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Inside Politics

Hardline GOP Reps Resistant to Backing Trump 2024 Bid; Trump Having Difficulty Courting House Maga Wing Support; McCarthy Grants Jan 6 Defendants Access to Footage; White House Embraces Tough Border Measures It Once Rejected; Biden Introduces Labor Secretary Nominee Julie Su; Emergency SNAP Benefits to Expire This Month; Eli Lilly to Cap Insulin Costs at $35. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 01, 2023 - 12:30   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN'S CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): -- the fact that he underperformed --

REP. TIM BURCHETT (R-TN): Yeah, I know that that's a concern. A lot of times our leaders may be -- their morals aren't where we need them to be but the leadership skills and putting people in place are. So that it's kind of what everybody is concerned about.

REP. RALPH NORMAN (R-SC): We have the best stable of candidates ever. Nikki Haley is from South Carolina. I saw what she did as governor. She will be a great presidential candidate.

RAJU (on camera): Do you expect more members to back other candidates besides Trump?

NORMAN: I hope so. It's called democracy. It's called the political process. When is it bad to get behind a candidate that you believe in?


RAJU: And over in this past congressional recess early this -- in February, a number of the members of that hard-line Freedom Caucus actually went down to Florida and met with Governor Ron DeSantis at a fundraiser in West Palm Beach, Donald Trump's background essentially to meet with them. Some of them came away impressed, signaling they could support him. One of the members who met with DeSantis was Chip Roy, a conservative from Texas. And others may also be looking at their own potential future political aspirations. One member, Byron Donalds is a Member of the House Freedom Caucus, is not yet supporting either Trump or DeSantis, anyone yet. He wants the field to form. But John, I asked him whether or not he would run for governor. He was open to running for governor if DeSantis were to step aside? He said, "Yes, he is."

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': "Yes, he is." All right. Ambition, it's a funny thing in politics. Manu Raju, great reporting up on Capitol Hill tonight (ph), as well as bringing the conversation back in the room with that great report. It's interesting, Tia Mitchell, in the sense that this was Trump's base. The senate has always been iffy on Donald Trump, Republicans and the Senate. The House is his base. And so Donald Trump would say, "I don't care. I'm strong with the people out there."

But a lot of these -- during the Trump years, when you talked to all these House Republicans, they mostly tried to take you off the record so you weren't quoting them. They'll be like, "I have to go home." He is popular back home. So, if they are stepping up, if they are able to say to Donald Trump, "Stay away, I'm not ready to endorse you right now," that tells you something about what they are hearing back home.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Absolutely. That's the -- I think that's the main point, is that, that means that they believe that the base back home will support Trump to the level that he needs to be able to win, not just in a primary, but they are also thinking about a general election. And we saw what happened in 2020. We saw Republicans' losses in other ways that they think shows that some of the messages coming from Trump may not be able to resonate. I think, also what we're seeing from those far right members and we saw that with the speaker's race, is they want results.

They have an agenda they are trying to implement and they are trying to find the right person they think can help implement that agenda. They can't do that with the Democrat in the presidency as much as they can with the Republicans. So they want to make sure they give themselves the best chance possible to have a Republican president because they want to implement that hard right agenda.

KING: And so, the fear factor always helped Donald Trump. That Republicans, they were afraid if they crossed him, he would use -- he's not on Twitter any more but he would use Twitter, he would use social media, he would use his speeches, he would use his rallies to turn his people on those Republicans. Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado, tea party guy -- "It's a lot of good candidates. I want to take a look at them." Byron Donalds from Florida, Manu just mentioned him -- "We don't do lock-step politics on our side of the aisle." Ben Cline, Republican of Virginia -- "While Trump is the favorite, I'm watching the field develop."

You don't say those things on the record if you're as afraid of Donald Trump as you might have been two years ago.

FRANCO ORDONEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESONDENT, NPR: I mean, I think that's -- having covered Trump and having watched members kind of run away from him out of fear, it is kind of fascinating to hear Republicans speak out and say, "I want to look at other options." I will note that some of them remain uncomfortable about going too far. The strategists I speak with still feel that Trump is the front runner, but he is beatable, particularly if they can whittle down the field.

KING: That's a great -- it's a great point. He's still the most formidable force in the Republican Party. He's weaker, but this is not just CNN going out and asking these Republicans what they think. The Trump people are trying to get the endorsements because he sees DeSantis starting to move around. He sees Governor Haley moving round and ticking up a little bit. She's still pretty low (INAUDIBLE) ticking up a little bit, so he wants to release, here's day one, Congressman X endorses me; day two, Congressman Y endorses me. He wants a paper trail to -- paper momentum, if you will. But the answer has been no. LAUREN FOX, CNN'S CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And if you are a

member of Congress, why endorse this early? Why not keep your options open? I mean, if you think back to 2015 when Donald Trump was running for president the very first time, a lot of these lawmakers were trying to stand on the sidelines as well. There aren't that many House Republicans trying to run in and endorse him. In part, that was because he was untested. He was a force out there. But I do think it's important to remember that these Republicans have their own political aspirations and they have their own things that they want to make sure they can accomplish. And you make an excellent point. If they are concerned that Donald Trump can't win, then why would they back him?

