Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Nation Reacts to Deadly Beating of Tyre Nichols; Trump on 2024: More "Angry" & "Committed" Than Ever; Santos Delivers House Speech On Holocaust After Lying About It; Biden Touts Strong Economic Numbers As Recession Fears Ease; RNC Showdown. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired January 29, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): An American tragedy. The brutal killing of another Black man at the hands of law enforcement has the country asking once again, when does this end?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've got to change. They've got a reform. Clean house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden said it best. We must pass the George Floyd Police Reform Act.

PHILLIP: Plus, he's back. President Trump hits the 2024 campaign trail for the first time.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: We will win the New Hampshire primary. We are going to take back our country and we'll take back the White House.

PHILLIP: But will it be enough to jump-start his flagging third bid for the White House?

And follow the money.

REPORTER: What is the source of the 500K that was initially declared (ph) as a personal loan on your -- on your FEC?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Sorry. Excuse me, please. Pardon me. Thank you.

PHILLIP: New revelations raised fresh questions as to who exactly funded George Santos's campaign.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Hello and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Phillip.

He was a young father starting a new life in a new city. And now, 29 year old Tyre Nichols is gone. His life tragically cut short in a case of police violence that even for some veterans have described is unlike anything they have ever seen.

The footage is shocking and harrowing. More than an hour of several recordings released by police showing how -- what was supposed to be a traffic stop became a brutal beating. We will not show you that video this morning. But what it does show is this. Officers dragging Nichols from the car within seconds of the stop, assaulting him and physically and verbally beating him.

Nichols attempted to comply with their conflicting demands, pleading with officers. I'm just trying to get home.

The swift action that was taken against those officers by Memphis police chief, Cerelyn Davis, has been praised by many, including Tyre Nichols' family attorney, Ben Crump.


BEN CRUMP, NICHOLS FAMILY ATTORNEY: No longer can you tell a sweet got to wait six months to a year, even though we got a video, with evidence of excessive force, in the crime. We now have the blueprint, America. And we won't accept less going forward in the future. We won't have Black officers treated differently than White officers. We want equal justice under the law.


PHILLIP: And here in the nation's capital, President Biden called the video a painful reminder of the profound fear, trauma and exhaustion Black and Brown Americans experience every day.

And this week, he also spoke with Nichols' mother RowVaughn Wells and delivered this direct message for all on Capitol Hill to hear.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Expressed my condolences and told her that I was going to be making the case to the Congress to pass the George Floyd Act. We should get this under control. I can only do so much with an executive order at the federal level.


PHILLIP: Let's discuss all of this and more with CNN's David Chalian, Astead Herndon of "The New York Times", NPR's Asma Khalid, and Wesley Lowery, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author covering law enforcement, justice and race.

Thank you all for joining us this morning.

And, Wes, especially to you on this particular morning which feels a little bit like deja vu, I have to say. I was going to watch this video after covering this all week, and decided against it because it's really not all that necessary to see a man beaten to death. The news this morning, though, is that this unit that these five

officers belong to, it's called the SCORPION Unit, stands for Street Crimes Operations to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods. It's been disbanded. The interesting thing about this from a public policy perspective is that these units seem to have been put in place back in 2021, in an attempt to do some kind of version of community policing which is one of those buzzword phrases that we hear in Washington all the time as a potential solution to these kinds of problems.

WESLEY LOWERY, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING JOURNALIST: Sure. I mean, I think the Memphis police would have you believe that was to do a version of community policing. I think that more accurately it was to do hot spot policing. It's this kind of policing where you flood a certain neighborhood or high crime region with a lot of officers a lot of attention under the theory that most crimes committed by small population of people.

These are the types of units being stood up across the country in response to the rising crime rates that we've seen during the COVID pandemic. These are the types of units likely to be stood up as part of President Biden's federal spending to increase police officers.


And so, really, we've seen a big push in recent years to put more officers on the street in units like the so-called Scorpion unit. This has been part of the result.

