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Inside Politics

Ohio Train Disaster Is America's Latest Political Flashpoint; Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) Is Latest Republican To Test 2024 Waters In Iowa; New Russian Attacks As War In Ukraine Enters Second Year; CIA Director: China Considering Sending Weapons To Russia; Marjorie Taylor Greene: "A National Divorce Is Not A Civil War"; Student Loan Showdown. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired February 26, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): Toxic train disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I know is that our town needs help.

PHILLIP: How did a train derailment in Ohio become America's latest political flash point?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Through your goodness and perseverance, you were met with indifference in betrayal.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: The same people who want to come here and play political games are the same people who sided with industry again and again and again.

PHILLIP: Plus, Tim Scott edges closer to a presidential bid.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): I see kids being taught the ABCs, not CRT.

PHILLIP: But will his message on race resonate with GOP primary voters?

And Marjorie Taylor Greene has a radical plan to save the union. Dissolve it.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): The last thing I ever want to see in America is a civil war, but it is going that direction, and we have to do something about it.




It has been 23 days since a train carrying hazardous materials went off the rails in East Palestine, Ohio, 23 days of dread for the nearly 5,000 Americans now asking whether they're air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink. And like so much else in America, this environmental disaster quickly divided the country. Former President Trump led that charge along partisan lines when he visited the town inside a deep red pocket of Ohio on Wednesday.


TRUMP: Unfortunately, as you know, into many cases, your goodness and perseverance were met with indifference and betrayal in some cases. They were doing nothing for you. They were intending to do absolutely nothing for you.


PHILLIP: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg who visited the town a day after Trump's trip flatly dismissed that accusation.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: What we have seen is industry goes to Washington, and they get their way. They got their way on a Christmas tree of regulatory changes that the last administration made on its way out the door in December of 2020.


PHILLIP: But caught the middle of all of this are the residents of East Palestine, who, just want to know if it is receive to resume their lives. Just listen to one resident confront the CEO of the rail company at the CNN town hall, last week.


JIM STEWART, EAST PALESTINE RESIDENT: I don't feel safe in this town now. You took it away from me. Did you shorten my life now? I want to retire and enjoy it, how are you going to enjoy it?

Do I mow the grass? Can I plant tomatoes next summer? What can I do?

Every day I cough, a little cough here, a little cough there. I've never had that, you know? I've got rashes on my cheeks, and also my arms from the derail -- I don't call it a derailment. I call it a disaster.


PHILLIP: Let's discuss all of this and more with CNN's Jeff Zeleny, CNN's Melanie Zanona, "Politico's" Heidi Przybyla, and "The Atlantic's" Adam Harris.

This has become a much bigger situation, I think, than the White House anticipated. They would conceive that what they didn't really see the politics of this coming. But I want to start though just from a real perspective. We just heard from that man. The people of East Palestine are asking for really practical things. They are asking for water, they are asking for help.

And if the question is, if is that being provided in the federal government, here is the answer that the Ohio governor has given, who is a Republican. Mike DeWine, he has said, yes. The president called him. He said we don't need anything, his spokesperson telling "The Washington Post" that the agency has provided the appropriate response. It was the president of the White House who spoke with governor frequently, the answer to those questions are, yes. He also described the EPA as extremely responsive.

So, on some level, there is the practical and there is the political. From the practical perspective, the Republicans in the state are saying that the federal government is responding. But on the political, we are hearing something else.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Without question. In the White House, if you talk to officials, they will concede that they were slow to recognize the optics of the seriousness of this. So they did send EPA.

And the president does not go to every disaster site.


It's not -- of course, it's not possible. The vice president doesn't go to every disaster site. They were not any fatalities in this, so they were sort of sending the appropriate officials as they saw them.

There is about 1,000 train derailments every year in the country. This is different on many levels because of the optics of it. Yes, there are serious questions around the ramifications of the soil, about water, but really, this became a seized upon by the right-wing media in many respects and fanned the flames, and the Biden administration allow them to do that because they did not optically -- and it was all happening at the same time the president was in Ukraine. So, that's sort of set the table for this.

