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Inside Politics

Republicans Fear Trump Will Hurt Their 2024 Chances; Santos Votes To Clamp Down On Unemployment Fraud; Long-Shot GOP 2024 Candidate Proposes Raising Voting Age To 25; Reddit Co-Founder Talks About Dangers Of Artificial Intelligence; Smokey Robinson Releases New Album At Age 83; Two High-Profile Iowa Republicans Endorse DeSantis. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 12, 2023 - 12:30   ET



JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Though, I don't know how much he's changed. I mean, I think some of the things, it was kind of the old hits and favorites over the course of four years when you -- what we heard the other night.

But I think, you know, the disconnect is between those Republican senators and the people that vote for them. I mean, they know that they're in the minority because of former President Trump, and they know that, you know, they were favored last time, too.

But there is a disconnect between the people who vote them in and also vote for former President Trump. And, you know, I don't know how they square that.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And some of it's on specific issues, some of it's more on just his coarseness, his mocking and attacking E. Jean Carroll, for example, after a jury found him liable for sexually abusing her. One of the objections was from Thom Tillis. Trump said there that he might pardon many -- most of the January 6 rioters since Senator Thom Tillis says no.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: Anybody who crossed in to the end of the Capitol, under the circumstances that I witnessed firsthand, it's hard for me to have a positive predisposition towards them. Now, is there maybe someone in there, but not the majority, not even a small minority that may need some consideration? Possibly. I'd have to see the circumstances of the person. But just, generally, I disagree.


KING: I always find interesting these conversations. You see him reaching for the door, number one. They just don't want to have these conversations.

CLEVE WOOTSON, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Getting away from that. KING: Getting away from that. But he tries to do that in a very common, dispassionate way. When you, you know, when you do have -- I'm not saying this about Senator Tillis, but with many of these -- when you have more private conversations with them, they're like, you know, banging their head off the wall at the things he says because he thinks it hurts them.

Yes, I think the most interesting thing is not the evolution of Trump. It is the evolution of the Republican Party's relationship with --


WOOTSON: -- Donald Trump and even America's relationship. We can probably all remember a time a few years ago when a Trump tweet early in the morning over breakfast or whatever would send our entire world, our newsrooms, into a tizzy.

Now you have, you know, Trump on a CNN town hall saying the Republican Party should do this and all of this stuff, and it's greeted sort of with a collective shrug by even folks who were diehards a few years ago.

KING: And one of the things we're going to get an answer to soon, we expect Governor DeSantis sent to the race pretty soon. Jonathan Martin, now of Politico, went down to see his team, and he wrote a great piece about it. And, you know, DeSantis has had a very rough few months. His polling standing has fallen quite a bit. A lot of donors have questions about his performance.

But J, Martin, in his piece writing, "The Republican professionals and their victory-hungry financial benefactors are desperate to leave Trump behind. It's not exactly revelatory. What is more striking, though, is that even as DeSantis has faced a blizzard of attacks from Trump, the same openness toward the Florida governor also remains among the GOP's grassroots."

I guess we're about to test that, right. Our Republican grassroots voters. Trump has a pretty commanding lead right now, and I don't know if any old rules apply anymore. But if you go back in history, if the person is known, the front runner is known and has a big lead early on, they're hard to take out.

KUCINICH: They are, which is why I think there's a little bit -- I think you see some people and you saw in that piece Ron DeSantis kind of ready for him to launch, but time will tell. I mean, I do think it's premature to judge how DeSantis will do in a Republican primary because he's only done these stops or he hasn't really interacted with voters.

There's just a lot of things that, you know, we haven't seen yet from him. So I think that there has been maybe a push to set him aside in some circles, but we haven't even started yet.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, how does the anti-Trump lane form in this race?


RAJU: That's the real question. They're going to split up. If there is really a two man race, what about all the other candidates who are still in the race that are trying to vive to be the Trump alternative? And does one emerge out of that pact, or do they split the vote and essentially help Trump who's got that really a hold on many of those grassroots conservatives? That's going to be a huge question.