KING: Again, that's a critical point. Number one, the fear factor is gone or at least it is reduced, significantly reduced. But Manu asked Congressman Burchett the question, the fact that he underperformed. Six months ago, a year ago, you might get -- well, the election was rigged, the election was stolen. Now you get, yes.


You get more and more Republicans who are facing the truth, right? The truth that they lost, they lost in 2020. They lost again in the midterm elections or didn't do as well as they should have done in the midterm elections. And they actually are processing maybe Donald Trump should be blamed.

MITCHELL: Yeah, and I think they are processing that Donald Trump was not helpful and that a lot of the more aligned Donald Trump candidates were the ones who were least successful during the midterms. And they are again making that calculus like, hey, I can actually challenge him to a degree and still have some success. I think they are looking even at Glenn Youngkin and people like Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger, and saying, "You actually don't have to be in lock-step with Donald Trump, and you can still win in notable races." And that further gives them the encouragement they need to create some distance from him.

KING: As we get deeper into the campaign, we'll see if these trends continue. Noteworthy at the moment, we will see to your point there is still some fear out there. We will watch it though as it plays out.

Coming up, the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy defending his decision now to grant access to thousands the January 6th footage, the you know who.



KING: House Republicans now moving forward with their plan to give access to thousands of hours of capital security footage to lawyers for January 6th defendants. This as the House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces continued scrutiny for his decision to allow Tucker Carlson of Fox to view the video instead of widely releasing it. Here's what Speaker McCarthy had to say to CNN's Manu Raju about that decision. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU (voice-over): How about concern about the fact that Carlson, he down played this attack. You called it a very serious attack (INAUDIBLE).

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: It's a very serious attack and that's why --

RAJU (voice-over): Then why give it someone who is downplaying it?

MCCARTHY: Because I think sunshine matters. I don't care what side of the issue you're on. That's why I think putting it out all to the American public, you can see the truth.


KING: Reporters are back with us. Let's start with that. Sunshine matters. But sunshine only matters if you're giving the material to somebody who has an open mind. Does Tucker Carlson have an open mind after, now, months and months and months and months of suggesting that it was not that big of a deal, what happened that day?

MITCHELL: Yeah, I think a lot of this -- a lot is going to ride on how Tucker Carlson uses this material that he has been given access to. And if he uses it to further cast doubt on January 6th or spread conspiracy theories about those who carried out January 6th, then that's going to validate a the lot of the concerns that people have raised about why would you give an election denier and someone who has tried to down play January 6th such seemingly unfettered access to what could be sensitive security footage. But I think right now, Republicans are able to say, "You know, we're just trying to do sunshine and everything is about acting in good faith." But will the end result appear to be in good faith?

KING: As the Speaker says, other reporters are jealous because Tucker Carlson gets it -- what could be, depending on what's in the video, a pretty huge exclusive. So he says this is just sour grapes by reporters. Or is it that Tucker Carlson repeatedly criticizes Speaker McCarthy saying he has no ideological core and Speaker McCarthy is giving an exclusive to somebody to say, "Now, you can please be nice to me."

ORDONEZ: Yeah, I mean, I think this is a play to his far right. I mean, this is the -- this is a continuation of the narrative from when he was running for Speaker and trying to appeal to that far right. What I find very interesting is the political risks that he's taking. I mean, just what we were talking about just a few minutes earlier about the Republicans who want to move on from Trump. This is not moving on. And some of those moderate Republican who is are ready to move on are going to -- this could be politically risky if they are in swing districts, if Tucker Carlson, as some believe he will, misuse this is or takes this from a slant, keeps -- or keeps just looking back when so many are looking to look forward. KING: The Speaker made this decision. There has been some blowback

among House Republicans, how significant, and like Mitt Romney the other day on the Senate side, which the House doesn't pay much attention to the Senate, says that was a mistake. How significant is the pushback?

FOX: I don't think it's significant enough to make Kevin McCarthy feel like he made a bad decision. I think this was a politically convenient decision for him in part of the effort to keep the gavel, but I also think that it is a huge risk because if there is blowback, if there is fallout, if someone who is watching Tucker Carlson's show and notices the way that something is playing out in the security footage and wants to do harm, I think that is the concern. And that's really the long-term risk for Kevin McCarthy, even if in the short-term, I do think this might help him with the base, which is probably what he was trying to achieve.

KING: So, the Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the question, "Do you agree or disagree with this?" Try to figure out what he means.


RAJU (voice-over): Are you comfortable with Speaker McCarthy giving access to January 6th security footage to Tucker Carlson, someone who has down played this attack?

MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER OF THE UNITED STATES SENATE: Going back to when Speaker Pelosi was Speaker, my main concern is the security of the Capitol.


KING: Almost, it's kind of a non-answer. Is his point that Speaker Pelosi let the January 6th committee use it, but they said it was a very careful, selective process there, that -- be careful, but giving it to Tucker Carlson is not being careful.