So just this confluence of events and it made it East Palestine versus Ukraine, and it really just showed a light on the divided country. , and of course, this county, Columbiana County, were 72 percent voted for Trump and 27 percent voted for Biden.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And we have -- we have those numbers. I mean, it is an interesting, the political dynamics here. I mean, look at this county -- 2020 that went for Bush by three, by 2020, it was Trump by 45. So this is absolute Trump country. It makes sense that he would be there and that he would be pressing the political side.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, POLITICO: It also coincides with him launching his campaign, and I might also note, that this is one of those places in the country that you would consider a news desert. So a lot of these people who are his supporters don't realize that a lot of the policies that the Trump administration stood for are policies that might -- or stood against, might have helped in this case, including gutting the EPA. The EPA were the first was out there monitoring the water, monitoring

the toxic fumes. The train regulations that were gutted under Trump. Again, these are all things that you question yourself, would these things have helped?

And then thirdly, the tax cuts. The corporate tax cuts that a lot of these companies took advantage of were not required to be reinvested in things like safety, regulations, but these are not things that his voters are going to know. So, they're very impressionable. This is a very emotional issue. We are not going to know for possibly decades the full ramifications of the health impact on a lot of these residents.

PHILLIP: And, interestingly, the governor, Mike DeWine, is saying to Congress that this train was not marked as carrying extremely hazardous materials. It was not subject to a lot of regulations. Why is that? Is Congress going to fix that?

But I want to play here. This is what President Biden said when whether he would go to East Palestine.


REPORTER: Aare you playing to travel to East Palestine, Ohio?

BIDEN: At this time, I am not.

I've spoken with every single major figure in both Pennsylvania and in Ohio. And so the idea that we're not engaged is simply not there.


PHILLIP: What do you make of that Adam, should he go?

ADAM HARRIS, ATLANTIC STAFF WRITER: You know, as just said, this -- presidents don't travel to every disaster site. They give you the optics of this. He is travel to Ukraine at this point, it is probably politically smart for him to travel to East Palestine, Ohio, in order to sort of remind people that, yes, it is not just my agencies that are here, but it is also mean that it's here for you as well.

But as you are saying, this was a county that the president, the former president carried by a significant margin, right? If there's one thing we know but the former president, he enjoys showing up his base. He likes to talk to his people. And so it is not a surprise that he went out there, it is also not a surprise the Republicans have seized on him where they've talked for years about this being in place that America has forgotten about, that the Democrats have forgotten about. That when the president doesn't visit a place like East Palestine, it becomes a significant issue.

PHILLIP: Yeah. And I think at this point -- Jeff, you made this point. The White House did not anticipate that this would become a political punching bag, and for that, they actually are at fault and they are supposed to be paying attention to this. But here is Pete Buttigieg of it all. He has been at the center of

this even though the cleanup is responsibility a different agency in the EPA. Listen how Fox anchors have been talking about him this week.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX HOST: If pothole Pete seems lazy and out of touch to all of you, that is because it's true

JESSE WATTERS, FOX HOST: The guy didn't put his arm around a single person and tell him everything is going to be all right. And this is the guy Democrats think can be president?

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX HOST: The man should not never have been put in this position in this first, and should be fired, immediately.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX HOST: There's never been a cabinet secretary this flamboyantly incompetent, and this so obviously uncaring, almost to the point of evil, if we are being honest about it.


PHILLIP: I mean -- we are -- what's interesting to me is that this is the transportation secretary, but they're the ones bringing up running for president. It seems that this is a proactive step to keep Pete Buttigieg --

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty clear to me that they do see him as a potential rival here for president, at some point in the future, maybe not in '24, but maybe four years down the line from them.


But he is in the crosshairs, right? I mean, I think it was an unforced error and not of them --

PHILLIP: And he has acknowledged that.

