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Inside Politics

Trump Predicts Arrest This Week, Calls for Mass Protests; Chaotic Week for Banks, Global Economy; Top GOP Senators Slam DeSantis After Ukraine War Comments; Abortion Pill Showdown; What Is Woke". Aired 8-9a ET

Aired March 19, 2023 - 08:00   ET





ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST (voice-over): A call to arms. Donald Trump says his arrest is imminent, and wants his supporters to take to the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he says take back America, he knows how some of his followers will hear it.

PHILLIP: What charges could he face, and what would it mean for his bid to reclaim the White House?

Plus, Biden's bank rescue.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No losses will be borne by the taxpayers.

PHILLIP: The president says he's safeguarding the economy. Republicans call it a Wall Street bailout. But who will voters believe?

And a new front in the war over reproductive rights. Is a conservative judge in Texas about to ban the abortion pill in every state in the country?


PHILLIP (on camera): Good morning, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Abby Philip.

Buckle up for what could be an extraordinary week and the life of this nation. Former President Donald Trump says that he expects to be arrested on charges of hush money payments made to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

Now, Trump dropped that bombshell on his truth social website yesterday, writing, quote, the foreign away leading Republican candidate, and the former president of the United States, will be arrested on Tuesday of next week. Protests take our nation back.

He followed up with another post saying, we can't let them allow this anymore. We must save America. Protest, protest, protest.

Both posts, eerily, reminiscent of his call to his supporters to come to Washington on January 6th in 2021. He wrote than, will be wild.

His former vice president, who broke with Trump over January 6, said that he agrees that it is a politically motivated prosecution, but, he condemned any threat of violence.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I believe that people -- if they give voice to this, if this occurs on Tuesday, that they need to do so peacefully, and in a lawful manner. That the violence that occurred on January 6, the violence that occurred in cities throughout this country in the summer of 2020 was a disgrace. The American people will tolerate it. Those who engage in that kind of tolerance should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


PHILLIP: Trump's legal team has been expecting an indictment in this case soon, but, a spokesman said that there has been no official notification that the charges are eminent, and that Trump's post was actually based on press reports.

So, the question is, what is Trump's end goal here?

We'll discuss all of this and more with former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe, CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams, CNN White House correspondent, MJ Lee, and "National Review" editor Ramesh Ponnuru.

So, Andy and Elliot, thank you for joining us for this.

I started by saying that this would be an extraordinary week for this country. And I do think that that is true, because it seems almost like a test of this system. Of this country's ability to respond to address what could be another case of incitement.

Andy, I wonder, what do you think Trump is trying to do here, with those tweets, the way that they were awarded and the timing of it all?

ANDY MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It certainly seems like he's falling back on his prior experience, on his instincts. That is to constantly reach out to his most fervent supporters, and to summon them the same way that they did on January 6th.

The tweet is a clear echo to the one he had on screen just before. The, will be wild, tweet which proceeded January 6, in which we know, have a no heard from many of the defendants and witnesses, that this was the call to action that they're responding to.

So, it seems that he's trying to raise the stakes of potential political violence, the out of control protests, as a way of getting the DA to back off. If that's his goal, I think it's going to fail.

PHILLIP: And perhaps really trying to box the DA in. What interesting part of this is that the context here is this is one of the many potential legal issues that Trump faces. It's one that a lot of people suggest is maybe the weakest, but I'm not a lawyer, you are.

But, when you look at Trump and his pattern here, he's been talking about what he might do, or what he might ask his supporters to do as it relates to these cases for a long time.


Listen to what he told Hugh Hewitt. This is September of 2022.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think if it happened, I think you to have problems in this country, the likes of which perhaps we've never seen before. I don't think the people of the United States would stand for it.


PHILLIP: So he's warning that the people won't stand for it. We also have to question, he sort of say, oh, I'm going to be arrested. They're going to take me away in handcuffs. Is that really how this might work? Or really, for anyone else?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It absolutely could. Now, he might have -- his lawyers might have gotten word that he had surrendered as of Tuesday or Wednesday, or after that certain point, he'd have to turn himself in.

That's not uncommon in New York or in white-collar cases, or, like you said, he made invited in the paper and have been making it up. So, it's hard to say. The surrender could absolutely be possible.