PHILLIP: And the police chief here is such an interesting figure. A Black woman, the first Black woman to be chief of police here in that city in Memphis. She's also known to be something of a reformer. I want to play a bit of what she testified to on Capitol Hill back in 2020.


CHIEF CERELYN "CJ" DAVIS, DURHAM POLICE: As an African American woman, I can unequivocally attest to the perpetual existence of discriminatory practices that remain a haunting reality for people of color throughout our nation. It is critical that we first acknowledge the pressing need for comprehensive holistic approach to change, and then urgently begin the process of mapping the way forward towards policing re-imagined.


PHILLIP: I mean, David, it just seems to underscore to me how difficult this all is, even when you put someone in that position who talks about this issue of so-called police reform. It doesn't stop these incidents from happening.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, it's hard to imagine how you can legislate a solution to a total lack of regard for humidity. I mean, that -- I know you didn't watch it.

PHILLIP: Yeah, that's a huge part of it. CHALIAN: It's very difficult to come up with a legislative solution to the horrific actions that we saw, which doesn't mean that there won't be continued efforts to reform and that reform is necessary. It's just -- how do you solve a problem when you have human beings not recognizing the humanity of someone else that, by the way, they're charged to serve and protect?

But even -- you're talking about that unit. She -- the police chief did a quick 180 on this. She initially was in defense of --

PHILLIP: Yeah, clearly, on Friday.

CHALIAN: On Friday and then very quickly turned around with this disbanding of it.

PHILLIP: Yeah. So, Wes, you have said all along, this is back in 2020. You wrote this piece. Police reform alone won't stop it another George Floyd for being murdered. I think we can all at this table say you are right.

And also an element of this, the race of the cops is such -- has become such a political hotbed. But again, the issue here to me is the stop in the first place. Why was he stopped, in the first place?

LOWERY: And we still don't really have satisfying information about this. Frankly, I think it will probably be a mass of criminal proceedings play out, which could be months and to years from now that we really get the full explanation of how, at least, from the officers' perspective of how this incident began.

But when we look at Memphis, we look at the department has done all types of things in terms of reform. This is a department that is majority Black officers with a Black woman reformer police chief that has instituted a ban on no-knock warrants, a duty to intervene if officers are harming each other, de-escalation policies, a smorgasbord of every reform anyone could ever want.

And here, we have watched on the body cameras as the officers have done this. And so, it does speak to the limitations of the types of reforms we see often and often.

I mean, right now, one of the big pushes from attorney Ben Crump and others is to renew efforts around the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which I think contains a lot of important steps. It's also worth noting there is nothing that act that would have prevented George Floyd from being killed, much less Tyre Nichols from being killed.

And so, when we talk about reform, we're talking about very often band-aids over bullet holes.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: I think one of the difficulties that you hear right now with the Democratic Party is this question about what does it really mean to make a community safer. I think look at this from a political lens, at the White House.

You hear President Biden. He's been advocating for more cops on the street. This is part of his push into midterms 100,000 more cops over the next five years.

You look at the COVID relief money, a chunk of that went towards reforming police departments. You know, President Biden's viewpoint is largely been that more cops on the street makes community safer. And I do think there is a debate going out of the Democratic Party if -- about whether or not actually having more cops on the street actually makes communities safer.

PHILLIP: And you can make an argument that maybe we wouldn't be sitting here talking about this if it were not for statistics like this. Just take a look at the trajectory of violent crime in Memphis. Look at that year, 2021, right, that is the post-COVID year. That's when CJ Davis became the police chief. That's when the Scorpion Unit came into existence, in an effort to deal with that spike in crime.

And so that's what Democrats have to contend with that, while also wanting to address the real issues around policing.

Before you jump in, Astead, I do want to just make a note here about what we're hearing on Capitol Hill. We have a lot of Democrats speaking out. I want to just highlight Senator Joe Manchin statement here. He says now more than ever, we as a nation must unite in one voice. Not only speak out against such brutality but these are positions of power influence to make meaningful change so that no other family must endure this pain.


And then one other, which is significant, Senator Tim Scott who was a part of the police reform efforts. And to my ear, looking around, there have been some Republican statements but not a ton.

