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Inside Politics

Debt Limit Talks Hit Snag; GOP Negotiator: Debt Talk On "Pause"; Progressives Urge Biden To Consider 14th Amendment In Debt Fight; Zelenskyy To Attend G7 Summit In Japan; Today: DeSantis Holds Roundtable In New Hampshire; Trump Campaign: DeSantis "Gets Caught In The Mouse Trap"; Disney Ditches Plan To Build Florida Complex Amid DeSantis Feud; NYT: DeSantis Tells Donors 2024 Race Is Between "Biden And Me"; Sen. Tim Scott Enters Presidential Race. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired May 19, 2023 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us. A pause brings the country in the conversation back to the possibility of financial disaster after days of optimism suddenly, debt limit negotiators stopped talking, all but eliminating hopes of a deal by this weekend. And a mission for missiles and for money. Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskyy is headed to Japan where he will ask the world's richest democracies deliver more weapons at a crucial battlefield moment.

Plus, mess with the mouse miss out on millions. Ron DeSantis feud with Disney is a big-factors the company drops plans for a billion-dollar complex in Orlando. That as the Florida governor insists to big Republican donors that Donald Trump has damaged goods and that he alone can beat Joe Biden in 2024.

We begin with important news just into CNN, the debt limit talks on Capitol Hill hitting a snag. This morning, the top Republican negotiator walking out of a meeting, saying the White House stance is unreasonable. Congressman Garret Graves says talks for now are "on pause." That just a few hours after President Biden were briefed by his top negotiators, the president leaving the G7 leaders dinner in Japan early for that update.

And less than 24 hours ago, team Biden and the Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, both voicing optimism, saying they were seeing progress in those talks. So, did one member of the centrist problem solvers caucus.


REP. JOSH GOTTHEIMER, (D-NJ): Everyone is not going to be happy with everything. That's to me always a good deal if everyone's a little upset. And you know, it's not going to be perfect. But the bottom line is, we're going to make sure that the full faith and credit United States continues.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Melanie Zanona. She is live on Capitol Hill. Melanie, early in the morning there was optimism. What happened?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, this is a huge setback for these talks. There was optimism. As you noted yesterday, even heading into this meeting, negotiators did meet this morning on Capitol Hill, but they briefly broke up. And coming out of that meeting, Garret Graves, one of the lead negotiators for Republicans told us we decided to press pause because it's just not productive.

So, I talked to some sources who said there are a number of issues where they just feel like they're at an impasse right now. And as of right now, there are no additional meetings scheduled for today. So, look, John, you've seen these negotiators play out before. Usually there are legislative blow ups before everyone can finally come together. There's a lot of posturing that goes on in both sides.

And as we've seen, both Republicans and Democrats are facing a lot of pressure and getting a lot of heat from their right and left flanks to not cave and to dig in. But in terms of a timeline, it is very problematic because they were hoping to reach a deal by this weekend. That is something that Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, is needed in order to get this bill through the floor and get it over to the Senate by this early June deadline.

And so, it is all but dashing hopes that negotiators are going to be able to reach a deal in principle by this weekend. That's not to say that they can't eventually get it done. But this is not a very welcome development on Capitol Hill, John?

KING: And Mel, any details? Sometimes it's one little thing that can set these things off the rails for a little bit. Sometimes it's kind of a combination that they're stuck on everything, and they just say, let's take a break. Do we know?

ZANONA: Yes. I think it's more the latter. It's a combination of issues. The talks had been slowly, but surely moving ahead. Some of the issues that have come up in the last 24 hours, according to our sources is the White House have been pushing for a debt ceiling hike that would last into 2025 because they don't want to have to deal with this again, until after the next presidential election.

But in talking to Republicans, that is something that if we're going to entertain that, we need to see a lot more savings and cuts put on the table. The other issue at play has been work requirements. That's something Republicans are pushing for. Biden seems to be open to some form of work requirements for TANF, which is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs, but nothing has been finalized. So, still a lot to go and a lot that could go wrong between now in early June, John?

KING: Melanie Zanona, appreciate the hustle and the breaking news on Capitol Hill. Keep us posted if we learn anything else. With me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Jeff Zeleny, Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post, and Zolan Kanno-Youngs of The New York Times.

So, this is both expected I would say because the issues are so important and the divide is so big, but also potentially troubling. If you're a CEO of your financial markets. If you're the president United States who's overseas right now telling people, I got this, America will not default.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Without question, I mean, all signs had been pointed to an agreement, which was actually a little surprising because that is not usually happens sort of going into a weekend. But I think that one thing is doing, we've only note about this for a short time, but already the sense of urgency.