Now, he's using this language, candidly using the word protest, which is kind of something he can squirrel out of, in the event of if there was -- to lawfully protest. So it might be, you know, a call to get people to rise up, it's just hard to see.

But, finally, the question of, is this the most serious offense or not? Yes, there's a misdemeanor at the heart of this, possibly falsifying business records could be what he's charged with. Sex offenses are misdemeanors. Violent crimes can often be misdemeanors.

It's still a crime that's prosecutable, is just a question of whether the evidence is there, and the prosecutors are confident they can move forward with it. But I think the discourse around, is this serious enough thing to prosecute, I don't think it's --

PHILLIP: That's a fair point. I, mean I think most people agree the crime is a crime. At the same time, I think there are questions about the political impacts of what happens here. But, Andy, before we go to that ruling, this is become something that

is now on the radar of a law enforcement -- are reporting that CNN is that in New York, they are preparing for what could be protests.

What do you think that they are looking for, or perhaps preparing for now that Trump has done this?

MCCABE: So New York is obviously very familiar with protecting the city against protests, and large crowds of all sorts. I would expect that they are looking to do exactly that here. Preparing for the eventuality of a large crowd, and protesters, a potentially counterprotesters, at or around the court house.

They are likely scour in social media, for chatter of groups gathered for that purpose. They have a lot of tools in their tool book, or their tool box. One of which is to essentially extend the perimeter, so to create a frozen zone around the courthouse, or the Manhattan DA's office, which is likely where his processing will take place before he showed up at the courthouse for an arraignment.

And just to prevent that sort of gathering en masse at the location. You extend the perimeter out, one block, to block, three blocks from the courthouse. You've increased the size of the space.

PHILLIP: And turning to the politics for a moment, one of the reasons I raise this issue of the strength of the case is that you're seeing a political strategy playing out, where the Trump campaign is trying to gauge where his support is, also, to tacitly put pressure on allies.

So take Kevin McCarthy, the House speaker, for example, who tweeted in response, here we go again. And outrageous abuse of power and idea, he lets violent criminals walk as he perceives political vengeance against Trump, directing committees to investigate federal funds are being used to subvert our democracy by intervene in elections with politically motivated prosecutions. Few people have more that they owe to Trump than Kevin McCarthy. But, is seems to me that this is going to be their trial run for how they rally the base around Trump.

RAMESH PONNURU, NATIONAL REVIEW EDITOR: That's right. I think that a lot of Republicans, even those who don't want to rally around Trump in the sense of losing his chances in 2024, are going to find that Republican voters, with a variety of views about Trump, think that this is an abuse of prosecution. I think the politics of it does depend a little on the strength of the underlying case.

So, if the Georgia case was worthy of the indictment, was Trump would be saying the same thing, regardless of what the indictment is about, Trump's going to be same the right things, but I think he finds more pickup if it looks more like an abuse of prosecution. If it's the federal government could've charged and didn't, if it's something that the New York D.A. just seem to be dropping, and then resumed after criticism, all of these things are going to factor into this as well.

PHILLIP: Elliot, weigh in on that, this had been almost dormant case. I mean, Cy Vance, the previous DA, didn't really move forward with it.


And even Alvin Bragg didn't move forward with it until recently.

WILLIAMS: So, a couple of things. One, it's an -- the facts are old, six or seven years old. The star witness here in the form of Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former attorney, has credibility issues and has been convicted of crimes. And so, to your point, Abby, as far as the strength of the cases, certainly not the kind of slam dunk that many people would wish that it were.

To Ramesh's point about the politics behind it all, with the system in the United States, when we elect prosecutors about more than 90 percent of the partisan elections, they run for office, necessarily undefended two is going to raise the argument, this is all politics, I'm been singled out targeted.

There's no way around that when you have two different parties, and a defendant of one party be prosecuted by another. It all comes down to, as you said, Abby, the strength of the case, and will the juror, or can the public be convinced that this is a righteous prosecution. I think that that is an open question right now.

PHILLIP: MJ, there has been, we were just talking about the folks rallying towards Trump. There is also been some notable silence from Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, and some others, who haven't said anything yet. We'll see. It's Sunday.

But, I mean, the Trump campaign, for, sure is looking to see whether they can use that against those candidates with the Trump base.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sure, as with most things related to Donald Trump, you can very much imagine him literally keeping a tally on who are the people who are publicly voicing support for me, we were the ones who are staying silent?