ZANONA: And he admitted that.


ZANONA: I mean, obviously, there is the tangible things that the government has provided, but there also is a lack of trust in the community and seeing the government officials showing up they think was an important step that even the transportation secretary admitted.

That being said, I mean, he has this platform. It can be a powerful platform to races profile we saw him sticking it to the airlines, he was also at the center of the freight rail negotiations and also been, you know, taking on the heat for these things as well. So, there's the potential for blowback and you can see Republicans seizing on that.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, I think this is definitely one of those moments where you see the echoes of maybe it is not 2024 but further down the road how the lines are being drawn.

But coming up for next, potential 2024 presidential candidate, Tim Scott, goes on the attack against so-called identity politics. But will Republican voters buy what he is selling?


PHILLIP: The clock is officially ticking. Republican National Committee has announced that their first primary debate will take place this August in Milwaukee. And so, with just six months to go, who's going to throw their hat into the ring next?


Well, if a visit to Iowa are any indication. It might very well be Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina who made his way to the Hawkeye State this week. Scott faces a challenge, though, appealing to a party that is very much focused on denouncing so-called identity politics while at the same time touting his own identity as the Republican Party's only Black senator. It's a dilemma which was very much on display this week.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Fentanyl is not the only poison flooding our countries. Politicians and the culture are getting communities hooked -- hooked on the drug of victimhood and the narcotic of despair.

These people who call themselves progressive are attacking every rung of the ladder that helped me climb. I was the teenager who spirit would have been crushed by a culture obsessed with identity politics and racial strife.


PHILLIP: And, Adam, so much of racial politics in America is often talking to white voters about race, right? That's exactly what he is doing there. How does he, you think, balance?

He actually has a pretty nuanced position on a lot of this stuff, more so than a lot of people. How does he balance that with a party that increasingly sees even the concept of race as being antithetical to the America that they want to be a part of?

HARRIS: Yeah, it's interesting. He's done this on a couple of different occasions if you think back to 2020 and a speech during the national convention where he says, you know, we've gone from cotton to congress. My family is gone from cotton to congress.

He really plays on identity politics when it sort of suits him, right? During the introduction for his speech here, the governor says that he flips the Democrats' identity politics on its head just by his being a Black senator -- a Black Republican senator.

But he also really plays into the same politics that former President Trump trafficked in. A lot of the same political issues are the ones he's really seizing on, whether that's critical race theory, whether that's, you know, any sort of host of current Republican issues. It is a delicate balancing act. I think just by virtue of him being a Black senator, they are able to say that he is -- he is a marker that we are not the racist party that some --

PHILLIP: The specter of post-racial America rears its head yet again.

PRZYBYLA: I don't think it's a dilemma. I actually think it's an advantage because in this party, he brings the credibility as a non- white person and telling mostly white audiences, hey, racism, yeah, that was a thing, but it's over and we shouldn't be teaching white kids to hate themselves and Black kids to be victims. He has a special place as the messenger on that.

And that is something that I think is also true of Nikki Haley. It's something the audience wants to hear. It's something that the entire party learned about from the state of Virginia where Glenn Youngkin made this issue of critical race theory a big campaign topic. It's one of the first things he did with his executive order is banned something that for all intents and purposes didn't really exist.

And so, Tim Scott can kind of take that, champion that, and try to blend it with this message of optimism that he is also putting out in these audiences in Iowa and elsewhere.

PHILLIP: And there is the Trump of it all, as usual, which is the question of if they will actually address Trump. Here's Tim Scott on that question.


HANNITY: What are the differences in terms of policy positions that, for example, you may have with President Trump?

SCOTT: Probably not very many at all. I'm so thankful that we have President Trump in office. Frankly, the policies that we were able to pass from 2017 to 2020 were monumental.


PHILLIP: For me, not Trump, but I'm so grateful for Trump. It's a hard -- it's a hard thing to do. And Nikki Haley did exactly the same thing.