I think perhaps, from Wall Street may change on this. We'll see what the market does today. But heading into the weekend this is not the place where the White House thought they would be. You heard the optimism from Josh Gottheimer there, the congressman from New Jersey. So, look, this often happens. There are some hiccups, but it is the work requirements that is causing the White House a lot of grief from the left. So, that's the vise here that they find themselves.

KING: And to that point, when you see Josh Gottheimer saying, I think we're going to get there and get there. So, when you see both the president and the House speaker saying, we're suddenly making progress, that's our conversation in the middle. And so, both the left and the right say, oh, no, no, no, no.

And so, let's start with the left. You have Democrat progressive saying, stop negotiating Mr. President. Invoked the 14th Amendment, never really been tested in the courts, but just say, you know, the constitution says, the amendment says, the public debt can ever be questioned. Bernie Sanders among the progressives who're saying, we don't want cuts, take a chance.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I-VT): Using the 14th Amendment would allow the United States that continue to pay its bills on time and without delay, prevent an economic catastrophe, and prevent devastating cuts to some of the most vulnerable people in this country. It should be exercised, if necessary.


KING: So again, we go into the details. But if you're the White House team, you're walking back into the meeting today, even though you're making progress, you know, the phones are lining up with progressive saying, stop, don't give away too much.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: And they have been, they have been, right? I mean, they've already been feeling the pressure from the left flank. Particularly after last weekend, when the president cited the fact that he did vote for some work requirements as a senator, right before he left on his trip as well.

He had comments where he said, look, you know, we're talking about work requirements, but it wouldn't be of anything I'm serious consequence. He has dropped hints that that is a subject, a point of focus now where there could be possible consensus, which has led to a frustrated left flank of the party at this point.

But remember, in terms of using the 14th Amendment, this is also somebody in present time that came into office and often celebrated, talked about his ability to strike deals with members on the other side. So would you -- when you look at that context, is he really going to go for this option. Karine Jean-Pierre the other day also said that he didn't think that would be an ultimate solution for what we're seeing.

KING: Right, right. They want to talk it out. And again, just yesterday, the House speaker, if you could put the negotiators back up. Number one, Garret Graves is his trusted deputy among House Republicans, but the House speaker complimented the White House team saying, I like these people, I trust these people, we can get it done.

That sends a signal to McCarthy's right, and of course, he has just tenuously speaker of the House Freedom Caucus yesterday saying, the U.S. House of Representatives has done its job. There should be no further discussion until the Senate passes legislation. So, the speaker's right flank saying, stop. We don't like this nice talk.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. It's been a very interesting contrast this entire week, because McCarthy has been using every moment possible to say, things are going well. Look, all Republicans are united. He couldn't stop saying that on repeat. While at the same time behind the scenes, conservatives were starting to get pretty shaky.

They were worried at Garret Graves actually being tapped. They see him as someone who is just a dealmaker. So, they already had a feeling that their bill that they passed, they know a lot of it is not going to become law. But they really do not see Graves as someone who could deliver on a lot of what the Freedom Caucus wants.

So, this statement that they put out yesterday, strategically, after they laughed, after even they were being very complimentary of where things are, is really bigger. I think we should be looking at it more as to what this means for these next stops. And clearly, clearly Graves is now listening and saying, maybe we should pause.

KING: Maybe we should pause. And now the question is, is it just a pause? Is it a hiccup or is it a problem? And we'll continue to report that out in the hours ahead. Now, I want to move on though, to a big wartime world tour for Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is in Saudi Arabia right now, asking Arab nations to take his side in the fight against Vladimir Putin.

This weekend though a much more important visit. Zelenskyy will travel to Japan. We'll get an audience with the world's biggest economies. His country's survival depends on support and weapons from those G7 leaders. Already today, the G7 nations punishing Moscow again, hitting Russia with new sanctions and closing what they say are loopholes in hopes of further crippling the Russian economy.

And this from the United States is maybe even more important. President Biden telling the G7 today, the United States will support advanced aircraft training for Ukrainian pilots. Sources also telling CNN, the Biden administration is signaling to European allies, Washington will not object, will not say no, should those nations decide to gift American made F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Let's go live to Hiroshima, our CNN's Marc Stewart is there. Marc, Ukraine front and center?

MARC STEWART, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Front and center, and it is no surprise that this visit by President Zelenskyy is getting so much attention. Look, if you're a businessperson and you need to make a big ask or have to talk about difficult news you do so in person and in the diplomatic sphere, it is no different. That is why we saw him make a stop in the middle east and now coming here to Ukraine.


As far as his visit here in Hiroshima. Yes, he will meet face-to-face with leaders of the G7. But as one analyst told me earlier today, what's perhaps even more significant are the other world leaders who will come in contact with heads of state who are not necessarily formal members of the G7.