I will say that the other big political angle to watch is obviously how Democrats and President Biden, and his allies are going to react, or not, react to all of this. What I can tell you is that Biden and his allies, very strongly believe that if it ends up being another Biden versus Trump rematch in 2024, there was a very clear, real path up to have President Biden win a second term. They believe that 2020 might show that the majority of the country believes that President Trump, Donald Trump, is simply unacceptable. Not to mention in 2024, presumably President Biden would not have gone through the wringer of the primary process, running with all of the advantages that come with being the incumbent president, and then, yeah, if you're running against somebody who's not just under investigation, but has been actively indicted, then I think that the unacceptability case ends up being an easier one for them to maintain, they'd argue.

PHILLIP: And in the near term, Andy, before we go here, I wonder, do you think that from a preparedness perspective, one of the things long force would seem to be caught flat-footed by how Trump seemingly innocuous words, actually turn into incitement in January 6th. Are they more prepared this time around? MCCABE: They have the great advantage of having learned from the

January 6 experience. They have a deep set -- deep wall of experience, and strong relationships with law enforcement communities. I expect that they will not hold anything back.

I don't think they'll have the same sort of concerns about optics, about sending troops unarmed law enforcement folks to the steps the capital, places like that. They are not going to allow this to happen in New York City. I have great faith in their ability to do so.

PHILLIP: Thank you for coming in for us. And, Elliot Williams, thank you as well.

But stick with us, up next, is it a bailout, or not a bailout? That is the question now facing Washington. And Biden's reelection could rest on the answer.



PHILLIP: A week of financial turmoil may not be over yet. Two American banks collapsed, others are teetering on the edge. And, the odds of a recession are now rising. And no one knows exactly what's coming next.

But the Biden administration is hoping that its rescue plan that ruled out last week was enough to prevent the bigger crisis from unfolding. And they also hope that Americans believe them when they say they took those actions to protect regular people and their money in the bank, not wealthy investors and bank executives.


BIDEN: No losses will be borne by the taxpayers, let me repeat that, no losses will be borne by the taxpayers. The management of these banks will be fired. Investors in the banks will not be protected.

They knowingly took a risk and when they risk didn't pay off, investors lose their money. That's how capitalism works.


PHILLIP: Republicans have a very different message however, and they were quick to use the dreaded B-word.


SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): We don't think it is fair that community banks in Kansas or across America are bailing out billionaires from California from Wall Street.

SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): It ought not to be taxpayers in Tennessee that are having to bail out Silicon Valley Bank, or Signature Bank. SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-TN): Banks in my state in rural Oklahoma are

going to have to help bail out a bank in San Francisco and in New York for the actions that they took.


PHILLIP: Julie Davis and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of "The New York Times" both join our panel.

So, we're talking banks, bailouts, billionaires. It does seem that the Biden administration in particular is kind of damn if you do, damn if you don't here, right? So, they kind of have to prevent a broadening crisis in the banking sector. But, they want to run on economic populist message, too.

LEE: Yes, we have seen the Biden administration really go to great lengths over the last week to avoid the B word, as you put it. President Biden, in particular. He had a front row seat back after the 2008 crisis as vice president.

The real backlash the Democrats confronted after the actions that the Obama administration took after the last financial crisis. And how much that fueled the anger, and how much will political price Democrats ended up paying. And that is why we saw the president and all of his public remarks emphasize over and over again this is different from what we saw after 2008.

And, in particular emphasizing that taxpayers are not on the hook for this.


That there was a difference between saving, or bailing out a bank versus bailing out and saving and helping out the innocent depositors who just happens to put their money into this institution.

Now, whether the average person is going to understand and recognize that distinction I think is very much an open question. And, obviously, politically speaking, that's not going to stop Republicans from continuing to accuse Biden of having buildup these banks.

PHILLIP: I mean, here is the view from the average American, it just seems like this rich people keep doing things to screw with other people's money and then they get saved.

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, NEW YORK TIMES CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR: Average people have to change for their own financial mistakes, have a lot of trouble dealing with their own budgets and their own economic challenges. And here they see a bunch of wealthy investors, a bunch of wealthy people in Silicon Valley and around the country having taken a risk, did not work out, the inflation has hit everyone, has been part of the cause of what has made these banks so vulnerable. And they are getting help, they feel like regular people don't.