KING: Right. And when do we get the answer to that question? That'll be sometime late this year, early next year when we see it. I want to -- you've seen a lot of Manu in the program today that's because he hustles so much on Capitol Hill. It's also the best beaten town. You can still go around and see and ask questions of the people you want to see.

But you see this photo right here. That's the House Speaker pointing at you and laughing at you. Explain the context here.

RAJU: So I actually had asked him whether or not he agrees with Donald Trump's claim or plan to pardon many January 6 prisoners if he becomes president again. Something, of course, he said at the CNN town hall. He laughed because he said he didn't want to talk about anything other than the House Republican Border Security Bill, which passed the House yesterday. So that's -- he didn't want to talk about Trump.

KING: Right. Here's something else he probably doesn't want to talk too much about there. He did say something. The New York Congressman George Santos voted yesterday to clamp down on fraudulent unemployment claims. In fact, he's a co-sponsor of that bill.

He says he had no second thoughts about that vote -- there's Manu again, I think -- even though a day earlier, he pleaded not guilty to stealing pandemic unemployment benefits. You know, the snark in me wants to say, you know, people often question, you know, do the members of Congress understand the issues they're voting on? I guess that's too snarky, right? Innocent until proven guilty.

KUCINICH: He said he's innocent. So, you know, and he's going to get his day in court.


RAJU: And he made a strange claim saying that perhaps he could pay back some of these alleged funds that he fraudulently obtained through jobless benefits. So unclear, is he admitting to guilt there? He also saying that he's going to fight this in a court of law. So exactly what Santos is doing --

WOOTSON: If you're George Santos, hypocrisy is the least of your problems this week, you know? He has gotten --

RAJU: Right.

WOOTSON: -- much bigger fish to fry.

RAJU: Yes. KING: Play to your strengths.

RAJU: Yes.


Ahead, the Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy wants to raise the voting age. It's controversial to say the least, but one young supporter? All in.


VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In order to vote, you got to be 25 instead of 18. But you can still vote at 18 if you take the test. Yes.


RAMASWAMY: And you're OK with that?


RAMASWAMY: All right, man, we have a deal.




KING: A provocative idea now from the Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, and a look at the math behind it. The 37- year-old entrepreneur wants to raise the voting age from 18 to 25, with a few exceptions. For those, for example, who take a civics test or who serve in the military or as first responders.


RAMASWAMY: We want to restore civic duty in the mindset of the next generation of Americans. What we're proposing is a constitutional amendment to raise the voting age to 25, but to say that you still get to vote at age 18, so long as you either pass the civics test that immigrants have to pass in order to become naturalized citizens, or you do some minimal service to the country.


KING: His goal, as you heard there, Ramaswamy says, is a more informed, more engaged electorate. But look at the numbers, forgive me, does suggest perhaps another motive. Nearly two-thirds of Americans under the age of 25 voted for President Biden in the last election.

Our great reporters are back at the table with us. Am I wrong here, that this is about, we keep losing presidential elections, so why don't we take some voters off the board? RAJU: You know, it's a novel idea, and they've always struggled with younger voters, and Democrats have generally done better with them. They've struggled to get them to the polls. That's always been the challenge and will be the challenge in the next election cycle, too.

But what Ramaswamy is doing here is he's trying to break through the clutter --


RAJU: -- of this field, I mean, which has been, of course, dominated by Trump, dominated by DeSantis getting in and some of these more long shack candidates. They're trying to figure out a way to kind of penetrate through this. And it is -- in that regard, he's been successful. We're talking about it now, and it's getting some attention on the campaign trail.

KING: Look, the math is pretty evident. Whether you agree or disagree with the proposal, he says there'd be an exemption, for example, if you're served in the military. So you're 18 years old, you serve in the military, you get to vote. Well, look, lo and behold, this is exit polls 18, 24 voters among those who served in the military, Republican advantage.

