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Inside Politics

DeSantis Takes On Trump In A New Interview, Says "No Daily Drama"; Manhattan Grand Jury Will Not Meet Today; Democrat Rep. Rosa DeLauro Says Possible GOP Cuts Will Be Absolutely Detrimental; Critical Fed Decision On Raising Interest Rates; Biden Pivots To The Center As 2024 Looms. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 22, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': That is a -- think of what the four years of Trump were like. I give you the policy without the drama.

DANA BASH, CNN'S CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND CO-ANCHOR OF 'STATE OF THE UNION': That's exactly right and it is subtle but very clear -- very clear. It's very thinly veiled what he is trying to do which is exactly that, which is -- you talk to a Republican after a Republican -- whether it's elected officials or everyday voters, who voted for Trump the first time and were not very happy about it, the second time they will say when it came to his policies, for the most part, they supported it. It's the exhaustion factor and all of the chaos that he created, that he stirred up in so many instances. He seemed to and continues to kind of excel somehow, personally, when there's chaos around him, and he's trying to make a clear contrast on that and not necessarily on policy issues.

KING: So you ask -- he still says he's an if, right? We expected in May, he'll announce after the Florida legislator finishes its session. But say, why now? Why would he agree to this interview now? Well, number one, I think that he thinks there might be some chaos around Donald Trump because of all these legal questions at the moment, so it's a good time to say I'm the anti-chaos. But number two, we do see this polling and DeSantis has taken a bit of a hit as he has taking more hits from Donald Trump and others. You see him at 39% in this National Monmouth Polling.

Back in December, down to 27%, now Trump is going up. I guess you could argue, Nikki Haley has tripled her poll numbers. That's one way to look at that. So in the interview, we're going to see on a debate stage, we understand what Donald Trump did with his nicknames and his scorn, his tough scathing tone for his rivals in 2016. Ron DeSantis says, not a big deal.


PIERS MORGAN, HOST OF 'PIERS MORGAN UNCENSORED', TALKTV: Which is your favorite nickname that Trump's given you so far? Is it Ron DeSanctimonious or Meatball Ron?


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Well, I can't --

MORGAN: Even he went off Meatball Ron.

DESANTIS: I can't -- I don't know how to spell the DeSanctimonious.


I don't really know what it means. But you know, I kind of like -- it's long. It's got a lot of vowels.


I mean, so we'll go with that. That's fine. You know, you can call me -- you can call me whatever you want. I mean, just as long as you, you know, also call me a winner.


KING: You see, again, he works it in, right? This is -- this discipline there. Number one, we'll see if you can do it on a debate stage, time after time after time. But his idea of being Trump can call me whatever he wants, I'm just going to let it roll off me. By the way, I'm a winner.

RHONDA COLVIN, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: That's right, and that sort of that calculation he's putting into his balancing act of running or potentially running against Trump by saying, Look, I'm not going to be bringing any of the drama. Like you said, it's tapping into people's fatigue of -- exhaustion with perhaps the former president's administration. But, Ron DeSantis, we've seen this week, especially when he was questioned about the possible indictment of Trump and how he said, well, I don't know what it takes to pay off a porn star.

So he's doing these light jabs. And, of course, this Piers Morgan interview looks like the strongest yet from DeSantis. But you are seeing so much of a balancing act, and I think that will just continue to evolve as we head to the primary season.

KING: Yeah. And again, he's a disciplined politicians, just want a big re-election as Florida governor. You can question the strength of his opponent, but it was an impressive, impressive win -- disciplined, preparing to run for president and yet, listen here, we learn a little bit about Ron DeSantis here by his, "I don't know."


MORGAN: You think you can beat Biden?

DESANTIS: I think so.

MORGAN: So you're running then?

DESANTIS: No, I didn't say that. I just said, I think I could. I mean, I think that that's -- I mean, if you look at Florida --

MORGAN: Who will be harder to beat, Biden or Donald Trump?

DESANTIS: Work out -- I don't know.


KING: The "I don't know" there is pretty interesting.


JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE BOSTON GLOBE: It really is, because I really do think particularly for someone who is untested on the national stage, like Ron DeSantis, it's very easy to be breezy across from Piers Morgan, who's laughing at your jokes. It's a lot different. Not only have Donald Trump coming at you, bringing the chaos to your doorstep, but to have whoever else in the field is going to be coming at him. He's going to -- and the Democrats. It's going to be a lot if he decides to run because he is the perceived next -- person next to next to Trump. So it is -- the tests are just starting.

KING: They are just starting. But it is very clear he has the attention of the Trump family, Don Jr. saying he went to the liberal media to Arizona (ph). I'm not sure if they -- most people consider Fox the liberal media, we shall see.

Up next, on the record, with a leading House Democrat, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, how progressives are now preparing for spending fights with the new Republican majority and how they are coping with recent White House decisions some liberals call betrayals.



KING: Some new reporting now on why the Manhattan Grand Jury did not meet today as expected. Let's bring in CNN'S Paula Reid. She's live with us now with the details. Paula, what happened?

PAULA REID, CNN'S SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, as we've learned that the Grand Jury will not meet today in the hush money investigation. Sources tell CNN that prosecutors have been in touch with an attorney for at least one witness, and they signal that they're leaving the door open for that witness to potentially come back before the Grand Jury to give additional testimony. One of the big questions right now is, whether this Grand Jury has actually completed its investigation or whether they will need to hear from additional witnesses. And it appears that prosecutors in this conversation left that door open.

We have also learned that prosecutors right now, I mean, they are taking a moment to really consider the historic weight of indicting a former U.S. president. This would be a historic move, and they are just taking a moment to regroup and think through their next steps. So we'll continue to report out what else is going on in the Manhattan D.A.'s Office, but it does appear possible that they could hear testimony from at least one additional witness.

KING: And so we shall wait. CNN'S Paula Reid, appreciate that important update. Paula, thank you. Moving on two big stories here in Washington, a giant spending clash is coming.


Yes, it's just ahead as the new House Republican majority demands budget cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. That's the nation's borrowing limit. It's the first big test of divided government and a key moment for House Democrats as they adjust to being in the minority and look for ways to recapture the majority in 2024. Our guest right now is a veteran Democrat who is known for doing her homework, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut is the Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee and because of that role, she is a key player in the spending battle just ahead. Thanks for coming in. It's good to see you.


KING: So I mentioned, you're known for doing your homework. The Republicans have said, there's an easy way out here. Let's just go back to spending levels of 2022 and that solves our issue. You agree to cut spending, we will agree to raise the debt limit -- Kumbaya, Washington's a happy place. So you reached out to the agencies and said, what would happen if we did that. So I'm going to read your list. Now the Republicans will say there are different ways of doing this.

But you say if you use those levels, two million people lose access to Community Health Centers; 1.2 million women and children lose food stamps, WIC benefits; million people -- million seniors cut from services like Meals on Wheels; low-income families, 430,000 evicted; 80,000 people losing their right to go to college or their ability to go to college; 125 Air Traffic Controls -- this is your proposal, which just tells me that you are prepared to go to battle with House Republicans, but they did win the majority. Do they have to get some cuts to move on here?

DELAURO: Well, the fact of the matter is, is that what we need to do is we have no idea what their proposal is. They have not come forward with any kind of a budget, any -- you know, proposals. We are in the midst of this, they are, and by the way, I think it's important to note that this was a trade for Kevin McCarthy in order to win the speakership. He made a political deal here rather than what's in the best interests of the country. And as you pointed out, the cuts are devastating and both -- in addition to what you understand that Republicans and Democrats made these investments, so what we need to do is to be able to protect the investments that were made.

KING: So this list, forgive me, my words, not yours, is a two-by-four. You want to say, good, you guys want to go into the 2024 election campaign? We will hit you and pummel you with this.

DELAURO: Let's take a look at what it means. KING: Makes sense, I get the politics of it. But you also are a pragmatic person who likes to get things done. Are there any private conversations with non-McCarthy, or people who he didn't have to make promises to under the scene saying, how do we work this out?

