and reliable Gulfstreams.

Yet, the complains about his interpersonal skills are symptomatic of a deeper challenge for the governor of which he and his small inner circle have told people they're conscious of -- his capacity for forging connections with people.

This is a Ron DeSantis who is really good at getting the Fox News headlines, but then there are also moments like this. Just take a look at this from back when there was a major, major storm in Florida. This image of DeSantis basically became viral.

Joe Biden in the back doing what he does best, glad-handing people, and Ron DeSantis kind of on his own. And maybe that's a bit unfair. But this is a little bit of what people are getting out there.

MARTIN: Yes. I was in Tallahassee for his inauguration, and it was striking because he did do some of the sort of TLC-type stuff for donors there. And Abby, you would have thought that he had hung the moon because he finally gave them some love, which just shows you how starved they are for it and how little of it DeSantis has done.

And I think you know, we know what he can do well for his base. You touched on that in the intro. That's obviously his sort of forte. We don't know what other muscles he has. And it's going to take a sort

of different skill set to win a primary where you're sort of competing within your own party and taking on your own party rather than just savaging the left and the media.

And then to Amy's point, if he can get through a primary, does he have the skill set to run in a general election where you're dealing with voters in states that are very different from Florida.

PHILLIP: And I have one word -- Iowa. I mean how does this work when he's on the campaign trail and he's got to interact with people in really intimate settings and is not going to be able to just rely on these kinds of attention-grabbing things and certainly may not be able to rely on just yelling woke at people.

KEITH: You know, you have to wonder if Donald Trump was the great exception or whether you can just fly a chopper into the IOWA state fair, wow everybody with your ability to get attention and, you know, become president of the United States.

And so I think Ron DeSantis is betting on some variation of that by becoming a conservative celebrity. When you're out talking to voters, literally the only Republican they can name most times other than Donald Trump is Ron DeSantis. So he is succeeding at that.

And those headlines you put up there earlier. Those headlines also, at least one of them, got a response from the White House.

And so if he's getting attention, he is doing what he's trying to do, and he's getting that attention without doing the current feeding of donors or the press that traditional presidential --


PHILLIP: I want to just get in one more thing here. We are now the 22nd of January. By February 1st, four years ago, this is what the Democratic field looked like heading into a presidential election. That's a lot of potential candidates.

So far on the Republican side we have one, Donald Trump. Why?

MCKEND: Well, I think that Donald Trump, we should not underestimate the favor that he still has with Republican voters. And I think no one wants to jump out first.


MCKEND: But I think all of this concentration on DeSantis sort of -- you know, he still has to potentially clear this Republican primary. And I think beating Trump would be no easy feat.

But I also -- something that does not get lifted up enough in the conversation about DeSantis is his work on this election task force where he rounded up formerly incarcerated black folks.

It was a really troubling event. That is not sort of the ingredient, I think, of someone who can be successful in a general election. So I think that is something really important to remember.

Yes, DeSantis plays to the base, but can he really win with most voters? We'll have to wait and see.

MARTIN: You know, among governors too. And that's an important issue -- if you don't have friends in the ranks of your fellow governors, that's a (INAUDIBLE) an advantage that past candidates have really had.

PHILLIP: We've got to go now. But that's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Coming up next here on CNN, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests this morning include Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Joe Manchin, plus Republican Congressman Michael McCaul.

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