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DeSantis Makes His Iowa Debut Ahead of Expected Presidential Bid; Biden to Approve Major New Alaska Oil Drilling Project; Tucker Carlson Tries to Rewrite History of Jan. 6 Insurrection; Warren vs. Harris; McConnell Still in Hospital after Concussion from a Fall. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 12, 2023 - 08:00   ET





MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): An Iowa introduction.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: We will never, ever, surrender to the woke mob. Our state is where woke goes to die.

RAJU: Governor Ron DeSantis prepares for an all but certain presidential run. But does he have what it takes to bring down the front runner?

Plus, shifting right? The president may break a big campaign promise on energy. Will it cause a breach with progressives?

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I hope that as we go into the next two years, he continues to be the strong, principled president that he's been.

RAJU: And the GOP's insurrection divide.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): It wasn't a stroll through the Capitol. It was an attack on our Capitol.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): Large majority of folks who were in D.C. were peaceful.

RAJU: How the Republican speaker and right-wing TV host triggered a conversation most Republicans don't want to have.


RAJU (on camera): Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju, in today for Abby.

When the history of the 2024 presidential campaign is written, this week maybe chapter one. Republican front runner Donald Trump will be in Iowa tomorrow for the first time since he launched his first presidential campaign. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was there on Friday for his first

visit ever.


DESANTIS: But when I meet Iowans in Florida, they are happy. They love their state because it's well-run. You know, I always tell my legislators, you watch Iowa, watch this -- do not let them get ahead of us on any of this stuff.


RAJU: Technically speaking, DeSantis was in Iowa to promote his new book, not campaign for president.

But the subtext was unmistakable as he bragged about his conservative accomplishments as governor.


DESANTIS: We refused to let our state descend into some type of Faucian dystopia.

We also signed legislation prohibiting local governments from defunding the police. We thought it was worth it to send 50 illegals to Martha's Vineyard.

We have done things like eliminate critical race theory from our K through 12 schools.

We have had to stand up to protect the integrity of women sports in Florida. It is wrong to tell a second grader that they were born in the wrong body


RAJU: Now, DeSantis's visit came the same days as the first big Iowa poll of the year. Now, that showed that Trump was viewed favorably by about 80 percent of Iowa Republicans. And DeSantis, by 74 percent.

But DeSantis has a lot of room to grow. One in five Iraq publicans have not made up their mind about him yet. Trump's favorability has fallen by 11 points since 2021.

Now let's discuss this all with our great panel here in our room, Seung Min Kim of "The Washington Post", "Punchbowl News'" John Bresnahan, "Wall Street Journal's" Catherine Lucey, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Now, Jeff, you are almost literally fresh off the plane from Iowa after spending some time there on the ground.

I mean, the big criticism about DeSantis is that he is not a good retail politician. He doesn't do the elbow rubbing and the handshaking, as well as other politicians.

But you are talking to voters. How do you think he was received by them?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I heard none of that. I mean, that's criticism in Washington. In Iowa, the Republicans who saw him both in Davenport and then later in the evening of Friday in Des Moines, at a private meetings between, were thrilled to see him.

I mean, this is a group of Republicans that appreciate and admire the policies of the former President Donald Trump, but are ready to move on. So they were happy to see the Florida governor who they see virtually every day, sometimes several times a day in their living room on Fox News. He has become ubiquitous there. And they like what they saw.

I thought he was warm, he was engaging, he was friendly. He is a policy wonk. And to some, Republicans, that is refreshing at this point.

So at this point, he was introducing himself. But I also heard again and again, this is not a two-man race. Let's see how this plays out. There been a lot of front runners who have been humbled by the Iowa caucuses were by other candidates.

So it's early, but the people I saw, the Republicans, they left with smiles on their faces, that he is the real deal. So all the talk about oh he's not a good retail politician. I'm not sure it doesn't matter quite that much at this point, but we'll see how he reacts when questions, Catherine knows, the Iowa caucuses as well.


RAJU: Yeah.

ZELENY: The key is, when questions come out from voters, how does he sort of take it?

