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Sinema: "We're Not Prepared" For The End Of Title 42; Deadline Looms For Immigration & Debt; Tomorrow: Biden, Congressional Leaders Meet On Debt Limit. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 08, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And with that goes Title 42, the Trump-era policy that says you can turn people away even they are seeking asylum. It used to be you could come into the United States until you had your court hearing, then you can turn them away. There is expected about 7,500 people now in a day encountered at the border. They expect that could go to 10,000. It could go to 12,000. It could go higher. Kyrsten Sinema, now the independent Senator from Arizona, says the administration is doing some things but not enough.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (I-AZ): Well, it's wonderful that the administration is announcing things like a 1,500-troop deployment, and these new processing centers which will not be operational by next Friday. Those are good things. Those are aspirational. That's not the same as operational. Tent the buses. Hire the drivers. Build the soft sided facilities so that we can process individuals. We need more holding capacity. I mean, let's be realistic here. And that's what's not -- we're not prepared for that.


KING: They share that view at the White House, "we're not prepared for that". Secretary Mayorkas, over the weekend, essentially saying they need more help from Congress. Unlikely. The Republicans are going to pass their immigration plan this week, but the Senate Democrats aren't going to touch it.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, the White House is not shying away from the fact that this is going to be a significant issue this week. I don't know that they'll call it a crisis or not. We'll have to wait and see on that one. But, they are very conscious, and they want to prepare the public too for the fact that we are going to see a surge in migration once Title 42 expires, even beyond the surge that we are already witnessing right now with those numbers, as you said, creeping up to 7,500 people crossing per day.

They will argue, however, that they are as prepared as they can be, that they have been working to expand legal pathways on one end of the situation for populations coming from some of these countries where we have seen the surge, particularly Central and South American countries, and at the same time tightening some of the enforcement measures. We're expecting, before Title 42 lapses, this new asylum rule that's going to bar certain migrants who crossed into other countries before coming to the United States from applying for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

So, look, it's going to be a significant challenge. But, that is the irony of this. They have been preparing for this. And yet, they are still expecting to see significant numbers and a significant problem that's going to strain the system.

KING: And the President is probably not thrilled. But, he enters this big week, having seen over the weekend the Washington Post/ABC poll, which shows him, again, job approval rating-wise at the lowest point of his presidency. Also in that poll, do you believe the President is in good enough physical health to serve effectively? 71 percent of Democrats say yes, but only 30 percent of independents and only five percent of Republicans. Seung Min, you wrote a great story. Here is the headline of it, 'My career of 280 years': Biden jokes off 2024 age concerns. He also discussed this in an interview with MSNBC late last week where he said, watch me. I'm fine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people. I'm more experienced than anybody that's ever run for the office. And I think I've proven myself to be honorable as well as also effective.


KING: That's what he says. The numbers don't back up that that's what people are seeing.

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS, & CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And the issue is people have been watching and yet these concerns persist. And I'm just really struck by polling among Democrats even where they largely have a positive view of President Biden, certainly has performance in the White House, what he has gotten done, but still, not less than half of them want them to run -- want him to run again. And a lot of that comes from that age issue. And the President can joke it off. It's the very Ronald Reagan-esque method of -- don't -- you don't buy youth's -- my opponents are youth and experienced. But, it helps to a certain extent, but it is still on liability for him at this point.

DIAMOND: It's a real problem for this White House. I mean, they know that this has been an issue in polling for some time now, and they're not really seeing positive movement in their direction. And they have tried a lot of different approaches, President has tried humor. He has tried talking about his experience. And one of the things that the White House constantly comes back to is, well, once the American public sees how much he has accomplished, once they start to see the results of these bills, like infrastructure, like the CHIPS Act, like the Inflation Reduction Act, then they'll finally understand that he is competent, and he is up to the task. But, if Democrats, who were probably more aware than any other type of voter of what the President has accomplished, still have these concerns, it's a problem.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: My colleague and I, Greg Krieg, we've spoke to young progressive voters, young activists across the country, and they echoed these concerns. They said that there is no excitement among the folks that we have to go register, that we are door knocking, trying to get them engaged right now, and that this is a real issue, especially if we have seen President Biden sort of moved to the center in recent weeks. In response to this, the White House, they recognize this is a vulnerability and they are working hard to engage those necessary coalitions.

KING: We'll see. He has the policy stuff this week. He has the campaign work to do, 16 months, 17 months to the election. We will see. You get tested by doing it.

Up next for us, new exhibits, sadly, in the gun violence debate, graphic images from the latest mass shooting in Texas including of child victims surfaced on social media.




KING: Texas is back in the spotlight as another American community deals with the horror of a mass shooting, the Allen, Texas, weekend mall shooting, a mass shooting, one of more than 200 already this year. It also joins the list of deadly mass shootings that have ravaged Texas over the past five or six years, including the murder of 21 people at Rob Elementary School in Uvalde last spring.

