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Inside Politics

Biden Delivers Grim Debt Ceiling Warning, Sharply Criticizes GOP; DeSantis Expected To Enter Presidential Race This Week; Trump: DeSantis "Caught In The Mouse Trap"; Nebraska, North Carolina; South Carolina Move To Restrict Abortion; N.C. Republicans Defend 12-Week Ban As Abortion Compromise; An Election Nightmare on HBO's "Succession". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired May 21, 2023 - 11:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Brink of default. We're going to come together because there's no alternative. Everybody's working hard.

The president ends his overseas trip with no deal in sight. Is there still time to avoid economic calamity?

Plus, it's go time.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I think in Florida, we really showed what it takes to not just win, win big and then deliver big.

PHILLIP: DeSantis is finally set to announce his 2024 run, but does he have what it takes to topple the front runner.

And HBO's election nightmare with.

100,000 of walking absentee ballots missing every vote must be counted. The question succession viewers are asking, could it happen in real life?

Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, I'm Abby Phillip. And this morning, with as few as 11 days to go until a possible default, the full faith and credit of the United States still hanging very much in the balance.

Earlier this morning during a news conference wrapping his trip to the G7 summit in Japan, President Biden called, once again, for Republicans to move toward a debt limit deal. But he made it clear that any possible agreement would not be only on their terms.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now it's time for the other side to move there -- from their extreme positions because much of what they've already proposed is simply, quite frankly, unacceptable.

And it's time for Republicans to accept that there's no bipartisan deal to be made solely, solely on their partisan terms. They have to move as well. The speaker and I will be talking later on the plane as we head back because it's what, five or six, seven o'clock in the morning there. And our teams are going to continue working.


PHILLIP: And just a few minutes ago, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, weighed in as well drawing his own line in the sand.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The president has really shifted right after the more progressive socialist wing of the party, stood up and says, they want to spend more money. He's now bringing something to the table that everyone said was off the table. He's it seems as though he wants default more than he wants a deal. That's not where I'm at. And the one thing you know about Marie -- about me, Maria, I will never give up.


PHILLIP: And joining us now live from Hiroshima is CNN's chief White House correspondent, Phil Mattingly.

So, Phil, one step forward, maybe a couple of steps back, where do things stand right now as President Biden is in the midst of this foreign trip and the debt ceiling is still very much up in the air?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It feels like there's just been a consistent shuffle away from any progress. So that one step forward, I think, a couple of good meetings between the top negotiators from the White House team and the House Republicans seems like a very, very long time ago.

And I'm not sure I can remember a time where a direct phone call between a president and a speaker held so much consequence had such a dramatic meaning for what the next two weeks -- will transpire in the next two weeks, and what could happen if they don't figure out a way forward during that time period.

And the reality is this. What you saw from the president a few hours ago at his press conference before leaving the G7 summit was a recognition of the fact that things aren't very good and a recognition that White House officials know they need to reframe everything about this ongoing debate and make very clear that they don't think anything House Republicans have put on the table, not just publicly, but privately the two proposals they've presented to White House negotiators are simply nonstarters, could not get 60 votes in the Senate, could not get 218 votes in the House.

And they, as opposed to doing what they've done much of this time, not talked about anything that's been moved behind the scenes, needed to make that public frame it in a very specific way and see if they can start to unlock things by playing a little hardball at least rhetorically.

Now, Abby, you know this well, the Speaker McCarthy has long wanted to have a one-on-one negotiation with President Biden. President Biden acknowledged that that was about to be the case. We'll see the extent to which that occurs.


But I think the problem right now is whether this is posturing, which isn't a rare thing in these high stakes negotiations, or whether this is a blow-up that leads to actual real negotiations. But it's been a pretty consistent three or four days of blow ups, it's the time.

There's 11 days before a potential default right now. There's not the time to go through the usual rhythms and motions of these types of negotiations. And that is a significant problem for which we don't have any precedent. There's never been a default before.

Right now, the president made clear, he couldn't tell foreign leaders here at this summit that he could guarantee then there would be no default. He simply said he couldn't say whether or not Republicans would be willing to do it. I think that's kind of the frame through which things need to be viewed right now.

PHILLIP: And what is also pretty telling is that in the last couple of days, there's just been a lot more talk about the 14th Amendment and the possibility that President Biden could sidestep Congress and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally. You pressed him on that earlier. What did he tell you?

MATTINGLY: Yes. Abby, this has really become a center stage issue. The president has been asked about this before, he has said several times that he and his top advisors have been working through and trying to understand the legal ramifications of this move, essentially, pointing to the Constitution saying, the U.S. gets to continue to issue new debt, even if a debt ceiling wasn't raised.