But here's his statement. He says: This was a man beaten by the power of the state. We must gets this blatant disregard for human life, especially from those we trust with immense power and responsibility. Let it serve as a call to action for every lawmaker in our nation at every level. The only way to bring light from the darkness is to be united.

This is a man, Tim Scott. He says he's been stopped 18 times just for being Black. He understands this.

But his party seems to be wanting to ignore it.

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I think it speaks to the rock and hard place nature of this issue, because as you say, Democrats do know that they cannot embrace the kind of sloganeering of the 2020 year. You've had President Biden really trying to step away from the kind of activists pushes to defund police and the like.

But I think you see the reasons why those activists and clarity around things like systemic reform for policing because the typical kind of mainstream Democratic responses to police brutality, things like diversifying police forces. This incident speaks to the shortcomings of those reforms. And so, it is a question, the onus is on the Democratic Party to speak

to the deep rooted nature of this issue and policing. And to respond to the kind of communities who are calling for what justice looks like.

There's no universal meaning of that. I remember being in the line at George Floyd's memorial in Houston in 2020. And even in that time, when you talk to people who are universally condemning those actions, universally sympathetic, emphatic with what happened, they are not saying -- they are not saying that means we must have less cops in the street. Americans are divided on what the solution here is, but they are united that there is a deep-rooted problem.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I think as always, the American people have more of a sense of nuance about these things than the elected leaders seem to at times.

I want to make one more note. This was a largely peaceful weekend in terms of protests. I think it is to the credit of officials in Memphis, a testament to their efforts to move quickly on this case, in response to the legitimate demands of the community that action be taken.

But coming up next for us, former President Trump has hit the 2024 campaign trail for the first time. But is the campaign reboot underway? We'll have more next.



PHILLIP: All right. He is back on the trail. Seventy-four days since announcing his third bid for the White House, former President Trump has made his first 2024 campaign stop yesterday. He's appearances in New Hampshire and South Carolina come as questions have been raised about what has been so far, which is a very slow-moving campaign, concerns that he addressed head on.


TRUMP: They said, he's not campaigning. This is like -- about a month ago when I announced. Well, I said, you know, I get two years. They said he's not doing rallies. He's not campaigning. Maybe he's lost that step. I'm more angry now and I'm more committed now than I ever was.


PHILLIP: And for the record, he announced closer to two months ago, but while the small scale of his events yesterday were a far cry from his traditionally large rallies, what he chose to think about would be very familiar to you.


TRUMP: We're going to restore election integrity. We have to we. We have a woke military that can't fight or win.

They're sending people that are killers, murderers. They're sending rapists. And they're sending frankly terrorists.

We go to New York, nobody ever gets prosecuted. I'm the only one they go after.

We have men being encouraged to compete against women in sports.

Wind turbines are all made in China.


PHILLIP: Alex Burns of "Politico" is back with us on the panel, and so are the wind minds, all right, killing off the bird population which is a favorite of Trump's.

So, Alex, this is clearly an attempt to kind of jump-started his campaign. But it was still kind of low energy.

ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, it really was. I do think, Abby, in that clip that you just played, it's a really revealing moment where he says, you know, they say that he's lost his step, but don't worry, I'm still really angry.

It's not really the point here, right? I don't think anybody doubts adult Trump's pretty angry man. I think what the question is whether he is fully engaged with a task running for president. The answer is that he obviously is not.

And also, whether he has something to say that's really relevant at this moment, right, that can really connect with first Republican primary electorate and then much more importantly, the broad American public. When you hear him talking about so unfair how he's getting investigated in New York, how the wind turbines kill birds. I don't think he did when turbines cause cancer at this event. But I'm sure we'll hear that when again.

He just sounds like a guy from a different time, right, a guy who sort of trying to do the 2016 thing, but in a smaller scale and with less sort of organic enthusiasm around it.