RAJU: I want you to weigh in on this, Catherine. This is actually struck me from something in your story from Friday, Jeff. It said Ron DeSantis has never -- this is from a source close to his political team, that DeSantis has never been political successful because he's the best campaigner.

He's been successful because he's the best governor. Primary voters are less concerned if you are having coffee with them than if you are authentic and doing what you say you are going to do.

And you lived in Iowa, you worked in Iowa, you covered the caucuses.


RAJU: Do you think that's a correct assessment?

LUCEY: I think both things can be true. I mean, certainly, they're banking on the idea that he is a governor with a record, and they want to see what he's done so far. But also, what he is proposing in this year's legislative session. So, that's a big part of their pitch. But they do -- the Iowa caucus voters, as Jeff knows, they want to

meet you. They want to ask you questions. They do want face time if they feel like they are not getting that.

So you have to be able to engage. Although it does sound like he did get an enthusiastic reception, and there is a lot of interest right now.

RAJU: Yeah.

And, Seung Min, of the socio press, formally of "The Washington Post", and also an Iowan yourself, lots of Iowan on this table, but Ron DeSantis was talking to them, let's listen to his message to voters.


DESANTIS: I think it is all because of the woke mind virus. It is warping people.

We have got to fight if we see it in medicine or the universities or the corporations. You can't just say let it go, because then we are going to be living under an oppressive wokeocracy.

We will never ever surrender to the woke mob. Our state is where woke goes to die.


RAJU: Is that a broad enough message to win an election, either general or primary?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLTICAL ANALYST: Certainly for the primary electorate, it could be whether it translates in how he -- if he is a nominee, how he pivots or he pivots as a general election nominee, that's obviously yet to be seen. But I do think you do see how quickly his message has resonated with Iowa voters.

I was looking at some of the headlines from the local papers. You have him exciting the crowd you, have voters who are eager to meet him and get to know more about him.

And I do think that what we need to focus on are the Republican primary voters who do seem to be, while they still like Trump, they are ready to move on. Because you see voters looking more at electability and thinking that Donald Trump cannot win another national election again.

So you are looking at primary voters, I have also been very fascinated by the elected officials who already kind of getting on board to Ron DeSantis train. You had -- I actually was really struck by former Congressman Lou Barletta, one of Trump's earliest supporters. I believe he endorsed him back in March 2016.

He tweeted late last week that he wants Ron to run, his former housemate, and also, when Ron DeSantis was in the valley yesterday, he had Adam Laxalt introduced him, another former roommates from back in the day.

But Trump endorsed Laxalt, and I will be very curious to see the former president's reaction to that.

RAJU: You are seeing the shift within the party. Has that reflective of the voters, too, that they're ready to move on, maybe?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, PUNCHBOWL NEWS CO-FOUNDER: Oh, yeah, no question about it. I mean, there is Trump fatigue, clearly. And I think all the time we are talking about Trump's legal problems. We are talking about January 6th. I mean, you know ,voters, including Republicans, a lot of them want to move on from this. They like Trump's policies as Jeff said, they may not -- they just maybe over Trump.

One thing that is interesting to me, and you just mentioned, I covered DeSantis in Congress. It's interesting to see the evolution.

RAJU: Yeah?

BRESNAHAN: He was not exciting person.

RAJU: No, he was a back bench.

BRESNAHAN: And he was back -- and he was -- I sat down for 30 minutes with him, and he was not a great interview. But to see his evolution is very interesting to me. But, again, like Seung Min just said, you know, can he extend this to his message to a broader array of voters, including Republicans nationwide. So, we'll have to see that.

RAJU: I mean, let's listen to some of the voters that Jeff, you know, spoke with earlier this week when you asked him the Trump question.


TERRY PEARCE, IOWA REPUBLICAN: Donald Trump has the experience, he knows how things work there now. He knows who he can trust, and who he can't. And I have full faith he will get things done.

DAVID OMAN, IOWA REPUBLICAN: Donald Trump's message is getting a little bit stale, a little old. We feel like a new generation of leadership is good for the party.

THERESA YAKEL, IOWA REPUBLICAN: I think he did really well for the country, but I would like to see some other people stepped up.


RAJU: I mean, remember, Trump lost to Ted Cruz there in 2016. So, to the activists really seen as the front runner this year.