DELAURO: Sure, look, you know, I have chaired the Appropriations Committee, now Ranking Member. What happens is, you can't pass this bill without Democrats and Republicans, without the House and the Senate. Otherwise, the president doesn't sign the bill. So, it is and I believe it will happen, is that when some of my Republican colleagues, you know, the moderate Republicans, the people who are reasonable will see what the impact of these cuts are, what the consequences of cuts on the people that they represent that I believe we will have, you know, people who will join in the effort and say this is unacceptable.

KING: And so, another big issue that the president keeps raising in this stare down with the House Republicans, as he says, Republicans want to cut Medicare and cut Social Security.


KING: That's what they want to do. Two of the candidates, one of them is not formally declared yet, but two of the Republican candidates for president say, come on, responsible leaders, hey, have this conversation. Listen.


MIKE PENCE (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a way for us to advance common sense and compassionate reforms to Social Security and Medicare.

NIKKI HALEY (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, SOUTH CAROLINA: You can do what Joe Biden's doing and hide your head in the sand or, as he loves to do, raise taxes. But that's the lazy way out. We need to fix it. How do we fix it? You reform the entitlements.


KING: The way this has been done in the past, to take the nuclear politics out of it, is a bipartisan commission that then makes recommendations. But it's been a long, long, long time since that's been done. You know, from your work on appropriations, the longer you wait, the harder it gets. Is there any chance or is this going to be litigated in the 2024 election, and Medicare and Social Security, and the adult conversation that has to happen about the long-term viability of those programs waits out another presidential election?

DELAURO: With history, John. Take a look at what the Republican philosophy has been on both Social Security and Medicare. Let's look at privatizing it. Let's look at eliminating it. Let's look at raising the age limit. This is historic. They are so consistent on this issue. They've been looking to attack Social Security. Do you want to deal with it and its longevity? Lift the cap. Lift the cap on Social Security, so that the wealthiest, in fact, that people who make over $147,000 are paying their fair share on Social Security. Social security is bedrock.

KING: Republicans would say if you want to get the higher taxes there, which lifting the cap would be, you got to do something. Do you raise the age more? Is that -- are you open to those conversations?

DELAURO: You know, look, I think what we need to do is, it just not be scare tactics on Social Security. Want to take a look at where we need to go with a billionaire's tax, where we need to go on some of these others.


They don't want to touch any of that. They want to leave in place tax cuts for the richest one-tenth or one percent (ph) of the people in this country. Corporations will pay no tax. They want to go after the programs that help to benefit the American people in a fundamental way, and historically have done that, particularly with Social Security and with Medicare.

KING: Clear from that and the fact that they have the House majority for now, at least for the next year and a half plus, we're going to -- these things are going to wait.

DELAURO: You are here.


KING: The Congresswoman is going to stay with us. Should Congress consider new banking regulations? Congresswoman DeLauro will stay with us and our reporters come back in to join the conversation.



KING: Get back to our conversation with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Our great reporters are also back at the table to help me out. Let me start, this is not your first rodeo. But in recent days, a lot of criticism from progressives of President Biden, I'll just show you some of the headlines. "Why Joe Biden's Honeymoon With Progressives Is Coming To An End? A President's Pivot And A Party's Puzzle. Biden's Tick To The Center Risks Alienating Key Voting Blocs. Biden Moves To Recapture The Centrist Identity That Has Long Defined Him."

One of the decisions that angered Progressives was agreeing to allow this new drilling project in Alaska. Another one was siding with Republicans on rescinding the D.C. Crime Bill after you guys voted on it in the House. Did you get blindsided by your own president on that one?

DELAURO: I don't know if it's blindsided, but let me talk about the president. I think if you take a look at Joe Biden's history, this is someone who has prided himself on working across the aisle.