And what I will say just in the vein of putting an asterisk on everything I just said is, I covered his campaign launched back in 2015. And I remember for a couple of months after that, there was a fascination with the spectacle of it all, but the sort of persistent question of, is he serious? Is he really running? Is he really going to go for it? In the end, he did.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I don't think we can really make any broad judgments based on what's happening right now. But it does seem to me, David, that he's responding to the environment, which is that other people are thinking about running. He responded to two of them yesterday as well.


TRUMP: Nikki Haley called me the other day to talk to me, I talked to her for a little while.


But I said, look, you know, go by your heart, if you want to run. She's publicly stated that I would ever run against my president. He was a great president.

Florida was actually closed for a great, long period of time, you remember he closed the beaches and everything else? You know, it's -- they're trying to rewrite history.


PHILLIP: By they, he means Ron DeSantis.

CHALIAN: It is interesting because he is -- clearly searching, I think, Alex, for what you're describing as the message of sorts that isn't just, let me revisit the greatest hits.

And there is no doubt, Abby, to your point that he's trying to fill the void right now because he's the only declared presidential candidate. And so, he wants to set the terms of the bag for Haley and DeSantis and start making sure that it's all playing out on his terms. I'm not sure that will be the case, but that is clearly his hope.

What is also different -- I think we can't -- he is a twice impeached former president who is facing a ton of legal peril right now in multiple investigations. That by its nature no matter how much he wants to dismiss it makes him a different Donald Trump in this moment entering this third campaign than we've seen him before.

PHILLIP: And what exactly is the pitch to voters here?

KHALID: I guess the pitch is that America was great when he was president. And he's going to make it great again. I mean, that -- he has kind of been rehashing a lot of his old heads policy-wise, at least, you know, when you listen to what he saying.

But I mean, I do think there are to me, questions still about whether or not -- you know, I was curious what you said, Alex, because I think there was a lot of skepticism when he first ran. I am a skeptical now too. But the one thing that keeps me still pausing is that nobody else has entered the field yet.

There was a lot of enthusiasm ahead of the midterms when I was talking to voters for Ron DeSantis. People thought he could legislate. That he had a lot of Trump ideas but he could sort of speak to them in a more eloquent way.

Ron DeSantis has not officially entered. Other people are still waiting in the wings. So, at least for now, I mean, there does seem to be this hesitation within the Republican Party to see where he goes. HERNDON: There is absolutely hesitation on those other challengers,

and on comfort even with the reality of it, I mean, it's Trump, that he still not an easy person to run against.

But I think another thing has really stuck out for me about this version of the Trump campaign because there has been a real energy on the grassroots, Republican side, over the speaker fight, and over replacing Ronna McDaniels as RNC chair.

And Donald Trump was on the wrong side of both of those things. He is not only from the perspective of the Republican grassroots. So, not only are we talking about a candidate who is rehashing kind of old fights but in the way that the movement he has inspired has transitioned, particularly since the midterms I was seen as universally disappointing, he is not speaking that same language right now.

And so, you not only have a Donald Trump disconnect with what we know with the kind of Republican establishment figures to blame him for those midterms candidates elections. You also have a disconnect between Donald Trump and the Republican grassroots right now which is currently organized -- which currently has been motivated by things where he was on these complete opposite side.

PHILLIP: I want to get back to something we were just discussing which is why aren't there more Republicans putting their name in the that?

Bob Vander Plaats is an Iowa conservative activists told "Politico" that I think it's going to be one of those deals of who's going to break first, who's going to be the first announced candidate. Once that person gets in, you'll see others follow suit.

So, who will it be? Will it be -- are they all waiting for DeSantis to get in perhaps?

BURNS: You know, it reminds me one of those old martial arts movies where like the bad guys run at Bruce Lee one of the time and he just demolishes them. There is a collective action problem here. The first person to get it is going to find themselves in this brutal firefight with Donald Trump. None of them really has the firepower to go up against him except maybe Ron DeSantis who seems like he's going to take his time and let Florida's legislative session play out.