ZANONA: Yeah, I think any candidate is going to have to figure out how they are going to separate themselves from the former president without alienating his base. That's going to be a challenge.

And with Senator Scott here, he's going to try to sell this happy warrior brand of politics. It's unclear if that's what the base wants and it's unclear whether that would be sustainable. He's trying not to go after Trump. If he's being scrutinized in the media, he's getting pummeled probably by Donald Trump and other rivals, can he maintain that? And is that what Republican voters want to see?

PHILLIP: And, Jeff, this past weekend, Ron DeSantis gathered a lot of Republican donors. But interestingly, it's not just the donors who were showing up. A lot of pro-Trump politicians showed up as well. Tom Cotton, Senator Mike Lee, Congressman Chip Roy, Mick Mulvaney who worked for Trump, and the list goes on and on.


Are people kind of dipping their toes in the non-Trump waters right now?

ZELENY: They are. And the Atlantic Ocean really close to Mar-a-Lago. That's the proximity of were Governor DeSantis chose to have this retreat in Palm Beach, really in the shadow of Mar-a-Lago. That's all you need to know.

What it reminds me of is the early days in the campaign of 2001, Texas Governor George W. Bush had a lot of Republicans come to him. That's what they're doing. Governor DeSantis is having a lot of Republicans come to him, big donors but also big governors and other names. One included was Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds.

She is not going to endorse or take sides in the 2024 Republican primary. It's interesting that she went to Florida to be on a panel with DeSantis. What this means is that he is inching ever closer to running. His book comes out this week. I'm told he's not getting in until after the legislative session in May. There really is a brewing battle between the Trump forces and the DeSantis forces.

And DeSantis is leaning into it to a point. At some point, we will have to see if he can actually throw a punch or respond to all these things that Trump is throwing out there. These donors are saying, look, we like Trump policies, but it's time to turn the page. This weekend will be looked at as a critical period six months for an hour so if DeSantis is leading the pack. We don't know that. We will see.

PHILLIP: And the thing that he is selling to these donors is this idea that what he is calling freedom in Florida is what he wants to export to the rest of the country. A big part of that is what he is doing in higher ed rolling out some really -- what "The Miami Herald" is describing as a basically a power grab in a higher education and restricting certain parts. He's basically, they're calling him the master of distraction, doing all of these different things but saying effectively, I'm taking control of the higher education system and also restricting what can be taught, what leaders can be taught, whether ideas can we talk.

How does that play beyond Florida?

HARRIS: You know, it's interesting. For the last several years, Republicans have said -- in fact, the former secretary of education Betty DeVos said colleges are teaching students what to think, not have to think. This has been an interesting issue that Republicans are focused on for a long time. And he is providing a blueprint for how to fundamentally reshaped the higher education system not just in Florida, right, but nationally.

You know, he has brought in ideologically driven folks to run the New College or serve on the board of the New College of Florida which has long been a progressive institution and reshaping it in the image of Hillsdale College in Michigan which is the sort of hallmark of conservative higher education.

PHILLIP: Yeah, I mean, freedom is restricting what can be thought and what can be learned, that's not what I thought freedom means in the dictionary.

But coming up next for us, cities across the world have turned blue and yellow to honor Ukraine. But as the war there begins its second year, is there any end in sight?



PHILLIP: This morning, new Russian attacks are pounding the front line in Ukraine as the war stretches into its second year. Since it began, Ukraine has been decimated by nearly 10,000 Russian air missiles and drone strikes. And by official counts, at least 8.000 civilians have been killed. The true number is believed to be far higher than that. And more than 8 million Ukrainians were forced to flee their country.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday that he is certain of ultimate victory.

CNN's Alex Marquardt is on the ground in Ukraine for us.