Some families of Uvalde victims were at the Texas State Capitol today, you see it there, joining Texas lawmakers who say all this senseless violence should be a wake-up call. Our reporters are back with us at the table, should be is a conversation that's happened before, and every state is different depending on, is your governor a Republican or Democrat?


Where is -- how is the makeup of your legislature? Listen, this is a Democratic State Senator from Texas, who says one of the ways he is thinking about, and he says he pulled back in this instance of trying to shake people out of their locked-in votes no, or votes no on even discussing gun violence, is to show them the pictures of the victims.


SEN. ROLAND GUTIERREZ (D-TX): People need to really wake up, I mean, wake up to what's happening here. It's almost become some normal event for everybody. I had a still photo in my file that I wanted to show to members of the Texas Senate and walk around with it because I was so disgusted in their inability to be able to do anything and have bills on the Senate floor, about common sense gun safety solutions. And I ended up shredding that photo because I didn't think it was appropriate.


KING: You see it right there, just sort of the difficulty in this, people who want to sort of shake people into at least having a conversation. Our colleague at CNN, David Axelrod, tweeting out over the weekend that Emmett Till's mom, 1955, insisted on an open casket, wanted people to see the violence. Is that where we are?

DIAMOND: I mean, at some point, you have to wonder. I mean, I feel like we've had this conversation before after previous mass shootings, especially when you hear the first responders and the people on the scene who say, you need to understand what a bullet from a high powered rifle like an AR-15 does to the human body. And there are ways to demonstrate that without showing the images of these dead bodies. But, as I was watching over the weekend, this mass of people being evacuated from this mall, you think about the number of people who are affected every single time we have one of these mass shootings, and whether or not that starts to change minds, because it certainly creates activists.

We have seen this after significant mass shootings in this country, the way that this movement around gun violence has developed. And certainly, the more mass shootings happen, as there are, you're going to have more people take charge and say, enough. We need to do something.

MCKEND: And it's not only the mass shootings in -- when I speak to activists in Chicago, they say, don't forget about what we call the everyday gun violence right here.

KING: Yes.

MCKEND: And what has struck me about this is the community responses. What you see is that people, young people in Chicago, they're not waiting for lawmakers, because they, frankly, they don't have any faith in them. They are trying to have their own intervention programs to try to stop this. And what you're going to see is more and more people, as we're all impacted by this. Senator Warnock on the Senate floor last week saying none of us are going to escape this. It's only a matter of time, is people responding on a local level in ways that they actually can.

KING: And so, you listened, in my view, sadly, the reaction politically is often almost the same. Like, you can go back two years ago to a mass shooting and the player say exactly about the same thing, and that's not the single out anybody in particular. But, in this case, listen, here is the Republican Governor, very in favor of gun rights, Greg Abbott saying, it's not the guns.


GREG ABBOTT, GOVERNOR, TEXAS: There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of anger and violence that's taking place in America. People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.


KING: And let's listen, before we talk, this is a more conservative Democrat, Henry Cuellar, also from Texas, who says look around the country.


REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TX): People talk about just making the laws stricter. You got to look at in states that are blue, very strict laws. You still get this type of mass shootings. So, it does happen across the nation, and we have to get to the bottom of this.


KING: They're both right. Governor Abbott is absolutely right. There is a mental health crisis in America. But, should that preclude a conversation about, say, assault style weapons? Congressman Cuellar is right. There you mentioned Illinois. You are talking about Chicago. It's a blue state with a governor with restrictive gun laws, and there is too much violence. I guess, my question is, can we have a -- there is no way to just have, especially as we get closer to 2024, let's go sit down in a room and talk about it?

KIM: Yes. There is very little way to have a fulsome conversation that actually ends up in a legislative and a policy solution. I think there was a sense when President Biden signed the bipartisan gun legislation earlier in his term that that was actually the furthest that Congress could go. And President Biden himself has said he is kind of out of options when it comes to executive orders. I will point out with what Congressman Cuellar says, and this is what proponents of gun restrictions will tell you, is that state by state creates a patchwork of laws where it makes it very easy for guns to move back and forth, which is why progressive states with more restrictive gun laws could have these similar levels of gun violence.

But, again, stepping back, there are very little conversations, actual conversations happening right now. There is a lot of activism certainly in state capitals. I do think it's notable that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer just announced that he is going to have a meeting of Senate Democrats on gun measures later this week.


They're trying to show that they believe that there is more to do on the congressional front. But, I think, again, in kind of the political climate that we're in right now, it is just very hard again to see a solution.

KING: Lots to play out. Again, we get closer and closer to a campaign year, the likelihood of anything at least in this town becomes less and less. So, ahead for us, you don't want to miss, a CNN exclusive, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell should be brimming with confidence if you look right there at that 2024 Senate map, but he isn't. His take on that map and on the Trump effect. That's next.