What is also true, as MJ said, if these banks were left to flail in this situation, average Americans and those folks would pay a price, and that is sort of the delicate balance of the Biden administration is trying to strike between saying, listen, this is not just for wealthy people it is to help the whole system. And, also realizing that 2008 is so pretty fresh in people's memories that this happened.

That's what they said then, you know? It was regular folks who were hurt by the mortgage and housing crisis that precipitated that. And then, the big banks and the wealthy investors got help. So, it's really political, like you said, catch-22 for them.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That concern that Julie was describing was also among Americans I think factors directly into how much President Biden was talking about holding the executives of these banks accountable. Whether or not he was going to be able to do that remains an open question.

But we did see him asking for financial regulators to have new powers to basically regain those gains from different executives who may have traded different shares before these banks failed as well, trying to empower, and increased different oversight mechanisms and increases accountability. I think that directly connects to the concerns that Americans, and frustrations Americans will have, seen what's happening over the past two weeks.

It's really clear that what happened in 2008, as you were sane, he had a front row for President Biden, still haunts Washington to this day.

PHILLIP: Yeah. So, 2008, we've been talking a lot about what seems to be a big difference, and we just look at these images I remember these moments kind of just vividly. You have Republicans, Democrats, congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, sitting on a massive conference table, those days really did feel like the sky was falling, but there they all were -- John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, sitting next to each other.

Do you think that this Congress can get their act together to even sit at a conference table like that, to address the crisis, if there were one?

PONNURU: Well, one of the differences between 2008 and now is there was congressional action. Congress passed what came to be called the bailout in 2008. You had both the Bush and the Obama administration's taking action.

This time, there isn't really that bipartisan division of responsibility, because the Biden administration is really taking the steps on its own. It's not going to get covered by Republicans to the political impact, could, I think, be significantly worse. And then, too, we've got the problem that the Fed may be stymied and its fight against inflation, because it's worried about these banks, which sets up the possibility that the 2024 economic situation is worse than we were otherwise going to have.

PHILLIP: Yeah, it's very real possibility, and one that I know the Biden administration is concerned about.

But coming up next for us, a comment by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has set off some alarm bells within his own party.

We'll tell you what he said, next.



PHILLIP: This morning, as the war in Ukraine rages on, a battle over support for that war is escalating right here, right now in the United States. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis set off a firestorm this week with an answer he gave to a questionnaire from Fox News's Tucker Carlson.

Carlson asked, quote, is opposing Russia and Ukraine a vital American national strategic interests? To which DeSantis replied, in part: While the U.S. has many vital national interests, becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them.

Now, top GOP senators wasted no time at all making sure that the likely 2024 contender knew exactly what they thought of that cancer.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I have a different point of view. I believe it is very much in the interest of America to honor our word.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): Ukraine winning this war as United States' interests, and a pretty high one.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): To say this doesn't matter is to say that war crimes don't matter.

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-WV): I think this is a much bigger issue than a territorial dispute.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): The worst thing we can do right now is to pull back and send a message that we're not resolute in supporting our allies.


PHILLIP: So, is that a warning to DeSantis? Or a brush back to him? Are they thinking that perhaps, by pushing back hard now, they can change his stance on this?

PONNURU: They might be, because, I think that Governor DeSantis pretty clearly was trying to say things that would ingratiate himself with Tucker Carlson and Carlson's fans, without actually committing himself to anything like a cut off in aid to Ukraine, which you will notice he doesn't actually come out and say that he wants in the statement.

So he was trying to follow I think the path of least resistance and I think the Senate Republicans are saying, no there is going to be some resistance here and you've miscalculated on this one. PHILLIP: I mean do you think this has, you know, dimmed the bulb at any -- on Ron DeSantis' potential candidacy?

PONNURO: I don't think it is going to have a big effect but I do think that it is worrisome to people because they think this was not depth. This was not the kind of coalition management that they were hoping for.

PHILLIP: Yes. The politics of it are a little bit clumsy. And Nikki Haley really jumped on that. She released a statement saying "President Trump is right when he says Governor DeSantis is copying him. First in his style, then on entitlement reform, now on Ukraine.

I have a different style than President Trump and while agree with him on those policies, I do not on those. Republicans deserve a choice, not an echo."