MITCHELL: I think he was basically saying, he is concerned about the security of the Capitol. And reading between the lines, I think he's kind of saying this may or may not be the best thing for securing the Capitol. I think he threw Nancy Pelosi in there just so there was a Democrat to be part of that answer and not all Republicans. But I do think what he's saying in not as many words, is that we got to secure the Capitol and that means footage that could come compromise security needs to in the right hands at all times.

KING: That's a key point in the sense that the Chief of the Capitol Police said, "I have no choice. When asked for this by somebody in authority, I have to give it to them." Didn't say, I approve or disapprove, just made clear he didn't have a choice. I think they worry about it as well.

Up next, the Biden White House 180 on tougher border policies, new CNN reporting on the Administration now embracing Trump-like approaches it once rejected.



KING: I want to share some new CNN reporting on the border. We're learning about why the Biden Administration is embracing more restrictive border policies. Sources telling CNN, the Administration "went from not wanting to do tough stuff to realizing they have no choice." The policy echoes some of what the Trump Administration did. That 180 not sitting well with some of the president's fellow Democrats. CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me now with this new reporting.

First, what are they doing now that six months ago or a year ago they said "No, we won't touch that."

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN'S WHITE HOUSE CORRESONDENT: This is a policy that would largely bar migrants from seeking asylum at the US-Mexico Border if they transited through other countries, which as you know many do. And it is a marked difference from where we were before, where US law says migrants who reach US soil have the right to request asylum. This is the most restrictive policy they've put out to date. And again, it's a departure from decades-long protocol. And sources tell me, this idea is not the first time it came up. In fact, in the summer of 2021, White House and DHS officials discussed this concept and White House lawyers knocked it down, seeing it as possibly being blocked by courts.

Now, Administration officials tell me they feel strongly about its legal authority now and that it is not like the Trump -- what's they call transit ban. That was more of a ban on asylum all together. And instead, the Administration's defense of this is that they're also opening up legal pathways to the US. So there is an option for migrants to get here. But ultimately, it really does mark a shift of where the Biden Administration was in 2021 and where they are now, when they're on the cusp of a 2024 general election. And we know that this is an issue that's a vulnerability for President Biden.

KING: So then again (ph) at the why, is it that they know it's a vulnerability in 2024? Is it that they have exhausted other policy options just on how can we do this better and they are not working? Combination?

ALVAREZ: It's both. It's the political reality; it's also the reality on the ground. So yes, Republicans have been hammering the Biden Administration over records numbers at the US-Mexico Border. Even members of his own party have been saying, we need to manage this better. But the reality too is that there's mass movement across the western hemisphere. These are numbers that we haven't seen before and from countries we haven't seen before. We are seeing Cubans, Nicaraguans, Venezuelans. We haven't seen those populations before. And so, that really puts them in a corner into how they can manage these populations which we can't necessarily remove back to their countries because of strained diplomatic relations. So, it puts the Administration in a really tough spot, one they've been in since the outset. But it also puts them in a position where reforms they wanted to pass are by the wayside and they are going to have to make tough choices moving forward. KING: How significant is the blow back from progressives in the

Immigrants Rising community?

ALVAREZ: Democrats aren't happy. Most of the statements are deeply disappointed, outraged. They see this as going towards the Trump approach and that's what makes them nervous, but the reality is that the Administration is saying, "You have to pass immigration reform in Congress and in the absence of that, we are going to have to pass these policies."

KING: There will be the absence of that. The question is the policy debate going forward. Priscilla, thanks for coming in and sharing that.

Up next for us, the president today making a historic choice for the Secretary of Labor.



KING: Topping our political radar today, President Biden making history with his pick to lead the Labor Department. Julie Su would be the first Asian-American to serve as a Secretary in the Biden Cabinet if confirmed, recalling her mother's journey to the United States in her remarks today.


JULIE SU, UNITED STATES DEPUTY SECRETARY OF LABOR AND LABOR SECRETARY NOMINEE: 60 years ago, my mom came to the United States on a cargo ship because she couldn't afford a passenger ticket. I believe in the transformative power of America and I know the transformative power of a good job.


KING: Another litany of lies about the 2020 election coming from Marjorie Taylor Greene. This time, she was sitting right next to the top Georgia election officials Gabe Sterling at a meeting on election integrity. Greene repeating her false claim that Donald Trump won Georgia back in 2020. Sterling clapping back by Tweeting, "Some still deal in disproven conspiracies," with a picture of him (ph) taking a big gulp out of his coke can.

The CEO of Norfolk Southern will testify at a Senate Oversight Hearing next week. Norfolk Southern owned that train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio spilling toxic materials. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators introducing a New Rail Safety Bill today aimed at holding the big railroad companies accountable. They hope to prevent future such incidents. Starting today, food stamp benefits will shrink for millions of

Americans. Congress voted last year to end the Pandemic Emergency Relief that it had passed back in 2020. It's estimated to affect 16 million households. Meanwhile, a major move to make a commonly used prescription drug more affordable. Drug company Eli Lilly says it is cutting the price of its most commonly used form of insulin and will cap the out-of-pocket cost at $35.

Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage, right now.