ZELENY: He did, but he went on to win a general both times.

I mean, there are two camps without a doubt. There will be people who will be as long as he is around, with him. I talk to one man who said he was going to write him if he's out on the ballot. So, that's kind of an issue, like what happens if he's not. But, look, there is certainly the Trump campaign. But those who want to move on, that's what I found again, and again, and again.

The question is, how big is the field? If the field is, very, very large, that benefits Donald Trump as it did it back in 2016. So I think that is the thing to be watching for the next couple of months. How many are going to take the Larry Hogan lane and sort of exit and not run, or how many are going to run.

But there was absolute sentiment to move on. But there are still Trump supporters and when he goes to Iowa tomorrow, he is going to have a receptive audience. So it is far too soon to say that Trump is out of this. I think that would be us not learning our lesson from 2015 and '16.

RAJU: Absolutely. It's early. There are so many things that could happen. There are so many questions about Trump, he has legal questions, he could be potentially indicted in New York or other issues. How will that play? So many questions about this very ,very fluid race, and it's still early.

Now, up next, is President Biden breaking from his progressive allies? A big new oil drilling project in Alaska is the latest signal that the answer, maybe yes.



RAJU: And the left wing of the Democratic Party has never been crazy, about Joe Biden. His latest flash point, a source tells CNN the administration will approve a huge new oil drilling project called Willow on federal land in northern Alaska. Environmentalists see it as a betrayal. Former president -- Vice President Al Gore calls it recklessly irresponsible and a recipe for climate chaos.

Progressives are already frustrated by Biden's recent moves to the right on crime and immigration. But here is what the head of the congressional progressive caucus told me on Friday, offering this warning to the president.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): I think the progressives and the president have agreed on so much. I hope that as we go into the next two years, he continues to be the strong, principled president he's been and doesn't shy away from doing things that are based on principle, not politics.


RAJU: What are your sources, Catherine, telling you inside the White House about why the White House seems to be moving in this direction?

LUCEY: Well, a couple things, Manu. There is I think on some of these issues, there are some distinctions. So, we have recent moves from the president on crime, conversation on immigration, on drilling. On crime specifically, the White House really argues that this isn't a

move. That he has always been very clear he wasn't part of the defund the police effort, that he's been vocal about funding the police, and that some of the frustration on this really comes down to -- not to seem technical, but this legislation got tangled up with D.C. -- issue with the D.C. home rule.

But a lot of the lawmakers feel he blindsided them, deciding that he would not support a D.C. crime law. So, that, I think that is a slightly different thing compared to immigration and drilling, where people do really feel as though he's shifting away from some of his campaign promises.

RAJU: Yeah.

LUCEY: And obviously, this comes at a moment where he's looking to run for reelection, we expect him to run for reelection, these are issues, especially crime and immigration issues, that Republicans are really going target. And he is always pretty good at sensing where his party's, trying to get the middle on issues. And I think that is sort of in keeping with this career.

RAJU: But as you mentioned, it is a break from his campaign promise from 2020.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No more subsidies for fossil fuel industry, no more drilling on federal lands, no more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill. Period. Ends.


RAJU: I mean, this is clearly Biden shift for -- ahead of the likely presidential campaign.

KIM: Right, right. And I also do think that this is something that, when the White House makes these decisions, obviously, they're considering a lot of factors, too. But they're also considering how these policies affect members of Congress because I know we talk -- as it relates to the Willow Project, senator Lisa Murkowski, Senators Dan Sullivan, both Republicans, lobbied the administration heavily on approving this project.

But so did Mary Peltola, who is a Democrat that represents Alaska. Obviously, the first Democrat to represent that state in the House in decades. So I do think that, while for all of the anger that you are hearing from progressives, there are moderates in the party who are tearing these actions.

And I do think that, you know, over the course of his public service, you know, Joe Biden, while his last two years have been a flaunt of progressive policies and ideas, he has been generally a moderate over the course of his four-plus decades in public service.

RAJU: Yeah, he was never the progressive choice to begin with in the presidential campaign.

You talked a lot with progressives on the Hill, how they feel about it now? Especially as they have to fall in line behind him and the only real candidate in the whole primary.