And it doesn't help also that this is Ron DeSantis himself on this question back in 2015.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We in the Congress have been urging the president, and I've been too, to provide arms to Ukraine. They want to fight their good fight. They're not asking us to fight it for them. and the president has steadfastly refused.

And I think that that's a mistake.


PHILLIP: So is this just like a good old-fashioned flip flop?

DAVIS: I mean it's definitely a pivot, right. Those of us who covered him here when he was congress before he went back to Florida to become Governor, remember a very different kind of tone coming from Ron DeSantis on foreign policy with much more in the sort of traditional Republican hawkish Reaganesque mode of, you know, you support a fight for democracy. You fight against communism, all of those things. We're hearing a very different tone.

Now, what's striking is you know, you played that tape of Mitt Romney, of course, the 2012 Republican nominee. The disconnect between what he was waying and what Ron DeSantis is now saying really tells you a lot about where the Republican base is. And I think that's the key thing that's motivating him here.

Yes, he probably could have been more deft in his language but he's clearly trying to appeal to where he thinks and it seems like when you look at the polls and just anecdotally when you talk to people who are talking to regular Republican voter, this is where people are.

Donald Trump did really change the frame of this debate for the party and people are in an America first mode.

PHILLIP: To your point, I mean the polls from Axios/Ipsos recently show 42 percent of Republicans support weapons and financial aid for Ukraine, far lower than Democrats and Independents.

But you also raise another great point. The party of Ronald Reagan I think is really struggling on this issue of Ukraine. I mean listen to Ronald Reagan talking about his foreign policy philosophy.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: IF History teaches anything, it teaches that simple-minded appeasement or wishful thinking about our adversaries is folly. So I urge you to speak out against those who would place the United States in a position of military and moral inferiority.


PHILLIP: I mean where is Reagan's party on this. I mean it seems like there is a move to depart pretty dramatically from that.

Ponnuru: So I think that there has clearly been a change in Republican foreign policy but I think it's also important to note that Reagan was often more rhetorically bold than he was in actual foreign policy.

He didn't go and fight every fight that the United States could have fought at that time. And sometimes he withdrew. Sometimes ignominiously as in Lebanon.

And so I think that sometimes we flatten these debates and it isn't -- some of the things that Governor DeSantis said about Ukraine I think are reasonable so, for example when he says our goal shouldn't be regime change in Russia, something that President Biden briefly floated but hasn't actually pursued. Those sorts of cautions I think ought to be part of the Republican and the Democratic foreign policy.

PHILLIP: This is a conversation we are having on the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, really a seminal moment for this country and for a generation or two really of voters who are a part of the process now.

And it seems like both parties are responding to this legacy right now.

YOUNGS: And I think what we are talking about is politicians that are trying to connect to voters, Americans that have become frustrated with the certain interventionist approach when it comes to foreign policy rather than one that might be more based off of a quote- unquote, "America First" mentality.

I think someone said it just before. That is an effect of the Trump administration as well, that came about.


KANNO-YOUNGS: And you see Ron DeSantis at this point trying to appeal to some of those supporters at this point. Trying to appeal to some of those Trump supporters that did -- were supportive of an idea of moving away from that interventionalist mentality. PHILLIP: And even the Biden administration, they came in wanting to

view their policy through the lens of what would work for Americans domestically but the other thing that happened is that real actual events intervened changing that dynamic for them in some ways.

But coming up next for us. It's been called the biggest abortion case since Dobbs. And soon the fate of a pill used by millions of American women could be decided in a Texas court.


PHILLIP: Today abortion rights advocates are bracing for a ruling in a blockbuster case that could cut off access to a leading abortion drug in every state.


PHILLIP: On Wednesday, a federal judge in Texas heard arguments in a lawsuit calling for mifepristone, one of the pills used in medication abortions to be pulled off the market nationwide.

Now medication abortions currently account for more than half of all U.S. abortions with demand soaring since the Supreme Court overturned Roe versus Wade. And abortion pills have now become the next legal battleground in this fight over reproductive rights.

And joining me now to discuss this is NPR's national correspondent Sarah McCammon who's joining our round table.

So Sarah, you were in the courtroom this week for this case. Lots of drama and controversy surrounding this hearing. What went on inside?