I do think there's a real risk on the part of other candidates of overthinking this, right, and trying to find exactly the right time to get in, where at the end of the day, if you want to beat Donald Trump, you should probably get in there and beat Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: There is no good solution to this because if you get in too early, you'll probably get a nickname. You'll just be out there. You are neck out there for him to attack.

BURNS: I totally agree with that. At the same time, it's not like the Trump playbook is a mystery at this point.


BURNS: He's not a complex thinker.


BURNS: Take the nicknames. Figure out something else to do about that.

PHILLIP: All right. Everybody, standby.

Coming up next for us, how exactly did embattled Congressman George Santos finance his campaign? Our reporters keep asking him and he keeps not answering.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Santos, you listed a wrong name of our treasurer. Why did you list the wrong name of your treasurer on your campaign finance forms?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): I'll have a conversation with you when you become a better honest reporter.

RAJU: I'm asking you directly --

SANTOS: You're a dishonest reporter and you know that.




PHILLIP: Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle commemorated international Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday, including this one.


SANTOS: I would like to take a moment to acknowledge a grandmother of one of my D.C. staffers who is a 93-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and is also one of the few survivors of her family who was tragically lost at the hands of Nazi murderers. Antisemitism is a plague in this nation. And it is undoubtedly up to us to ensure this kind of tragedy is never to be seen again.


PHILLIP: So, just as a reminder. George Santos lied about being Jewish. And not only that, he also lied about his grandparents escaping the Holocaust.


SANTOS: I've seen how socialism destroys people's lives because my grandparents survived the Holocaust. For a lot of people who are descendants of World War II refugees or

survivors of the Holocaust, a lot of names and paperwork were charged in the name of survival. So, I don't carry the family last name -- that would've been Zabrovsky.



PHILLIP: That is -- it is amazing. But it is just in the context of very sober and somber moment of Holocaust remembrance. I mean no shame.


CHALIAN: Exactly. I actually had in my office the house floor camera up and I was not alerted that he was going to take the floor and all of a sudden I was like, oh no. He is not going to really do this, right now. He's just trolling us at this point.

So yes, no shame is one thing here but for all the distraction that is George Santos, I do think the campaign finance piece of this is the piece we should keep our eyes on because it is clear Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans are not interested in doing anything about Santos.

But if indeed there is a criminal investigation into his campaign finances that emerges with an indictment that will change the calculus. That will -- all of a sudden that will change Kevin McCarthy's behavior, one would imagine, as it relates to George Santos. So I would keep our eyes on what's happening with his finances.

HERNDON: And pretty much the only thing that might change the calculus because the unwillingness on the House Republican side is so high.

I mean this -- George Santos -- I mean the audacity is kind of stunning on every level as you pointed about, the same with (INAUDIBLE). But I think also we see someone who is reveling in their newfound fame.

I think it speaks to a new type of Congress we have on our hands where we think that there are some figures who are there for the serious business of legislating but there are other figures who are there for the very unserious business of just trying to become a celebrity.


PHILLIP: Well, here's the thing about being on Capitol Hill, you're not going to escape the reporters.

Manu Raju doing the lord's work trying to get some answers out of George Santos.


MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Why did you amend your FEC report to say $500,000 --

SANTOS: No, no. Let's make it very clear, I don't amend anything. I don't touch any of my (INAUDIBLE). So don't be disingenuous in reports that I did because you know that every campaign hires fiduciaries. So I'm not aware of that answer and we'll have an answer for the press regarding the amendments from yesterday's figures.

RAJU: Whare are -- what was the source of your funds, sir? What was the source of that money?

Mr. Santos, you listed the wrong name of the treasurer. Why did you list the wrong name of your treasurer on your campaign finance form?

SANTOS: I will have a conversation with you when you become a better honest reporter.

RAJU: I'm asking you directly --

SANTOS: You're a dishonest reporter and you know that.


PHILLIP: Now, this is all good and fun until the Feds come calling.

ASMA KHALID, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Right. And a Department of Justice investigation, right. And the FEC like (INAUDIBLE) -- I think that that totally changes the calculation.

I think that everything we have seen to date has been relatively disingenuous but I would also argue that we've entered an era of politics -- where a lot of politicians lie about things.