BRESNAHAN: You raise a good point, I think that, especially on immigration, he is very much tied to the right. But that has been going on for months. There was a story on "The Washington Post" back in January, talking about chapter two, there's going to be chapter two for Biden. Immigration was a huge problem for them throughout the messaging on it was bad.

And, you know, you see Senator Baldwin from Wisconsin going to the border, but she's off, a real progressive going to the border. Then you know it's an issue. And then crime could've cost Democrats the House. I mean, they lost -- they failed to pick up seats in New York, and that was a huge issue. We saw what just happened in Chicago with Mayor Lori Lightfoot losing reelection, a large part of that was a crime issue.

I think Biden, the way he does this and I agree with you entirely, he tacks left, he tacks right. I mean, look at his budget, it's a very progressive budget. I mean, he is calling for tax raises on people with $400,000.

RAJU: It's stuff that will never become law.

BRESNAHAN: Yeah. And so, you know, he tacks left, he tacks right. The thing is that they are so sensitive about it. There is less of a middle in Congress at this time.

So anytime a president does do this, you know, it is the voices of screaming, we're losing him, is much louder.


And I think it's because -- a lot of it is because there is no middle left in Congress.

RAJU: Yeah, there also is going to be another big issue on his plate, which is what we are seeing happening in California, the collapse of the Silicon Valley Bank. This could dominate the president's next few days. We'll see how Washington ends up responding.

I mean, this is the second biggest in U.S. history. Look at the numbers here, $42 billion overall in -- $42 billion in withdrawals just on a Thursday, $4.2 billion an hour, $1 million per second.

I mean, this is something that president wants to focus on one thing. This could change his weeks and months ahead.

ZELENY: Without question, it's extraordinary, the speed of that, so much faster than 2008 when the run on the bank if you will was over a ten-day period about $16 billion for one bank alone. But, look, strong echoes of 2008 in terms of the bailout conversation that is going to happen in Washington, particularly starting tomorrow if other banks, other regional banks, sort of follow suit here.

So there is a lot of worry in chatter. And always a reminder that politicians, presidents, have one plan. This plan is often to get disrupted interrupted by the events of the day, and this is a very, very, serious matter.

And you're hearing Republican presidential candidates say, no bailouts, so it is very reminiscent of the old discussion, of course. And it is not -- the economy is in a much stronger position than it was in 2008 during the end of the Bush years. But that did sort of begin small and there was a discussion of TARP. Of course, we all covered it at the time

So watch the president on this, what they decide to do. A lot of these customers of the bank had no idea that they even necessarily that this was happening.

So some unique circumstances because of Silicon Valley, but the bill a conversation will be problematic in real.

RAJU: The politics are different, it is difficult to be dealing with Republicans -- is very difficult for Republicans to get behind something like this. And Democrats do, liberals going up against it. Nikki Haley, you mentioned it, put out a tweet going after the idea of bailouts. Mitt Romney said there should be some --


BRESNAHAN: AOC was opposed to the bailout, too.

RAJU: Exactly. So, so how do we get a coalition to get something through Congress, that is going to be incredibly difficult.

LUCEY: Well, it's hard to get a coalition to get anything through Congress right now. So, this won't be any different.

I mean, the White House, when I was saying, that this is not the same system as it was in 2008. Fundamentals are strong. They feel there are not guardrails. This obviously is going to dominate in the coming days and a big concern is to be if they happen with other like regional banks.

RAJU: Right.

LUCEY: That's a key question, if we see this at the cascade. It's something to watch for.

RAJU: And a big concern, a big feel and see what happens as they sort all of that out.

Coming up, Tucker Carlson airs a revisionist history of January 6. It reveals Republicans are still divided as ever, even two years later.


[08:27:09] RAJU: You've heard the adage, those who failed to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But what about those who rewrite the past? Well, that's exactly what millions of Americans who tune into Fox saw this week after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy released a trove of new January 6th security footage exclusively to Tucker Carlson.

Now, McCarthy's controversial decision is reopening deep divisions within his own party about the Capitol attacks. And just last night, former Vice President Mike Pence had this to say at the annual gridiron dinner about his former boss and some of his fellow Republicans.