SARAH MCCAMMON, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, NPR: This case is as you said really about access to the abortion pill mifepristone which has been on the market for more than 20 years. It's used in most medication abortions in this country. And medication abortion is the dominant form of abortion in this country today.

So there are two sides in this case. There's a group of antiabortion rights advocates, medical groups and doctors primarily who oppose abortion who are suing the FDA on the other side challenging the way that the FDA, the particulars of the way that FDA approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago and some for the rule changes they've made since that has made it easier for people to get access to that pill.

And so in the courtroom, we heard lawyers for the anti-abortion groups argue that -- about some of those particulars but also argue I think interestingly Abby that widespread access to medication abortions is making it harder for red states that has banned abortion since the overturning of Roe v Wade to enforce those laws.

PHILLIP: Because one of the key things here that abortion rights advocates want is for medication abortion to be perhaps mailed to people's homes even if they live in a state where it might otherwise be banned. The other interesting thing this judge -- a very conservative judge

not only has this case before him but he ruled back in December on abortion. He also ruled on halting efforts to end Trump's remain in Mexico program and he rejected rules that would have protected LGBTQ people from discrimination on healthcare.

The bigger question here though that I have just on principle is I don't recall any other scenario in which a judge has been asked to rule on the science of the safety of medication. I mean I wonder -- I mean putting aside how you might feel about abortion, what do you make of that?

PONNURU: I think that it is going to be a big sort of seismic ruling if in fact he rules the way that people are predicting that he's going to rule and I think it's correct that I can't think of a similar case where you had this kind of sweeping action overruling an FDA decision from the federal bench.

There's another issue here though which is also, there is federal law on point about mailing abortion drugs which the Biden administration has said it's not going to enforce. That complicates things and of course, whatever this judge decides may not be the last word.

PHILLIP: But do you think -- I mean abortion opponents are really pushing this case? I mean do you think that if you're an abortion opponent, presumptively you're a conservative that that is the right strategy on the science being at hand here?

PONNURU: So the argument is that the FDA did a kind of expedited approval back in 2000. And that it didn't, you know, dot all its i's and crossed all of it's t's. I do think that it is unusual to come back at this 20 years later.


MCCAMMON: Another thing that came up during the hearing this week, Abby, you know, the judge actually asked the lawyers for the anti- abortion groups has anything like this ever happened before. Has a drug ever been on the market in this way for such widespread use and taken off the market in a case like this. And the lawyer acknowledged that no, there really is no precedent for something like that.

PHILLIP: Listen to the Vice President Kamala Harris talking about this very issue.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you're think about what this might mean, for context, look in your medicine cabinet. That medication your doctor has prescribed probably was able to be prescribed because the FDA approved it. If politicians can using the court to undo doctors' decisions, imagine where that could lead.


PHILLIP: It almost actually has echoes of the way that Democrats framed the argument around abortion as a result of the Dobbs decision. And it could have similar political effect.

DAVIS: Absolutely and I think Democrats look at that as sort of a successful effort to take the overturning of Roe v Wade and the Dobbs decision and really hammer at it so that voters understood the stakes and understood why it happened.

And they believe that -- and I think a lot of Republican strategists believe this as well -- that it really hurt Republicans in the midterm elections and it's one of the reason that they didn't have more success. It's one of the reasons that they didn't win the Senate for instance; one of the reasons they didn't have a bigger victory in the House.


DAVIS: So I think Democrats are basically taking that playbook and using it here, understanding that a ruling that's adverse to what they want to see could really motivate their voters and energize their voters.

And not just Democrats but voters around the country and Independents and others who feel like abortion rights are really at risk here.


LEE: I will say though, while Democrats are seeing this as being a galvanizing issue, there is an accountability issue too for the Biden administration given what the promises are that they made.

PHILLIP: Yes. Absolutely they have to answer to their voters as well.

Coming up next for us, what is in a name? in the case of the word "woke", the answer to that question isn't always clear even among some conservatives who regularly invoke it.


PHILLIP: "Woke", here is how Merriam-Webster's Dictionary describes it. "Aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts, especially issues of racial and social justice."


PHILLIP: Now it's a word that we all hear a lot of these days, and "woke" was coined by black activists to bring attention to racial injustice. But these days, conservatives are working overtime to redefine it to suit their political ends. So much so that it may very well have lost all of its meaning.