Alex, so are you hearing Zelenskyy's optimism about the trajectory of this war from those Ukrainian officials privately?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Abby, you know, on the anniversary, President Zelenskyy tweeted that victory would come in 2023. They will say that is an optimistic timeline. There's a recognition here that this is going to drag on for quite some time. President Zelenskyy was pressed on that timeline by our colleague Christiane Amanpour. He just said as you pointed out there that he believes that war will be inevitable.

So, there is a sense here that the war will continue. There is a way in many places across Ukraine far from the front lines -- like here in Dnipro, I'm staying next to a coffee shop which has been bustling all day. At the same time, every few hours, there are air raid sirens. It's a constant reminder that any moment, a missile could slam into a building and kill people as has been down quite recently, and then closer to the front line. There are towns and cities which have been completely empty out, completely decimated, countless lives up ended, countless lives lost.

So, Abby, around this first anniversary in speaking with people, there is still a recognition, a sad recognition that this war is not going to end anytime soon. So many people are asking themselves how it has already been a year since this war started. But at the same time, saying it feels like it has been many, many lifetimes since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. PHILLIP: And there are now a lot of worries about China's role in all

of this. Will they send aid to Russia? What are you hearing about that?

MARQUARDT: There is major concern and there has been a major concern about this for quite some time. In fact, the U.S. had already warned China about the level of non-lethal aid that was being sent to Russia into this war in Ukraine.


Now according to U.S. officials the Chinese are starting to consider whether to send lethal aid. So consider whether to send weapons.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told CNN this would be a red line because it would be a significant boost to Russia here in Ukraine at a time when they are not doing very well. Now, the U.S. believes that China has not yet made a decision.

The director of the CIA said that there's no evidence so far that weapon shipments have started coming to Russia from China. But this is a major concern. Our colleagues Natasha Bertrand and Zach Cohen said that the weapons that are under consideration are drones and ammunition, both of course, pivotal to both sides in this war that the Russians running out of ammunition in several places.

We do know that Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to visit Moscow in the coming months but more immediately Abby, we are going to see in the coming days Putin -- one of Putin's closest allies, the Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, he will be visiting Beijing in yet another worrying sign that Chinese support for Russia in this war may be ramping up, Abby.

PHILLIP: Yes. Very concerning indeed. Thank you so much, Alex Marquardt for all of your reporting and please stay safe out there.

And let's bring you back into the room. Jeff, I mean, this issue of China presents for the Biden administration another moment, almost like the one a year ago and with -- in the ramp up to this war they said Russia is going to invade Ukraine.

Now they are saying very loudly, China, don't you dare provide those weapons. This is a moment of leadership for the Biden administration.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is and it's a moment of a potential dramatic escalation as well. And you said very loudly. They are saying this for a reason.

The CIA director going on the record on CBS this morning saying that they are concerned about this. And they are trying to call China out, to preemptively here.

But this is another test to their relationship. President Biden talks often about his long history with President Xi Jinping. Said he spent more time with him than any leader. Well, this is going to be a test for the Biden White House in terms of can the rhetoric, can them calling them out sort of change the mind and the view of China or is Biden's threats and words not taken seriously? So this is a major moment.

And China has always been sort of a bit of the Biden administration's kryptonite. They're not quite sure how to handle China. So this is going to be front and center in the next -- in the second half of this first term and in the presidential campaign.

PHILLIP: Yes. But it is something that he has been talking about as a primary concern of his since the very beginning.

ZELENY: For sure.

PHILLIP: This moment though Heidi, for Biden, just to take a step back, this is the month that began with the State of the Union address. Those kind of almost viral moments of Biden at the podium.

And now here we are near the end of the month and the imagery coming out of Ukraine, Biden in Kyiv really stand out as a historic moment for him.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, POLITICO: And it was timed for maximum symbolism with the year anniversary and right before we're expecting a major spring offensive from the Russians and major moral impact appealing back home at a time when we have a significant divide here, especially in the GOP. What we have seen, Abby is that support among Democrats for this war has remained pretty consistent but we've seen a steep drop off among Republicans who don't support this -- from 9 percent to about 40 percent over a matter of months.