He said, President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day. I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.

Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace. It mocks decency to portray it in any other way. It is interesting that he decided to do this last night and draw this really sharp contrast with Donald Trump.

ZELENY: It absolutely was. And it is farther than he is gone before he is charged with security about his family, but this was really a client of the former president -- but what he has sort of app that is to kind of accept the invitation to testify and of the hearings on January 6. In fact, he's resisting that.

So, some may say perhaps a bit convenient for him to make this in a closed press setting basically without cameras there. But the fact that he did say it I think is quite significant, regardless of the venue and the forum.

The question for the former vice president politically as he goes forward and tries to potentially run for president, there is really no appetite for that. But this is one of the strongest breaks we've seen him make from Donald Trump. Does it matter in the long run, I'm not necessarily sure who is listening to Mike Pence at this moment.

RAJU: Yeah.

Why do you think right now he chose this moment to do this?

LUCEY: I mean, certainly, Pence is one of -- as we talk about a number of Republicans who were looking to potentially run for president. He has been out -- he's been in early states.

RAJU: But the base doesn't view it, you know, the way that Mike Pence does.

LUCEY: That's the problem for him, though, is he's trying -- I think all of these Republicans who are not Trump has to find a lane, trying to find a space and an audience, and does this connect? Are there Republicans in the party who are interested in hearing this, does this message connect with people? And I think that's still really an open question. RAJU: You know, it's been interesting to see this Republican play out

about January 6. Kevin McCarthy did not want to have this discussion, he did not want to have, talk about January 6th. He avoided discussion about this for much of the past two years, but then he gave the security footage to Tucker Carlson, it's an internal security footage, and he has been back and forth about defending his decision to go this route.

Just listen how, the speaker of the House, then the Republican minority leader, talked about it on January 6, and now what he's saying.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The violence, destruction, and chaos we saw earlier was unacceptable, undemocratic, and un-American. We all should stand united in condemning the mob together.

Look, each person can come up with their own on collusion but what I just wanted to make sure is I had transparency.


RAJU: I mean I asked McCarthy repeatedly this week, does he agree with the portrayal by Tucker Carlson that this was a mostly peaceful day. He couldn't get himself to disagree publicly with Tucker Carlson. What is your read of the situation.

JOHN BRESNAHAN, COFOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: He's always had a problem with this. I mean look, the night of January 6 he voted against certifying Joe Biden's electoral college victory. I mean he -- you know, he and 140 Republicans, so. And then three weeks later he's down with Trump in Florida after January 6. He's down -- Trump had left the White House and McCarthy was the first person to go see him, or second after Lindsey Graham.

He needed Trump to be speaker. He still needs Trump or that element of the party. But this is a huge problem. There is no alternative, you know, reading on January 6. It was an insurrection. It was an attempt to overthrow the government.

But now you have Marjorie Taylor Greene and a full committee chairman, Chairman Comer -- the Oversight Committee, they're going to go see the January 6 political prisoners. I mean this is lunacy. This is not -- this is not -- what the country needs.

And McCarthy knows it is a problem for him. But he just can't get himself to get there because he's still -- he can't cut off Trump. He can't cut off the Trump wing of the party, the MAGA wing, he can't cut it off.

RAJU: And just listen to how the Republican senators who I talked to about all of this, how they reacted about the efforts to try to whitewash the events of that day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SENATOR THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I think it is (EXPLETIVE DELETED)]. I was here. I was down there.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I don't take any part in whitewashing January 6. It wasn't a stroll through the Capitol. It was a attack an owe our Capitol.

SENATOR MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): There is no question that the January 6 was a riot, an insurrection attempt. Efforts to try to pretend it was something other than that are despicable and frankly dangerous.


RAJU: What do you think of this divide within the party over this issue? They were all there and now others are downplaying it. They witnessed it. But these senators, obviously, it still is very fresh in their minds.

KIM: Right. Right. And It is another example of the deep divide among Republicans when it comes to the House and the Senate.