That being said, yesterday Donald Trump -- or was it yesterday -- saying that George Santos told a lot of whoppers. And so when you have the former president who was known not to be the most honest calling you out for your level of honesty, that does perhaps, you know, elevate that situation.

But I agree with everyone here at the table. I don't think it changes -- nothing changes the calculation for House Republican leadership unless there's an actual investigation.

PHILLIP: Yes. And then this is all despite the fact that according to a new poll out this week his constituents want him to go. 64 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of Independent New York state voters say he should resign.

Meanwhile, Alex, this is Kevin McCarthy responding to questions about why he won't do something, really anything to try to at least cordon off George Santos from being a member in good standing in the House of Representatives.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I try to stick by the constitution. The voters elected him to serve. If there's a concern they have to (INAUDIBLE) let him move through that.

The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part out the Republican conference. You know why I'm standing by him? Because his constituents voted for him.


PHILLIP: And as former speaker Paul Ryan put it just a few weeks ago, he was elected but based on a fraudulent candidacy it seems.

BURNS: Look I think it's not totally indefensible as an argument to say that the guy got elected and I don't particularly want him to be elected. But here we are. So let him participate in the business of the body.

It's very hard to make that argument in a convincing way when you're also trying to kick Ilhan Omar off the Foreign Affairs committee because you object to elements of her world view, right. But she was also elected by her constituents in Minneapolis.

And so if you take the view generally that, you know, the voters are the ultimate arbiters of all of this and we have to deferential to them, you need to sort of stick to that.


BURNS: I will say this is totally characteristic of Kevin McCarthy to make decisions based on the most short term calculus possible. And then make a different set of decision whenever that calculus changes.

But look, he needs that vote right now or he thinks he needs that vote right now. He doesn't want a special election on Long Island under these circumstances.

But the problem is you are going to need to win that seat again in two years one way or another. And if George Santos just sort of strings you along until he actually winds up running for reelection, that's a bigger headache or if the voters of that district see you and your party as coddling this guy who is just an unbelievably offensive character then even if he doesn't run for reelection, good luck to your next candidate.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean his colleagues among New York Republicans are basically making that argument. They're like we need this guy gone because he's hurting all of us. And also we should note, he is on Capitol Hill trying to make friends, having a bit of a tough time because other members kind of don't want to be associated with him because I think everybody recognizes that they could be kind of tarnished by an association with someone who frankly they don't even know who he is.

But coming up next, stronger than expected economic numbers give hope to the White House that the U.S. could avoid a recession. That's next.



PHILLIP: The U.S. economy remains resilient. That was the very welcome news President Biden received this week. The economy grew once again in the last quarter of 2022. GDP rose 2.9 percent marking a solid six months of growth.

And on top of that, the unemployment rate fell to just below 3.5 percent in December. That's the lowest it's been in 50 years. All of which the president made sure to spotlight.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Economic growth is up. stronger than experts expected, it's 2.9 percent, we're going.

Jobs -- jobs are the highest in -- number and the highest in American history. And wages are up and they're growing faster than inflation over the past six months. Inflation has gone down every month and God willing, we'll continue to do that.


PHILLIP: Our panel is back. And Asma, this is going to be literally on a knife's edge. Like we don't know which way this could go. Could be a soft landing, maybe. But it is probably slightly more likely than not that it could be a recession.

Is it wise for the White House to do this?

KHALID: I think it's incredibly risky to be banking your, you know, potential 2024 re-elect on the health of the economy. You know, ahead of the midterms, the economists I was speaking with across the board would say that there are definitely risks of a recession, not necessarily a deep recession but a recession sometime in this calendar year.

And you know, look, I think the president is correct. GDP numbers were strong but inflation is still objectively high. It is slowing but you're talking about 6.5 percent inflation, you know, anybody who goes to a grocery store, buys a coffee, pretty much any form of consumer expenditures realizes that things are more expensive now than they were a year ago.