I'm thinking about Indonesia, India, Brazil, this is a rare moment for him to have conversations with these leaders that may not necessarily have been on his agenda. And yes, he will certainly be making some big asks. As you mentioned, he has seen some support already on the economic front, by closing some of these economic loopholes that have allowed Russia to fund its war machine.

That's why we are seeing sanctions on things such as manufacturing, transportation, construction. In fact, just hours ago, the United Kingdom put import restrictions on Russian diamonds, but really at the top of the list will be military equipment. As we all know, John, the fight over these F-16 fighter jets, it's going to be a big point of conversation here.

KING: Big point of conversations, Zelenskyy thinks some progress we shall see. Marc Stewart, appreciate the live report from the G7. We'll stay on top of that story. Next for us, though, domestic politics the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire, that just ahead of his expected announcement, officially of his 2024 Republican presidential bid.




King: New clash today in a feud pitting an iconic American brand against a governor, who sees himself as the Republican Party is one and only 2024 hope. Ron DeSantis this morning holding court in New Hampshire, speaking to lawmakers there, of course the critical first early primary state for Republicans. He does so as he finds out that Florida you might say has no fury like a mouse scorned.

Disney decided to pull the plug on plans to build a giant, $1 billion complex in Orlando. That move wiping out millions in revenues and up to 2000 new jobs. The governor's war on what he sees as Disney's woke management was a big factor in the company's decision. And it only increases the spotlight on Governor DeSantis as he prepares for his official entry into the presidential race next week.

CNN's Steve Contorno joins us now live. Officially in next week, but in New Hampshire today, Steve that tells us everything.

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: Exactly, John. We saw him in Iowa last week, New Hampshire today. He's doing some of that retail politics that people say has been lacking from his political operation so far. He's kissing babies. He's in a diner right now, shaking hands.

And he's talking about Trump and not directly talking about Trump. This is something that we have seen from him in the lead up to this announcement where he doesn't necessarily go after Trump directly, but a strong, strong contrast between himself and the former president.

Listen to what he said today at a roundtable with state lawmakers in New Hampshire.


GOV. RON DESANTIS, (R) FLORIDA: It's easy to be a front runner. It's easy to go out and take positions that are really popular at the time. It's harder to dig in and really cut against the grain, but not going to be easy. But I honestly believe that that we have an opportunity to right the ship in to get this whole country going.


CONTORNO: Now, one way DeSantis is digging in is in this fight with Disney, even though DeSantis -- excuse me, Disney continues to suggest that DeSantis is hurting the company, hurting Florida's economy, hurting business in this state. DeSantis is not backing down in his fight. His office actually put out a statement yesterday after Disney suggested that he was to blame for them not moving their new operations to the state.

And his office said, look, this is a company that is losing money. They were not really committed to this plan to move here to begin with. We didn't expect this to happen. So, clearly taking a shot there at Disney, but it has created an opportunity for DeSantis' opponents to criticize this fantasy as anti-business. We saw Democrats in the state go after on this in the Trump campaign suggesting John, that DeSantis got caught in a mouse trap.

KING: Caught in a mouse trap. Whatever you think of Trump in his campaign do come up with clever lines every now and then. Steve Contorno, appreciate the live update. We'll have more next week obviously, as the governor officially gets in.

Our reporters back in studio with us. And let's start with how Trump tries to play this. Trump likes to say every day if not every hour, where Ron DeSantis go. Look at me, I'm way ahead in the polls. And yet, he keeps going after Ron DeSantis, which tells you the obvious, he's worried about Ron DeSantis and all the money DeSantis can raise and message.

Ron DeSanctimonious gets caught in the mouse trap. Ron DeSantis' failed war on Disney has done little for his limping shadow campaign, now is doing even less for Florida's economy. DeSantis has Trump's attention. Where does this argument, DeSantis says, I'm fighting a woke company. He thinks that helps him with Republicans. Does it?

ZELENY: It's increasingly looking like it does not. It looks like he was sort of had the upper hand and had command of this fight several months ago. But when this becomes about jobs, and it becomes about tangible things. A, it shows us this fight is going to go on for quite some time. The Disney Company and Bob Wagner are clearly digging in. And they've been at this for a long time. They've been in the state of Florida for much, much longer for the entire lifetime of Ron DeSantis and they'll be in it for longer.

So, look, I think you hear virtually every Republican candidate from Mike Pence to Tim Scott to others saying, this isn't really conservative, this philosophy of going after a company is not conservative. So, the fight seemed to better. But what he's really trying to focus on is this Florida blueprint.

But interestingly, he says that he is the one who can beat Donald Trump. But what's not factored into all of that is this Florida blueprint, is the Disney stuff. He's talking about swing state polls that were done a while ago. So, we don't know the rearview mirror looks good for him. We don't know what the forward view is for him and that's his challenge.