And I do think what you're seeing here too with McCarthy giving Tucker Carlson the tapes and what Marjorie Taylor Greene is doing by visiting these January 6 defendants at the Capitol is an attempt to just rewrite the history of January 6 in a very false way.

I mean we were all there. We witnessed it. If we weren't physically there, we witnessed it live on TV. I do think some element is that Republicans felt -- or Republicans were shut out of the January 6 Committee process by their own decision.

They, I think, recognize that that was a strategic error on their part and I do think that some of them are trying to catch up and trying to rewrite the narrative, again, in an inaccurate way because of all that came out through those committee hearings.

But what was remarkable this week too was Mitch McConnell, speaking of Republican senators, going out there without being prompted by questions from one of you guys, going out there and saying I disagree with the interpretations that Tucker Carlson put forward on Fox News the previous night.

I mean we all know Mitch McConnell. He does not proactively distance himself from either Fox News, the Republican base or Kevin McCarthy like that. So this is a really big deal for him.

RAJU: And aligning himself with the Capitol police chief who found it offensive, who found it and cherry-picked the footage that was aired on Fox.

And I asked McCarthy, did the speaker make a mistake. He wouldn't say the speaker made a mistake. He said Fox News made a mistake which is still significant for someone who really carefully guards his words.

But just as Mike Pence comes out strongly against what Donald Trump calling up on him to overturn the election and we heard the strongest comments that he's made to date about this last night.

Donald Trump is on the other side, as he has been for so long even having this really curious song that he recorded with the January 6 prisoners about -- just take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

JAN 6 PRISONERS: Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight


RAJU: I mean, he's aligning himself with the people who are in jail for trying to overturn a certified presidential election.

ZELENY: And this is exactly what worries so many Republicans I've been speaking to, actual voters. They want to turn the page and move on and talk about the economy, talk about President Biden, talk about other things and here it is once again we're talking about the former president.


ZELENY: Back to Tucker Carlson for one quick second. The bottom line of what we know now through the deposition and other things, he's worried about his audience, you know, losing his audience so that of course is why he's concocting this new show and other things. But it is a huge divide within the party and it's dangerous.

RAJU: Yes. Really and it is going to continue to play out.

All right. Coming up, brand-new CNN reporting, accusations and misunderstandings over a comment Senator Elizabeth Warren made about Vice President Harris and her place on the 2024 ticket.

That is next.


RAJU: Pretty insulting. That is the feeling inside Vice President Harris' orbit about what Senator Elizabeth Warren said or didn't say just a few weeks ago. Now that is according to brand-new CNN reporting just out this morning.

But what happened? When Warren was asked by a Boston radio station whether or not President Biden should run again. This is what she had to say.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Yes, he should run again.


WARREN: And he is running again. Because he's gotten a tremendous amount done. It's been two years, he's had the skinniest possible majority in the United States Senate and only a very small majority in the house and yet look at what we've done.


RAJU: But when Warren was asked about whether or not Harris should be part of the ticket, this is what she had to say.


WARREN: I really want to defer to what makes Biden comfortable on his team. I've known Kamala for a long time, I like Kamala. I knew her back when she was attorney general and I was still teaching and we worked on the housing crisis together. So we go way back.

But they need -- they have to be a team and my sense is they are. I don't mean that by suggesting I think there are any problems.


RAJU: So, there are some news about what transpired next and for that let's bring in CNN's Isaac Dovere to break down all of his new reporting. You see the headline there on your screen, "Democratic leaders want the party to stop its Kamala Harris pile-on ahead of 2024".

So tell us about this phone call that didn't quite happen.

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, two phone calls. Warren made that comment the end of January. She immediately realized that there had been a fumble there from her perspective on it. And they put out a statement saying that is not what she meant to imply, that there was any problems with the vice president.

And then she called the vice president twice, trying -- from what our reporting says -- to apologize to say that is not -- it is unintentional here and didn't mean to make a snub. And Harris has so far not called back.

And --

RAJU: There is been plenty of time to respond to a phone call. (CROSSTALK)

DOVERE: This is six weeks but among almost everybody that we spoke with who is anywhere near the vice president, there is a fury over this and it's because not just what Elizabeth Warren said but because it feels to them like another on of these someone else not showing respect to the vice president, not showing appreciation for the work that Kamala Harris has done.