KING: So Progressives should not be surprised. DELAURO: You know, we shouldn't be surprised the president is making decisions, but you take a look at Bipartisan Infrastructure Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Safer Communities Act, I mean, this is someone who has seen results and so forth. But his MO has always been to work across the aisle, to come to some consensus. Quite frankly, I've had to have that experience on the Appropriations Committee. I can't pass a bill. You know, and they can't pass a bill without us. I can't pass a bill without them. So we work together.

KUCINICH: Has anyone in the White House stepped in to fill the void of Ron Klain, who had a reputation for really reaching out to Progressives and working with them?

DELAURO: Well, I think, you know, Jeff Zients is new (ph), etcetera. I don't know the nature of his conversations as well. We had -- I had a conversation with him as well. So I'm assuming what he will do is what Ron did, and I spoke to Ron frequently. All parts of I think of the -- of the caucus that he was very, very accessible. And I'm assuming that Zients is going to be accessible as well. But, you need to do that.

There's not just one piece of the of the Democratic Caucus , and so you really have to meet with it. Listen and try to bring people to a consensus, you know. So I expect that he will be doing that.

KING: It's kind of a not yet there though.



KING: There's a not yet hanging there.

COLVIN: Yeah, I'm interested in what you're thinking about the Fed's announcement. That's going to be news later on today in a couple hours actually, if they decide to raise inflation rates. Do you think that's going to, at least in the short term, affect debt ceiling talks and budget negotiations?

DELAURO: Well, first of all, let me just say this. I think the debt ceiling talks are -- is one set of conversations, the budget costs and the other side of that is different. We can't align the two pieces together though a number of my Republican colleagues, you know, want to do that. What the Fed is doing and I'm not going to second guess the Fed, inflation is killing people in this country. It really is. People do live paycheck to paycheck. And they are struggling.

What we need to try to do is to focus on how we bring prices down for people. That's something that we did in the Inflation Reduction Act where we dealt with drug prices, insulin prices, 15% tax on corporations, etcetera, and I'll talk about one area, is we ought to do something to bring cost down and give people a chance for financial stability is a child tax credit. Let's go in that direction, okay. The single most effective policy we have seen in years, in a short period of time, which has helped people to get back on their feet, reduced hunger in this country. So it's -- I'm going to leave the Fed to do what they're going to do, but we have to deal with the issue, inflation, how do we bring the prices down? That's what my job is.

BASH: It's amazing. Every chance you get, you bring up the --


BASH: -- for 30 years.

KING: Paging Joe Manchin.


BASH: Speaking of Joe Manchin, you talked about a lot of policies, so I feel like I can talk about what the name of the show is, which is Politics.


BASH: You heard Joe Manchin publicly say, what I've heard a lot of Democrats say privately, which is what's going on in New York, concern about the fact that this is perhaps, in the words of a lot of Democrats, small ball, potentially indicting Donald Trump on this Stormy Daniels payment, when you have looming investigations in Georgia and on -- by the Feds on the sort of democracy and trying to overturn an election. Do you agree with that?

DELAURO: I don't know what evidence they have here. What I view is more serious cases.

BASH: Yes.

DELAURO: Yes, I agree.

BASH: Just on the politics.

DELAURO: I agree that that's the case. But you know, and all of this, which we -- we need to step back for a second. This is a nation of laws.


Whatever the issue is, the courts and juries will make a decision and I don't believe that Congress ought to be engaged in and going into ongoing investigations. But, are there more serious issues? Again, I don't know what the facts are. I don't believe anybody else is, on what information that they have with that campaign finance reform or what it is. But, you know, they over -- trying to over throw -- overturn an election is a very, very serious issue, which is something that we really have to deal with and examine it. And it was, in my view, other than a walk in the park as Tucker Carlson has pointed out, I was there that day. This wasn't an insurrection and in a way in which to overturn a legitimate election of a president.

KING: Congressman, thanks for coming in. DELAURO: Thank you so much.

KING: We'll continue this another time.


DELAURO: Fun -- thank you very, very much.

KING: Hope we can do it again sometime. Thanks for your time to INSIDE POLITICS. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage after a quick break. Have a good afternoon.