This is in a critical time when the Ukrainians need maximum support. They're asking for these F-16s and the history here, what we've seen is that with every major weapons purchase whether it is the missiles or more armored vehicles we've held off and then in the end, we've ultimately done it.

And what we have seen is now even Democrats saying, you know what, we are going to pay the price if we don't give them the machinery and the weapons that they need up front.

PHILLIP: Yes. On that divide though, the political divide, just take a listen to how this is playing out basically on the campaign trail.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): These things can escalate and I don't think it's in our interest to be getting into proxy war with China getting involved over things like the border lands over Crimea.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There can be no room in the leadership of the Republican Party for apologists for Putin. I submit to you, the fastest path to peace is to help Ukraine win the war.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: You know, I was going to say that this is going to be a divide that continue to express itself but really actually Mike Pence is kind of getting lonely in the camp that he is in.

ZANONA: Yes. I would say that in the Republican Party the divide, there are more people that are advocating for Ukraine aid. I would say the isolationist wing is small but they are vocal and they are an influential group. It's a lot of the MAGA members, it's people who, a lot of them, were supporting Donald Trump, were against Kevin McCarthy's speakership.


ZANONA: They're going to hold a lot of cards in Congress and it is going to be very difficult to get this aid through and you see how Speaker McCarthy is walking that line. He says no blank checks which is a way to way to sort of say, Ukraine, you will get some money but he's trying to make his he right flank comfortable in a sense that they aren't just going to give them, you know, free rein, which they weren't (ph) doing in the past. But it is going to be a --



And I think it is an important distinction between the pace of how this goes and whether it happens or not. And those might be very different things.

But coming up next for us, how do you know when it is time to break up and move on? Well, Marjorie Taylor Greene has some relationship advice for America. That's next.


PHILLIP: America is a nation divided. So what should we do about it? Well, according to GOP Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene the solution is a national divorce. That is a direct quote.


PHILLIP: She tweeted this week that, "we need to separate by red and -- red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talk to says this from the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat's traitorous America Last policies, we are done."

She tweeted about it once. And then she tweeted about it again, and again, and she just kept tweeting about it.

And if all of that wasn't enough Greene felt the need to elaborate further on all of this.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): A national divorce is not a civil war. It is actually separating by red states and blue states. And making state rights and state power a lot stronger than it is right now. It would be shrinking the federal government.

I think it's something that we should work towards because, you know, it is kind of the vision that our founding fathers had for America and I think it is a great one. It worked in the beginning. We just got it completely out of control.


PHILLIP: It is crazy that I have to say this but the civil war was fought to prevent the red states and the blue states from splitting up, right? So like --

ZELENY: Exactly.

PHILLIP: -- what is going on?

ZELENY: And she is from Georgia so since Biden won that that is now a blue state. So what happens to her state? The whole discussion at the beginning of this show was about East Palestine, Ohio and the need for government in our lives.

And those are the discussions that members of Congress should be having about the role the government must play in our lives in a constructive way. And she's talking about this divorce. She's tweeting about it so we keep talking about it.

Of course it is preposterous on every level and it's very divisive.

PRZYBYLA: I would say that most couples before they get divorced go to counseling. And I think Democrats would be happy to go through that counseling process because here are the facts.

71 percent of the GDP -- this is getting to the practical reasons why this would never work. 71 percent of GDP come from Biden counties. Red states have higher poverty rates, they collect more in federal entitlements. They cannot be independent because they are dependent on a lot of these blue states.

And so these are some of the practical reasons that I think Democrats would love to have this conversation. At the same time by 2040 something like 30 percent of the Senate will then represent 70 percent of the American people. So there's also this discussion to have about equal representation that Democrats I think have been itching to have even if an actually divorce is just not at all practical.

PHILLIP: And I think also the broader issue here is Marjorie Taylor Greene, right? And she is not anymore just this fringe character. Here is Kevin McCarthy to the "New York Times" in January. "If you're going to be in a fight, you want Marjorie in your foxhole. When she picks a fight, she's going to fight until the fight is over."