They feel like they get it all the time. They get it from all sides and they are extremely mad about what happened with Elizabeth Warren. And as the reporting that we did shows also, that there are a lot of Democrats who are starting to think like hey, maybe for a lot of bigger reasons here, we need to stop this Kamala Harris pile on.

RAJU: Yes. It is such an interesting dynamic. And these are Democrats who are concerned about Kamala Harris and the pushback from the vice president's office. And you mentioned the clean-up from Elizabeth Warren's camp after her statement came out on that radio station. She said -- the office -- that I fully support the president and vice president's re-election together and never intended to imply otherwise.

That same day this tweet came out from President Biden with Kamala Harris, "Proud of what we've done together," I'm sure that there was no (INAUDIBLE) the timing there.

But look, Isaac's reporting gets to what a lot of Democrats feel about the vice president and her being on the ticket.

ZELENY: Without a doubt. But the reality is, if the president runs for re-election as expected, she will be on the ticket. I mean it would create much more drama for trying to remove her.

So yes, there are Democrats out there who sort of wish she wasn't. But the reality is if she was overshining or outshining the president that would be critical as well. So I think the vice presidency is very difficult. There is no rule book for this; the first female vice president, even harder.

But look she has some political challenges. She's created a lot of these things on her own. She's not necessarily found a lane. But she does have some supporters out there who would like to see the White House use her more.

The African American voters, the core of this Democratic Party who are so critical really like her. So it is a fine line here for them to walk.

And Republicans believe that she will be a central part of the 2024 campaign because they are already planning on saying you really are running against Kamala Harris because Joe Biden may not finish his term. So she will be a central part of the campaign regardless.

RAJU: And she has pushed back and her camp has pushed back about this calling this nothing but political chatter.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that it is very important to focus on the needs of the American people and not political chatter out of Washington, D.C.

Joe Biden has said he intends to run for re-election as president and I intend to run with him as vice president of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: You know, but her approval rating has dropped just like President Biden's has dropped. It was 50 percent in June 2021. Down to 39 percent now according to a Fox News poll recently. So this is an issue too, that she has to contend with.

KIM: Certainly. And I think a lot of her lower approval ratings is not just because she's obviously a part of the Biden administration, but she has been dealt a lot of projects, a lot of priorities that are really difficult topics. A lot of the things that you defer to a vice president, obviously the issue with the migration crisis and the root causes from Central America.


KIM: And I do think some of her supporters want the White House to kind of put her in a position where she can succeed, can thrive a little bit more. And I think she's actually found a little bit of a vein (ph) with leading the administration's response on abortion particularly after the Dobbs decision.

If that's that is an issue where President Biden has not necessarily been the most comfortable and most potent messenger. And I think people in Harris' circle has been very happy with how she's been kind of the point person for the White House on that issue.

RAJU: And in your reporting, Isaac, this is what a senior aide to Vice President Harris said, "Who the F knew what Mike Pence was doing."

Is it -- is she get more criticism than other VPs in the past?

DOVERE: Yes. I think it is the question that comes up a lot, not just about Mike Pence, but obviously the immediate predecessor there. As Jeff was saying, this is a really hard job to be vice president.

When it comes to Kamala Harris who has all of this extra attention to here because of who she is, because of who she is demographically, and because of the first, all of that stuff -- there is this question of how do you make her a star when actually the star of the show for the Biden White House is of course, Joe Biden. And they don't want to have her outshine the president but they want her to figure out some way to shine a little bit more than she has so far.

RAJU: Yes. We'll see how they decide to play her in the 2024 campaign, assuming there is one. All indications are that Biden will run. We'll see.

Coming up, we'll have an update on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's health. When will he be back on Capitol Hill? That is next.



RAJU: This morning, Mitch McConnell remains in the hospital as he recovers from a fall and head injury during a fundraiser on Wednesday night. Now, a top McConnell advisor tells me the minority leader is acting normally, even lobbying virtually everyone he sees for his release.

But at 81, the Kentucky lawmaker's accident is fueling concerns across both after. I asked some senators about a topic let's say that isn't exactly popular in the halls of congress.