What was most interesting is, over the course of the last several days, dozens of Democrats have come out and said in the negotiations, just go with the 14th Amendment route. It's legal, go for it.

The president acknowledging that he doesn't think necessarily on the legal grounds, they're wrong. But the reason why I followed up with him is because he left open the possibility with something that they could do. My understanding was that that was not what was going on behind the scenes. So I asked him that. Take a listen.


BIDEN: We have not come up with unilateral action that could succeed in a matter of two weeks or three weeks. That's the issue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it's up to lawmakers?

BIDEN: So it's up to lawmakers. But my hope and intention is when we resolve this problem, I find a rationale to take it to the courts to see whether or not the 14th Amendment is in fact something that would be able to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MATTINGLY: And, Abby, it's the -- so it's up the lawmakers and the president confirming that's the case. It's important for two reasons. One, I think I've spoken a lot of market participants over the course of the last couple of weeks that are convinced that, look, if Congress can't figure this out, there's got to be something. There's a fallback plan somewhere, right?

There's something that the president can do that will get them out of this mess. He's saying explicitly, no, there is not. And while he's saying he believes he might have the legal authority on the 14th amendment, and he wants to go ahead and try and test that legal theory out after this is resolved for the next 10 or 11 days, there is only one viable solution, and that's Congress.

PHILLIP: Yes. Time remains the most important factor here. Phil Mattingly, thank you very much for all of that.

And let's discuss all of this and more with CNN's David Chalian. Time Magazine's Molly Ball, CNN's Melanie Zanona, and Adam Harris of the Atlantic.

So, Melanie, if you've been here in town for a little while, you've seen this movie before, so it seems. There always seems to be some kind of blow-up before there is some kind of resolution. But what's the sense you're getting on Capitol Hill about whether this blow-up is going to lead to a breakthrough?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: You're absolutely right that in these high stakes negotiations, it is common to see breakdowns and blow-ups, sometimes they just need an opportunity to cool off before they reset. But, Abby, we are in a very grim place right now.

First of all, they are very far apart when it comes to the substance. We were talking $100 billion difference between where they want to be when it comes to spending. And not just spending, there's so many other sticking points they have yet to resolve.

And then there's the timeline that Phil was talking about. And he said -- Speaker Kevin McCarthy said, they need to have a deal in principle by this weekend or tomorrow in order to be able to get this through the House, get this through the Senate, and avoid a default.

So we are in very dangerous territory. Perhaps the call between Biden and McCarthy, which is hopefully happening very soon will be a chance to reset. But there is still a long way to go.

PHILLIP: Yes. And the issue here is that it's June 1st is the date. And Janet Yellen, this morning on Meet the Press, reiterated that.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: I indicated in my last letter to Congress that we expect to be unable to pay all of our bills in early June, and possibly as soon as June 1st. And I will continue to update Congress. But I certainly haven't changed my assessment. So I think that that's a hard deadline. (END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, you would be forgiven for thinking that perhaps there's maybe a little bit of wiggle room because in the past sometimes there has been the tax receipts come in, they buy a couple more weeks, maybe they can do a short-term extension so on and so forth.


But this time seems a little bit different. It seems like this really is the date and they really do need to figure something out. And if there are people on Capitol Hill who don't want to either come to the table and get to a yes or do something short-term, we could actually be looking at a default for the first time.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, which is just unthinkable, and yet, our politics being where they are, it's totally thinkable and imaginable. So it -- we're stuck in this weird moment. The wiggle room you're talking about sort of went into reverse course. You remember a few months ago was looking at maybe July or August --

PHILLIP: August, yes.

CHALIAN: -- as the so-called X-date. But you mentioned tax receipts, they came in below expectations. And that's part of what moved this up in Treasury Secretary Yellen's assessment.

The reality here, and we all understand this, right? And so do the actors in this obviously. There is very little that can be imagined that a deal does not offend both the left of the Democratic Caucus and the right of the House Republican Conference.

So now it's about how willing are Speaker McCarthy and President Biden able to be to, you know, piss off, for lack of a better word, a huge chunk of their base of support? Kevin McCarthy, for his matter, it actually may be his own holding on to the speakership if he -- if he offends too many people on the right.

PHILLIP: But the dynamic here, I mean, I wonder what you all think about this. It seems that McCarthy actually feels like he is in a stronger position. He feels like he can negotiate really from a position of power because he has his conference behind him.

Meanwhile, on the left, here is what Democrats are saying about the prospect that Biden could cave on something related to work requirements for some entitlements.


REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): This is a hostage-taking situation. We should not reward the hostage takers.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): The notion that we're going to go after the welfare queens, how many times do you want to play that card? It doesn't apply in this situation. We're talking about food for children, for God's sake.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): I cannot support a deal that is only about hurting people. We want to talk about a deal. I want to know where increased revenues are.


PHILLIP: So if you look at Elizabeth Warren's body language there, it really tells the story. Progressives are very anxious about where this is all heading.

ADAM HARRIS, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes. I mean, you have to think about it in the context of where we are. We've just seen 32 states slash benefits for slash food stamp benefits, right? So that affects about 30 million people. So Democrats are already really worried about what is happening to food stamps, what was happening to that social safety net.

And to, you know, establish an enhanced work requirement from 50 to 56, or things like that, would they say, oh, it's 270,000 people now. But if you are caving on this now, what might you cave on in the future, if this is just punting towards, you know, December or whenever where they might be able to renegotiate something.

So they're very concerned and entrenched on those to say that, you know, the president should not cave to Republicans who have their very hard lines and in the bill that they recently passed in the House.

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE: No. I think the White House came into this believing that they had the upper hand politically, but they've been surprised at the level of Republican unity. And I think there was an expectation in the beginning, other Republicans wouldn't even be able to pass their bill. But once they did that, it really put McCarthy in a much stronger position.

And since then, we've seen the Democratic side become more divided, a lot of recriminations, a lot of progressives feeling like the White House has not played this hand strongly enough. They haven't taken a firm enough stance. And that's why they now in this -- are in this position where many on the left feel that the president has sort of preemptively given away the store and put them on the back foot in as these negotiations continue.

PHILLIP: And to that point, it seems that some on the right are now emboldened. Here's a tweet from the House Freedom Caucus saying, House Republicans did our job on the debt ceiling. No more discussion on watering it down, period.

There are enough members, more than enough, in the Freedom Caucus, that even a handful of them, pushes McCarthy to hold the line. This could really genuinely all blow up.

ZANONA: Yes. I will say when it comes to the Freedom Caucus, they're probably not going to vote for whatever deal that they come up with. They don't vote for spending bills. They're probably not going to vote for this.

But to David's point, McCarthy knows that he needs a healthy amount of Republican buy-in in order for his own political future and his own speakership. So that's certainly driving some of the dynamic here.

But then Biden is facing a similar situation on the left. They were complaining Democrats on the Hill that we're only talking about Republican priorities. Why didn't Biden -- if we're going to negotiate, why didn't Biden try to push for some Dem priorities?

And I think that's why you heard Biden for the first time, say, tax revenues are now on the table. And that is one of the other reasons why Republicans are now pulling back from the negotiation saying, you said before this wasn't on the table. So they think the goalposts are being moved.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, look at when you really look at the numbers, it's hard to see how you get there without something on the revenue side, and certainly you can't get there if you're trying to extend tax cuts indefinitely, but we'll see where this all ends up.

Coming up for us, Florida man applies for a new job.



PHILLIP: Ron DeSantis is ready to rumble. The Florida governor will finally make his campaign for president official this week, after months of traveling the country to promote his brand of conservative politics.

He is running as the culture warrior in chief having signed bills that ban abortions, prohibit diversity initiatives, and loosen gun restrictions. Plus, multiple laws, targeting the LGBTQ community.

And if he survives the Republican primary, it will test the broad appeal of these red meat policies. But the more urgent task right now will be convincing Republican primary voters that he's both more electable and more effective than Donald Trump.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We had a big wave in Florida, swept in massive numbers in the legislature. We did well up and down the ballot, but that's just the ticket to the dance. The real dance is, what are you going to do with that? How are you going to be able to take our shared principles and values and actually put that into law and enact that as public policy?



PHILLIP: Our panel is back with us. And, Molly, you have a big cover story this week on Ron DeSantis and how he got here. And the story is maybe a little improbable in some ways, but he has, in his mind, a very clear vision of what he's done in Florida and how that can be translated on the national stage. The question you ask is, what Ron DeSantis means for America? So what is the answer?

BALL: Well, as you just said, he appears to be the principal obstacle standing between Donald Trump and another Republican presidential nomination. But as I argue in the piece, whether or not he ever gets there, he's already changed the face of American politics, you know, he's redrawing the congressional map in Florida, single handedly won the House for the Republicans this past November.

He's really transformed the state of Florida, but he's also been a trendsetter who has in -- you know, I argue operationalizing the culture war into these policies, set an example for governors all over the country and affected millions of lives beyond the borders of Florida.