So again, he says this is about a more informed electorate. But the math also says there's a benefit for Republicans.

WOOTSON: Yes, it'll be interesting to see how he tries to explain this to voters. Because you're taking the right to vote away from a large swath of people.

KUCINICH: Yes, exactly.

WOOTSON: And it is --

KUCINICH: Because of patriotism.

WOOTSON: Yes. But, you know, you understand that the math makes it work for your party's favor, but you can't convince people in that regard, right? You have to go out and tell people that there's another reason that actually makes sense for this. And I want to hear what it is.

KING: Right. So I want to hear the reasons. Any provocative proposal is great to have. And again, it's not going to happen because you need -- as he says, it's a constitutional amendment. If you got it, you know, then you go through the states.

But again, if you just look at the math, Joe Biden, the red, the deep red are states where youth turnout went up. This is 18 to 29. His cutoff is 25. But Joe Biden won one electoral vote in Maine. They split it by congressional districts, one of the highest states.

Republicans always say, we're going to get Minnesota. This time, we're going to get Minnesota. Youth turnout way up the charts there. Biden wins it. Colorado used to be a red state, became a purple state, increasingly a blue state. The highest turnout in places there.

Then you come to more moderate levels of turnout. Gee, what states made Joe Biden president over Donald Trump? How about Pennsylvania? How about Michigan? How about Georgia? How about Arizona? How about Nevada? So if you take away 18 to 24 year olds, or most of them, you are putting your thumb on the scale to help Republicans and hurt Democrats.

KUCINICH: Usually, these candidates that are -- have these gimmicks are doing something to try to fix something that's wrong or give people something that they don't have. I'm not sure what this fixes other than Republicans electoral issues. So best of luck, I guess.

KING: Or to your point, the attention to breakthrough --


KING: -- it is hard. It is hard for a new candidate to breakthrough and to get a conversation about them. So sometimes you come up with, we were talking during the break, 999.

RAJU: Right.

KING: Or something like that.

RAJU: Look, and we'll see how it plays in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two Republican nominating states. Typically, it's an older electorate that comes out to the poll, so maybe that could get some attention among older voters that may not be so popular of people under 25.

KING: All right. Again, we love ideas.

Up next, I'm talking to Chris Wallace about his great guest this week. One explains the role of Artificial Intelligence in our future. Another is a musical icon from our past who says he is not ready to rest on his laurels.



KING: Congress next week is exploring the risk and the benefits of Artificial Intelligence with witnesses including the CEO of the company behind ChatGPT, Sam Altman. One giant question is where to draw the line when it comes to government regulation.

The Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is talking to Chris Wallace about this challenge and calls A.I. the biggest technological shift in decades.


CHRIS WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: How profoundly do you believe that A.I. will change our lives. ALEXIS OHANIAN, REDDIT CO-FOUNDER & FOUNDER OF 776: Quite significantly. I don't think that is an understatement. And, you know, I started Reddit right out of college and that was 2005.


And so I have built through the social media revolution, I've built through the smartphone revolution, I've built through the broadband revolution and I really believe what we're building through now with A.I. is more significant than all of those.

WALLACE: Is Washington equipped to put guardrails on A.I.?

OHANIAN: That is a loaded question. No. And I think there's a bigger discussion here around our responsibility as voters to put folks in office who understand these very important technologies.


KING: Chris Wallace joins us now. It is a fascinating issue in every aspect of our lives, and I think about it, and they're already manipulating political ads. What about technology? What about kids in schools? What did you learn from that? What was the biggest takeaway?

WALLACE: Well, he understands the risks and there certainly are some. And I thought it was fascinating when he said that the the politicians in Washington are totally unequipped.

KING: Right.

WALLACE: As we see in all these hearings, that whenever they bring big tech up, they just don't get it because they live in different worlds. But he's -- what he said, a tech optimist, which you could expect from the guy who invented Reddit and has made hundreds of millions of dollars, and he says, I think it's going to make, for instance, self- driving cars safer.