KING: Now to a CNN exclusive. The Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, he says that he is not confident Republicans will take back the Senate majority in 2024. Leader McConnell telling CNN's Manu Raju in an exclusive candidate phone interview, you'll love this. "We do have the possibility of screwing this up and that gets back to candidate recruitment. I think that we lost Georgia, Arizona and New Hampshire because we didn't have competitive candidates." That would be last year, he means. This despite an obvious advantage in the upcoming election. Democrats are defending a whopping 23 seats compared to only 11 Republican-held seats.

Right here in studio with me as our Chief Congressional Correspondent, Manu Raju. His candor is born of experience. He thought in the last couple of cycles he would get and then pad a Republican majority, and yet he is in the minority. Let's just put the map up on the screen here. If you look at this, number one, the advantage for the Republicans is, all 11 of those red states with Republican incumbents are Republican states in presidential elections.

Is Florida potentially a swing state? Maybe. But, you go through all of those states and you have Republican incumbents in what should be safe or safe-ish seats. You look at the map here. McConnell, in the interview with you, focuses on Montana, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where you have Democratic incumbents right now in, what, in a presidential year, should be tough states, right?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And it's interesting to see him talk about that, because he is seeing this -- despite all those states that we just saw, he is really looking at a very small map to take back the majority. In West Virginia, of course, Joe Manchin, we don't know if he is going to run again. He is very happy about getting Jim Justice, the governor there, to run. Also in Ohio, he -- Sherrod Brown is the incumbent Democratic Senator.

They have several candidates they are happy about. In Montana, there is hope that they could get this businessman named Tim Sheehy to run there. Jon Tester is the incumbent member. And they are really, really pining to get Dave McCormick, who ran and fell short in the Pennsylvania Senate race in the last primary. Now, they want him to run here.

But, John, in each of those states, there are very complicated primaries that could emerge and could complicate their efforts to get back the majority. So, McConnell made very clear that unlike the last cycle where the Republican leaders, for the most part, stepped away from those primaries, they plan to engage, spend money and resources in those races to ensure that they believe they can get the most electable candidate root out the weaker ones. But, of course, that's easier said than done. KING: And so, let's continue there. So, another reason McConnell thinks Montana, Western Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, good for Republicans, even if Trump is the nominee, because those are strong states for Trump. He lost Pennsylvania last time, but he has -- he got a ton of votes. It was a very close state there. Then you look at these other ones. You look at Wisconsin. You look at Nevada. You look at Arizona, where you have Democratic incumbents in what should be battleground states. Why not more confident there?

RAJU: Yes. I asked him specifically about that. What about those other states? He left those out, probably because the down ticket impact. He didn't say that explicitly that the down ticket impact could definitely hurt Wisconsin. It could have hurt them in Arizona. Michigan, he barely even mentioned in the interview. And Arizona is such a complicated state for them because of the potential of Kyrsten Sinema running as a third-party candidate, also the Democratic candidate, and some very far right candidates, including Kari Lake, Blake Masters considering a run in Arizona.

McConnell made clear to me, John, that they plan to wait almost certainly until after the primary to decide whether to spend any money there at all, which explains the underlying problem here for them. Now, the primaries could produce candidates who could be unelectable in a general election, which is why he is hedging his bets at this point.

KING: One of the things he said to you is we don't have an ideological litmus test. We'll be involved in every general election where we have a legitimate shot of winning. The question is in the primaries, though. Does he expect to have fights with Trump over Republican nominees? Are they going to spend to go against Trump?

RAJU: It's really an interesting question. What will Trump do? We don't really have a sense if he'll be as aggressive as he was last time, because a lot of this blew up back in his face in the last cycle. What will he do now? Steve Daines, the NRSC Chairman of the Senate GOP campaign, has been working behind the scenes, talking to Trump, endorsed Trump for his presidential run. Perhaps that can help things going forward. But, it's still uncertain.

KING: Fascinating interview and interesting, if this, again, his lack of confidence born of history, Manu. Everybody, I urge you to go to, read the entire interview. It's fascinating. As we go ahead, a top Republican threatens to hold Secretary of State Antony Blinken in contempt of Congress.




KING: Topping our political radar today, airlines could be required to compensate fliers for canceled or delayed flights. President Biden and the Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, announcing a new proposal today that would make it mandatory for airlines to pay passengers and to cover expenses like meals, hotels, and rebooking your flights.

Attorneys for an IRS whistleblower in the Hunter Biden criminal investigation met with key congressional investigators on Friday. They claim there is political interference at the Justice Department in the case. Sources say Senate Republican leaders anticipate an in-person interview with that whistleblower in the near future.

And the top Republican investigating the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan is now threatening to hold the Secretary of State in contempt of Congress.


Chairman Mike McCaul sent a letter to Secretary Antony Blinken Friday, saying Blinken has failed to turn over key documents. Secretary Blinken argues those documents are classified and not for public consumption. He has now until Thursday to respond.

Thanks for your time today on Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow, busy news day. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.