She reminds me of my friends from high school that were going to stick together all the way through. He is all in. ZANONA: He is. For Kevin McCarthy I really think it is the mentality

of keep your friends close and your keep the friends closer and your he enemies closer. He made a very concerted effort to bring her into the fold. Make her part of the family. He thinks that that way, she can do less harm. He has some control over her.

She's tried to play the inside game and it benefited her. She now has desirable committee seats.

The problem with that is that there's a huge risk for Kevin McCarthy. Because once you make her part of the family, you're accountable for anything that she does.

And so it is absolutely fair game to ask Kevin McCarthy do you agree with XYZ outlandish statement that Marjorie Taylor Green made? And so that is what you're going to see going forward.

PHILLIP: And wait. There is more. So Congressman Barry Moore introduced legislation to make the AR-15 the national gun of America saying we must send a message that we will meet every attack on our constitutional rights. And on top of that he is joined by the one and only George Santos. Take a listen.


REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): This is a gun manufactured in the United States. Creates jobs in the United States. Made in America gun. I mean we have national everything but why not have a national gun?


PHILLIP: So to the point of, look, in this Congress when you have a five-seat majority every single member becomes important, every single member's doings become significant.

And Kevin McCarthy hasn't, you know, pushed Marjorie Taylor Greene to the side and he hasn't pushed George Santos to the side either.

ADAM HARRIS, STAFF WRITER, ATLANTIC: Yes. I think that oftentimes with Republicans, right, there's typically a sort of we are going to keep family issues inside the House if there are disagreements policy-wise. That we are not going to be quick to lambaste somebody, right.

If there's someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene who is saying something that we don't -- that Republicans may disagree with they are not going to be so quick to condemn her.

And now that they have already brought her back into the fold after she had lost her committee assignments it is going to be even more difficult to sort of push her to the side again, right.


HARRIS: I just wanted to point to something that she was saying, right where she said this is the founders had this idea. What the founders were trying to do, you think about George Washington in his first speech to Congress in 1790. He was offering a national university in order to build a national character, in order to bring the country together rather than this fracturing.

So it was an acknowledgement that this was a sort of divided nation, these were different colonies, these were different states but they needed to be brought together by some sort of a national character.

PHILLIP: Before we go, I just want to play real quick the response from Romney and Manchin to just the point that you're making right there.


SENATOR MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): You know, I think Abraham Lincoln dealt with that kind insanity. We're not going to divide the country. It is united we stand, divided we fall.

SENATOR JOE MANCHIN, (D-WV): Well, we're not called the divided states of America. We're called the United States. I totally, absolutely, vigorously disagree with her thought process of even dividing our country further than it is.


PHILLIP: Just to end on a positive note. I mean there are people out there who get it, who understand that this is nonsense. But we have this person now, I mean she's a congresswoman saying this and it's reflective of something that is out there in the country and it's really quite unfortunate.

I mean we have a couple of seconds if you will.

PRZYBYLA: It is not about policy. It's about her personal branding.

PHILLIP: Yes. I think that's exactly right.

ZELENY: And we'll see if it ends up in the presidential campaign. I could easily see the former president taking up something like this. but the reality is history and facts, as you two both also pointed out, fly in the face of everything she said.

PHILLIP: Absolutely.

But coming up next for us. If you are one of the millions of Americans saddled with college debt, you're going to want to stick around for this one.

The Supreme Court will take up President Biden's plan to cancel student loans this week. What should you be watching for?



PHILLIP: 43 million -- that is the number of Americans whose financial futures hang in the balance as two cases challenging President Biden's student loan debt relief plan go before the nation's highest court on Tuesday.

Those who are eligible stand to have between $10,000 and $20,000 of their federal student loans canceled. And now the question is, will the program survive in the hands of these nine justices.

And here to discuss all of this is CNN's Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic and our very own Jeff Zeleny is still with us.