SENATOR JON TESTER (D-MT): There's some advantages to having gray hair and some life experience. But the truth is, once you start getting elderly, things start happening. You lose your balance, you know. Growing old can be pretty rough.

RAJU: Criticism is the senate is too old of an institution. Do you share that criticism?

SENATOR DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I don't take that personally.

RAJU: But do you believe it's true?

DURBIN: No, I don't. Let the voters decide.


RAJU: We wish Mitch McConnell the best. And we're glad to hear that he is, of course, getting better, according to his advisors and people who have spent time with him. It's going to be out of the hospital soon.

But you know, John Bresnahan, you have been covering the Senate for a long time. The topic of age has, of course, hung over the Senate for some time. It's hanging over the presidential race as well. It's reigniting some of the conversations within Congress.

BRESNAHAN: I mean this always happens when there's an incident like this. I checked in with McConnell's folks last night. They didn't have anything new to say. I know you have followed this closely, the rest of us have followed this closely. I mean I have written on this for 20 odd years about how old some of these members are. But it's not the same for everybody.

If you ask Nancy Pelosi at 82, she is pretty vital still. But there are other members, they hit that 70s and 80s and they really slow down.

But they are protected by staff, they're protected by lobbyists, they're protected by other members.

RAJU: Yes.

BRESNAHAN: So it's hard to get some of this -- We had Thad Cochran, who was chairman of the Appropriations Committee until we wrote something about it. And then at the time, I will tell you McConnell was really upset with me about that because Thad Cochran, when he came to the Senate, that was somebody he took under his wing. So you know, it's a very, very, very sensitive issue.

RAJU: Yes. No question. It's also significant too. It's not just -- we are not just picking on their age. This isa narrowly divided institution. When there are absences, there are impacts and to be fair, there are some younger members too who have had health issues. John Fetterman to a degree is still in the hospital dealing with clinical depression after getting a stroke. Two younger Democrats in the last congress also had strokes.

But this is how the breakdown of the senate is by age if you look at it. Just two members in their 30s. Eight members in their 40s. about two-thirds of the members are in their 60s and 70s. And four members in their 80s.

What impact do you think this has on the institution?

ZELENY: I mean most specifically it could have a big impact. As you said, the margins are so narrow in terms of leading the Senate. I think overall, is the Senate representing the tapestry of the American electorate. And the Senate has always been old -- it's actually younger, I believe, than it used to be, at least there are fewer senators in their upper 70s and 80s.

But look, it's a good retirement home. I mean that's been kind of the quiet joke, that it's a -- you have staff around you. You have access to medical care.

So I think that Senator Durbin was saying there, the institutional knowledge is very important, without question. But it's not necessarily representative of all of America. Some CEOs have to retire at 65 in some companies. Certainly not in the Senate.


RAJU: There's no retirement age. And seniority, you benefit from seniority -- that's why members stay. They can be chairman of key committees the longer they stay.

Now McConnell's team is saying that there's no doubt he will be able to continue to serve as leader. They want to put to rest any question about whether he is fit to serve.

But there's still a question about how long Mitch McConnell -- longest serving party leader of any party in history, in the senate -- how long he will continue in the job.

KIM: Right. Well, his current term is up in 2026. He has been asked about his future before, particularly when he got that designation of being the longest serving senate leader in history.


KIM: He obviously won't entertain questions about 2026 in the year 2022 or 2023. But I do think that once he got past -- once he got that designation, that honor, I think that people in the Senate have generally assumed that this might be his last term. But again, you know, McConnell keeps his cards close to his vest. And

we don't know that for sure. Right now, everyone is deferring to McConnell. He is someone, despite the leadership challenges that he had from a few members from the last Congress, he is someone that has retained a lot of loyalty, a lot of loyalty among Senate Republicans and obviously that's why they all want to see him back there.

RAJU: Exactly. And look, he told me last fall that he would stay and fill out his entire term. We will see if he does that. We will see how long he decides to stay as leader. It seems like he could stay as long as he wants given the, as you say, loyalty among his conference.

That's it for us for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include White House budget director Shalanda Young and Congresswoman Nancy Mace.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. See you next time.