So I hear what the president is saying. Yes, there are some very positive economic data points but I think it's risky given that, you know, the Fed is still increasing interest rates and we don't have a full sense of how the economy will play out.

PHILLIP: And meanwhile there is a major changing of the guard inside the White House. Ron Klain, White House chief of staff is leaving and he's going to be replaced by Jeff Zients. He is a veteran of the Obama White House as well.

Just a little bit about him. He is the COVID coordinator for Biden. He was a former OMB director under Obama. He helped fix when many of us remember, was a fiasco. He spend 20 years in the private sector, is extremely wealthy and also owns a bagel shop here in Washington D.C.

But this -- you know, this is Chuck Schumer explaining the Jeff Zients of it all. He says, "He's organized, focused and deliberate, exactly the right person to lead the Biden administration and ensure the American people see and feel the benefits of these new laws.

So this is the Biden White House going with their Plan A which is to say this year and next year is all going to be about implementing. It's all going to be about governance. It's all going to be about policy. But there is a lot of politics happening at the same time.

CHALIAN: Yes. Well, he maybe running for reelection and we maybe weeks away from an announcement of that, right. So the idea if you talk to folks inside the White House is put Jeff Zients in to do all that operational stuff, while the focus of many others is going to be getting President Biden re-elected if he chooses to run.

Obviously Zients will be focused on that as well. I think you can't really underestimate the departure of Klain. This is -- we don't normally see presidents have aides that have been with them for decades at a very senior level. And that is the case with Klain and Biden.

Obviously Ron Klain is still going to be in Joe Biden's ear. There is no doubt about that.

PHILLIP: And he said that he's perhaps going to go on to the campaign --

CHALIAN: And certainly have some role.

But that day-to-day running the West Wing and the White House and the administration for the president, the president's losing someone he knows very well and he's getting someone he doesn't know nearly as well but has a lot of faith that he's going to be able to operationally drive all that implementation.

PHILLIP: The reason I say this is Plan A is because what the White House didn't really foresee was this documents issue that has created a special counsel that they now have to contend with.

It's created some real problems. We don't know how longstanding they will be but they are going to have to deal with this.

BURNS: Oh, they certainly -- they are and will. And you know, look, I think if you want to sort of unpack this plan as it's supposed to work right, is when a president is facing an investigation of that kind, what you want to be able to do is say the investigation's over there. Direct your questions to the investigation. Meanwhile over here I'm going to go about doing the work of governing and do the business of the American people.

And getting that, you know, the success of that whole plan means you have to really, really get it right on the execution side.

So yes, Jeff Zients is the guy who's in there to handle implementation, other people do the campaign.


BURNS: But implementation to a great degree is the campaign, right. That in a world where the Chips implementation and the IRA implementation goes really well and we're you know -- we skirt this recession and Joe Biden can go into the winter -- you know, next winter and early 2024 saying happy days are here again, you know, promises made, promises kept.

That's a totally different world than one where he's dealing with his own version of while the investigations are going on.

PHILLIP: And I just want to make a note on the documents thing that brought up. This new CNN poll askes whether -- how Americans feel about the Trump versus Biden cases. Are they different, are they the same.

52 percent say Trump acted illegally with classified documents. 37 percent say Biden did. The point I'm making here is we should always remember the American people are discerning individuals. They understand the differences between one thing and the other. And we shouldn't treat them like they are stupid and like all things are the same.

So coming up next for us, we will take you inside the contentious battle to lead the GOP ahead of the next presidential election. Stay with us.



PHILLIP: Since taking over the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel has overseen the GOP losing the House, losing the Senate, and losing the White House. And yet, on Friday, top RNC members re-elected her for a historic fourth term.


RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Nothing we do is more important than making sure that joe Biden is a one-term president. But in order to do that, we have to be unified. We have to be unified in that effort.


PHILLIP: McDaniel easily beat a credible challenger Harmeet Dhillon by earning 111 votes to Dhillon's 51 votes. Conspiracy theorist My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell got four. Former President Trump declined to pick a favorite in this contentious race, which ended up becoming a proxy war between the grassroots and the GOP establishment. But he seemed pleased with the results and he congratulated McDaniel on her, quote, "big win".