Take, for example, this noted conservative who this week struggled to come up with her own definition.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you mind defining "woke"? Because it's come up a couple of times and I just want to make sure we're on the same page.

BETHANY MANDEL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: So, I mean, "woke" is sort of the idea that -- uh, I -- this is going to be one of those moments that goes viral. I mean, "woke" is something that's very hard to define and we've spent an entire chapter defining it.

It is sort of the understanding that we need to re -- totally re- imagine and re-do society in order to create hierarchies of oppression. Sorry, it's hard to explain in a 15-second sound bite.


PHILLIP: And she was absolutely right, it did go viral. But beyond that viral moment, the issue actually is what she said at the end, which is how complicated is it to define woke?

Here's her follow-up tweet, explaining her actual definition. She says, "It's a radical belief system suggesting that our institutions are built around discrimination and claiming that all disparity is a result of that discrimination. It seeks a radical redefinition of society in which equality of group result is the end point enforced by an angry mob."

Now to me, one of the issues here isn't so much that she couldn't do it in that moment. It's really that the definition that she's putting forward is one that has been created by conservatives in the last couple of -- I mean, let's call it 18 to 20 months, since the summer of 2020.

And it's been created in order to sort of attack the idea of social injustice as a concept, it seems.

KANNO-YOUNGS: I always understood -- well initially when this term came about, I understood it to be understanding our nation's history to inform us about societal barriers currently.

It seems, however, that's sort of become a catch-all for certain politicians to appeal to the grievances and anger of certain voters in times that are convenient to those certain politicians.

I've heard it in debates ranging from why certain topics shouldn't be taught in classrooms to why certain banks have failed in the past couple of weeks, which to me says that you are kind of picking and choosing this word for when it's convenient to you.

PHILLIP: I mean, I want to bring Ramesh in on this because I understand that you are probably more sympathetic to Bethany's definition than some other people might be. But I think the question is, if it's so hard to define, does it just kind of come to mean whatever anybody wants it to mean?

PONNURU: Well, that's the nature of a lot of political terms, right. I mean conservatism and liberalism or ultra MAGA Republicanism, as President Biden likes to say -- all of these things are sort of fuzzy concepts and different people are going to give you different definitions of it. I do think that we should try to be as precise as possible when we're

arguing about a specific thing, to talk about that specific thing and not to go straight to this abstract term.

I think, though, that the general phenomenon here that people who are complaining about wokeness are talking about is an actual turn that has happened on the left side of our politics towards heightened sensitivity. Of course, there's such a thing as oversensitivity, and that's what the criticism generally amounts to.

PHILLIP: And to your point about kind of the specificity or lack thereof, I just want to play for a little bit what we're talking about when this -- when we talk about a buzz word. I mean this has become the ultimate buzz word on the 2024 campaign trail.



DESANTIS: I think it goes back to this woke mind virus that's infected the left and all these other institutions.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This woke self loathing has swept our country. It's in the classroom, the board room and the back rooms of government.

GOV. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS (R-AR): He's the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can't even tell you what a woman is.


PHILLIP: So, putting aside the definition for a second, that to me says, as we're moving forward towards 2024, this is going to be a central component of that race.

LEE: Absolutely, it already is, right? As you were saying, it has become very much this catch-all pejorative term that conservatives in particular like to use and particularly when there's even just like a whiff of an issue having to do with race or gender or sexual orientation, inclusivity, diversity issues.


LEE: Republicans in particular have been using the term to go after liberals and Democrats, whenever they feel like there is a situation where they're sort of trying to meddle in your personal life, right.

So you know, they're trying to teach our children this or make our children eat this at schools. So yes, it is definitely going to be a hugely defining sort of tool that Republicans use heading into 2024.

PHILLIP: My curiosity will be, as we go towards 2024, once this gets beyond the Republican primary, what do real people who are living their lives think about this? Are they waking up in the morning and thinking, wow, my kids' school is too woke?

I think that that's just an open question. I don't have an answer to it, but we'll see how that turns out.

But that's it for us on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. We have some big news though before we go.

Starting next week, INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY will move to 11:00 a.m. Eastern time. It's the same great show. I will still be here, just three hours later. You can get a little bit more sleep, a cup of coffee.

But up next, right here on CNN, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. We'll see you next week, 11:00 a.m.