So Joan, this is a really consequential case. And what people are saying is that yes, it's about student loans, but it's about so much more. What are you looking at?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: It is. And we really can't overstate the stakes here. You know, you just mentioned how many -- more than 40 million young people could be affected. Up to 20 million of their loans forgiven. And the overwhelming majority of these people are of modest means. So this could have a lot of effect out in the real world.

But for the court, you're not going to hear too much about the plight of these students. You're going to hear two very legal questions. The first being a threshold question of do these states and individual people -- the individual students who brought the case, have legal standing to even bring it? Have they been harmed? The states say that the secretaries of education's waiver of all of these, you know, forgiveness of these loans would affect their tax base.

But you know, there are very strict rules for showing harm. And the Biden administration says these states really aren't going to be harmed. So that's the threshold question for the justices.

And then, when they get to the merits, the question is, did the Biden administration take the statute too far here. This is the 2003 Heroes Act that involves, you know, waiving or modifying loans and to actually forgive loans, did they take it too far? And that goes to the actual power of the executive to interpret acts of Congress without Congress being explicit about what can be done here.

PHILLIP: And this is why this book, this has trailing effects for things like abortion and other things that might come before the --

BISKUPIC: It has great effect for how administration agencies actually try to implement social policy.

PHILLIP: Yes. And Jeff, for the Biden administration, this is a huge swath of Americans who could be affected here -- millions of them.

And this was also a key promise that he wanted to keep, knowing that it would be challenged.

ZELENY: For sure. I mean, this was a campaign promise. And as Joan was saying, it affects tens of millions of Americans, but it is about presidential power, first and foremost, but it's also about presidential achievement.

This is something that the White House and the president wanted to go out and sell in his next campaign. This has been on hold since October which means all these questions are sort of up in the air. Are your loans going to be for forgiven or not.

So this is also a political question of if the president's going to be able to sort of get a win here. And it really appeals to younger voters and voters of all ages, really. Parents and others, as well here.

So this is a fundamental question that the president is hoping to tout as an achievement, but the Supreme Court could easily wipe that away.

PHILLIP: Yes. And Joan, before we move on, tell us quickly when we can expect to know the --


PHILLIP: June. All right.


BISKUPIC: This is going to be a hard case. We'll know right at the end of the term, late June.

PHILLIP: Yes. So mark your calendars, everyone, for that.

But I do want to talk about this other set of cases about the future of the Internet. I mean this was really interesting this week to hear the oral arguments. These are two cases against Google and against Twitter, that could determine largely how we operate on the Internet. And here's what these Internet companies are saying it could do. Wikipedia, Yelp, AirBNB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tinder, Google all say that their fundamental operations could change. Maybe you don't get to post comments on your favorite restaurant on Yelp, because they could be sued for what you say. Where is this all going?

BISKUPIC: The social media companies really got their arguments heard there. You could feel that the justices were worried about going too far. I think that you're not going to see the doomsday scenario that these companies have predicted.

You're going to see modest rulings, two cases, one involved Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that says that these Internet companies should not be regarded as publishers.


BISKUPIC: They shouldn't be responsible for -- they should be immune for any kind of liability for things that they post from others -- third parties.

And the other one involved the anti-terrorism act. Because these are -- there were ISIS videos posted that, you know, the families of victims who were victims of terrorism said that these companies should be responsible.

I think what the justices are going to do is something much more modest. They're going to rule in a way that will probably say that Twitter does not have liability for these ISIS videos and maybe wait to do anything, sweeping it all, on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

PHILLIP: And on the issue of Section 230, this is something we hear actually a lot about in the political sphere, but the court might say to Congress, this is your problem. You've got to deal with it. And we'll see if they end up actually doing that.

Joan, thanks for coming in for us on all of that.

And that's it for us here on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

But stay here on CNN. Up next is "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. And ana's guest this morning include national security adviser Jake Sullivan and RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel.

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