KING: And so, let's take them one at a time. You teed them up very nicely there. So, let's start with the Disney fight. To your point, Mike Pence and Trump's not ideological. The interesting thing to me is does this actually make the Republican primary more about Republican ideology, about conservative principles because Trump has taken the party away from that. He's not ideological, he's transactional. Mike Pence says, a limited government conservative does not mess with private business.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES: I like Walt Disney not woke Disney, all right. And I'm not terribly surprised to see Disney canceling a billion-dollar contract. So that's only going to harm people in the Orlando and Florida area. And it's one more reason why, as a limited government conservative, I've said for months now that I think both sides ought to stand down, take the victory for parents' rights in the legislature and move on. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Limited government conservative was the debate you had when it was Ronald Reagan's Republican Party, even maybe George W. Bush's Republican Party, at least he tried to make it that way compassionate conservatism. He called it not Donald Trump Republican Party, we're going to have that debate or not.

KANNO-YOUNGS: I think this is, yes, it does seem like we're having that debate. And it also, this is just indicative of sort of a tricky fine line that DeSantis is walking here. My colleagues reported on a call that he had where you foreshadowed his forthcoming election announcement. And he basically tried to draw a distinction saying, look, saying, I'm aware that we favor Trump policies, but differentiating between sort of Trump values here.

And that is a tricky line to continue to walk here. I think this sort of battle with a company fell in line was under the umbrella of trying to do that. But now the result is, your critics are going to be able to point to a loss of jobs. And as you were just saying, that would seem to go and undermine really the traditional sort of conservative value.

KING: And so, the question is, can he rebound after a couple of months of struggles, some of those struggles, because of all the scrutiny of the Florida record, which might sell to Republicans. People questioned does it sell to the suburbs in the middle of America?

Some of the scrutiny, let's be honest, is because Donald Trump and a Super PAC have dumped a lot of money on Ron DeSantis and that against him. And we may get to another one of those in a minute. But you mentioned this call, DeSantis essentially trying to tell Republican donors, look past the last few weeks, maybe I've struggled in the past few weeks. But look back to 2020. That's where I would prefer you to focus.

He says this, according to The New York Times. You have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing, Biden, Trump and me. And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president. Biden and me, based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president, and probably insurmountable because people aren't going to change their view of him.

My word is not, I'm translating the governor, but he's saying Trump is damaged goods. Don't bet on that horse. That horse can't be Joe Biden. The question is, can he sell that to Republicans who might have their own doubts about DeSantis? Now after recent struggles to say, give me a chance, because you don't want to go there.

SOTOMAYOR: It's definitely going to be a tougher argument. I mean, think about maybe talking about this right after the 2022 midterms, right? Republicans really were saying, oh, my gosh, we need to look past Trump. All of these Trump endorsed candidates, people who are trying to be like Trump, they all lost, right? Like we need someone else, maybe fresh blood in this party. But as we've seen, DeSantis has totally gone down in the polls. There's obviously a lot of time left until the primaries, but it is going to be difficult really to see whether all of this Florida politics, we'll be able to play past a primary. Sure, he can be in play right now, really try and talk and get more of that far right base.

But a lot of Trump allies who were privately open to looking to someone else are now endorsing Trump. And it's kind of hard to try and grasp that base, say, hey, maybe I didn't come out on top in the primary and then translate all of that into a general where we've seen a lot of these kinds of culture, war politics. Voters are not really into that.

KING: And there's just no question, Trump sees DeSantis. He's raised $100 million. Trump sees DeSantis is the one who could maybe raise enough money to stay in this for a longer fight, which is why Trump's MAGA pack is doing this.


You can say, you know, is that cute? Is it clever? Or is it amateur, but it gets your attention. And again, that Trump and his allies through the Super PAC are spending a lot of money on these ads. Tells you, number one, they view DeSantis as a threat. And they're just trying to push him down and keep him down.

ZELENY: We absolutely do. And as he's trying to introduce himself, what they're doing is say, no, no, he did something else before he was governor. He was in Congress. And that a position there he supported a national sales tax.

So, Ron DeSantis is about to, he said essentially a free ride in Florida in terms of a pretty easy reelection. He's about to embark on the toughest road of his life. We'll see if he's as good of a political athlete as he was an actual athlete, a baseball player. That's what this takes. This is a unlike anything he's been on before, we'll see.


KING: Like George H. W. Bush, the Yale baseball team with (Inaudible) political history. There ahead, DeSantis says it's him and Trump. Senator Tim Scott thinks otherwise he makes it official today, filing paperwork to launch his Republican bid for the White House.


KING: The 2024 Republican race is getting more crowded. South Carolina GOP Senator Tim Scott filed his paperwork today, launching his fundraising effort. He'll make the official campaign announcement at home in South Carolina on Monday. And as noted, we are told the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis will officially file his paperwork midweek next week.