It'll -- he says, I think it'll be a tool. And in terms of the ways it could be misused, he said, I believe it's technologically possible to fingerprint something so that when we see Joe Biden making a statement that there will be a way technologically to tell, is this really Joe Biden? And did he really say those words? Or is this something that was done in somebody's basement?

KING: It was interesting just how his eyes popped up when you asked, is Washington prepared for this, to that point. I mean, we're still trying to figure out Facebook, social media, Twitter in the rear view mirror about past campaigns. His point is these guys better do a lot of studying. Is that the idea?

WALLACE: Absolutely. Well, one of the things he said is it's on us to put people in office --

KING: Right.

WALLACE: -- that know this stuff. I mean, I must say, the idea is not just whether you're liberal conservative, but also are you technologically savvy or not? But he also says it's very important and he gives Biden some good marks on this. The big summit he held last week, getting technologically competent, literate people in the room for these conversations.

KING: So that's, "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?" with what's in front of us. You also talked to an icon from our pastors. A little hint. So let's --


WALLACE: I got to ask you about the title, "Gasms". Why did you call it that? And were you trying to be a little edgy?

SMOKEY ROBINSON, MUSIC LEGEND: Yes, I was trying to be very edgy if I could. But I called it "Gasms" because one day I was at the piano and I was just -- I was going to write some songs, and the first one that came -- the first thing that came to my mind was about gasms, because it's such a controversial word, first of all.

You know, and most people, when they hear gasms, you know what they're going to think? They're going to think orgasm and, you know?

WALLACE: Yes, that's right.

ROBINSON: So before I really started actually writing the song, I looked up the word and I saw that gasms is all good feelings. So that's why.


KING: 83, a new album and deciding to stir it up a little bit.

WALLACE: Exactly. But -- and we play some of this new music and we talk about it. But for all of you folks out there who love Smokey Robinson as much as I do, we also play, we go all the way back to the 60s, "Tracks of My Tears", "Tears of the Clown" and on and on.

And also -- and I didn't realize this. He not only wrote great hits for "Smokey Robinson and The Miracles", he wrote great hits for other people. "The Temptations", "Mary Wells", "My Guy", he was such a joy to have half an hour to sit down and talk to him and go through all the clips, go through the choreography, go through his process of writing music.

He talks about how he came up with a line, "Tracks of My Tears." He was shaving when he did it.

KING: Shaving when he did it. That's the music I grew up with because of my dad, who loved music in the house. So looking forward to it.

WALLACE: Me too.

KING: Chris, thank you for being here. "Who's talking to Chris Wallace?" airs tonight, 10:00 Eastern at CNN. Find the time. It's always a great conversation. Ahead for us, the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis nags two critical Iowa endorsements.



KING: Topping our political radar today, a new court ruling that 18 to 20 year olds cannot be barred from purchasing handguns. A judge on Wednesday striking down federal restrictions prohibiting young buyers from buying handguns from federally licensed firearm dealers.

In a 65-page decision, that judge said the regulation was unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment. Two high profile Iowa Republicans endorsing the Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis ahead of his likely presidential bid. State Senate President Amy Sinclair, House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl will make that announcement this weekend when DeSantis visits Iowa. DeSantis and potential rival, former president Trump, holding dueling rallies in Iowa tomorrow.

Later today, President Biden welcomes the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, to the White House. The two leaders expected to discuss the war on Ukraine, defense cooperation, migration and climate change. Sanchez also planning to ask President Biden to drop Trump era trade tariffs on Spanish olives.

And what happened to San Francisco? Sara Sidner investigates how the once thriving city became tarnished by surging rates of crime, drug use, and homelessness. That's in a new episode of "The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper" airs tonight -- this Sunday night, excuse me, 08:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

Thanks for your time in Inside Politics. We'll see you tomorrow. CNN NEWS CENTRAL starts right now.