Now Astead, you were out in California for all of this as it went down. Leading into this, things got really hot and really contentious between these two sides. And it would be probably, I think honestly, a little confusing to people on the outside, really what the difference is, at the end of the day, between Ronna McDaniel and Harmeet Dhillon and even the My Pillow CEO. But what did you see on the ground there?

HERNDON: It was an interesting kind of battle lines forming between the three candidates for RNC. To your point, you had Ronna McDaniel running for re-election. But you couldn't really argue that she was just the kind of establishment figure. This is someone whose career had been made by Donald Trump. A lot of the people arguing against her, some of those included pretty anti-Trump figures.

The support that came to back Dhillon was a mixture of people who both thought McDaniel was to blame for election losses, and some of whom thought that she was too close to Donald Trump, that she was not a credible figure going ahead to the 2024 primary.

And so it was a kind of convolution of interests that led to the challenge against McDaniel, but because this is a group that is not really a grassroots focus group, they backed her in the face of that challenge.

But there was universal fear at that event, that that was going to lead to kind of an outsider backlash. There was a universal fear at that event that going ahead in the primary, that they could be kind of making it easier for candidates, maybe not Donald Trump, but other candidates, to make the case that the Republican Party is not doing enough to infuse new blood.

PHILLIP: Well, this infusion of new blood debate is just a continuation of something the Republicans have been dealing with. On Capitol Hill, they tried to get rid of Kevin McCarthy, tried to get rid of Mitch McConnell, none of that worked.

The Republican Party seems to be sticking with what they've been doing all along.

BURNS: Well, look, I think to Astead's point, I would say this is the beginning of a process of challenge and trial for Ronna McDaniel, not the end of that process. The fact that she got re-elected against this, you know, credible but significant underdog challenger in Harmeet Dhillon, you know, I have not seen a sitting party chair lose 55 votes in that kind of sitting before.

I have also not seen a sitting party chair try to get a fourth term after losing in each of their previous three terms. I think you can draw the connection to the Kevin McCarthy fight. That is a saga that is only just beginning.

The Republican Party is in a phase of transition and internal tension and they are going to hash out what they really stand for and who's really in charge going into 2024.

I think very, very notably, this last week, where you're hearing Ron DeSantis out publicly questioning whether Ronna McDaniel is really a serious and credible independent steward of the party. PHILLIP: And let's play that sound right now.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think we need a change. I think we need to get some new blood in the RNC. I like what Harmeet Dhillon has said about getting the RNC out of D.C. I think it's going to be very difficult to energize people to want to give money, to want to volunteer their time with the RNC if they don't see a change in direction.


PHILLIP: What do you make of that, Chalian? I mean is he trying to differentiate himself from Trump by, you know, backing one of Trump's former lawyers?

CHALIAN: Yes. I think it was a move where he thought, hey, if there is real payoff here at the end, and Harmeet Dhillon somehow pulls us out, I was like the kingmaker.

PHILLIP: He can take credit --



CHALIAN: -- the downside isn't so bad.

In fact, some people suggested to me, talking to them in the last week, you know, perhaps he's seeding the ground here a little bit that if he feels something is unfair in the adjudication of the process of 2024, he can point back to this kind of a moment. It's an opportunity to keep Ronna McDaniel on the straight and narrow, perhaps.

But it was a fascinating move, because to Alex's point, Ron DeSantis clearly wanted to embrace that agent of change mantel, as he's trying to straddle all of these pieces in the party and put together a potential presidential campaign. And it was just interesting that something as sort of inside as the RNC chair is where he thought he should start making that move.

PHILLIP: And perhaps he had to have known he wasn't going to be a king maker in this situation and yet he weighed in anyway, perhaps just to say that he's not afraid to do that, even when Trump may be on the other side of it.

But that's all that we have time for today. That's it for 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 Representatives Adam Schiff, Ilhan Omar and Eric Swalwell, as well as the Tyre Nichols family attorney, Ben Crump.

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