So the question now is, you know, I think a lot of people would say, it's naive to believe that policy gets you anywhere in American politics these days. And so to have a governing record of that says, you know, I'm effective, I've enacted this sweeping agenda, you know, Florida's had Republican governors for 25 years, but none of them have done what Ron DeSantis has done in terms of really transforming the face of the state.

So does that get him anywhere, you know, as an obstacle to Trump? Is he just going to be a speed bump as so many Republicans before him have been? Or will he actually be able to take that to voters? Because one thing we've seen is, he is very popular with the Republican base. They are at least open to considering his candidacy. But can he pull them away from Trump? That's the million dollar question.

PHILLIP: He's popular, but he's not more popular than Trump.

And, Chalian, I mean, his entry into this race comes after many weeks of really tough headlines on a number of different fronts. And in some ways, what you're seeing is not a chilling effect that Ron DeSantis being the one who maybe can take on Trump is not stopping all these other people from jumping into the race.

There are already quite a few, in addition to Trump, Nikki Haley, Asa Hutchinson, Vivek Ramaswamy, Larry Elder, but there are others coming. Tim Scott, even this week, as well, some mayors, Chris Christie, Chris Sununu, who's been out there a lot. He's not freezing the field in a way that would make it easier for him to take on Trump.

CHALIAN: There's certainly no doubt about that. And I think his performance over the last several months definitely contributed to what you're talking about. But you had noted that he's now going to turn the page to become an official candidate and start selling this electability argument.

To your point, he's also going to need to sell, both to voters and donors, of which you will have plenty.

I'm not suggesting he won't have a ton of money backing his candidacy, but he's going to have to prove that he can take as good as he gives, that he can take these Trump punches and push back on him effectively, beyond just the electability argument that perhaps he thinks he's better suited to win a general election against Joe Biden than Donald Trump, because a lot of Republican activists and donors are looking to see that. Can you actually take a punch from him and come back stronger?

PHILLIP: OK. So let's give -- let's give the viewers an example. Here's what DeSantis said, 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."

How would you rate, Adam, that dig at Trump?

HARRIS: Well, you know, I think that he has -- you know, we've seen the way that he's been more aggressive in radio interviews. He's been more aggressive and private, on the former president. But we've also seen that when candidates attempt to do that, we saw it in the 2016 election, we saw it, you know, when folks started criticizing him after 2016, his tend to -- the former president's tendency is to just come back more aggressively.

And so the question now becomes, when that happens, when Trump starts with more barbs towards Governor DeSantis, whether or not he's actually able to handle the sort of barrage that is to come.

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, the Disney problem is a perfect example of this. DeSantis' fight with Disney has been really a kind of back and forth in which it seems like right now, they kind of has the upper hand.

DeSantis, meanwhile, says this about whether or not he's been deterred.


DESANTIS: To put corporation on a pedestal and let them be exempt from the law is not good policy, it's free market economics, and it's not something that our state's going to be involved in. And so we will not change from that. So they can do whatever they want. I know people try to chirp and say this or that. The chance of us backing down from that is zero.



PHILLIP: And to that, the Trump campaign says, Ron DeSanctimonious gets caught in the mouse trap. The culture of losing continues. So to Adam's point, I mean, it's really -- it's a disproportionate game here for the moment. And the question is, at what point will that change?

ZANONA: Yes. I think DeSantis will have to take Trump on in a more forceful way once he becomes a candidate, because right now, he is confronted with this perception that he's sort of this porcelain candidate who can't take a punch before he's even jumped into the race. His polls have already slipped.

And so I think he's going to have to take Trump on it. How he does that? I think remains to be seen is that -- is it substance? Is it style? Is it policy? We did see him try to take Trump on over the six- week abortion ban, saying that he signed a six-week abortion ban, whereas Trump won't even say what he's going to sign. So we did try to take him on that way. But, you know, as of right now, it remains to be seen how he's going to do that.

CHALIAN: And, Abby, you showed that picture before of all the candidates that are either in this race or getting in this race, all of them not named Trump have one theory of the case, which is that a majority of the Republican primary electorate actually doesn't want Trump to be the Republican nominee, despite in horse race polls that he is the clear adamant front runner and has a majority of support matchup with these folks.

But when you ask Republicans broadly, do you want Trump to be the nominee? You get a healthy chunk saying no. So they're all trying to figure out how to stitch together a coalition.

Ron DeSantis' theory is, as Molly was getting at, that he can, in addition to stealing away some of Trump's support, also add from that other piece of the party that isn't all that interested in seeing Donald Trump as the nominee and build this winning coalition. That is the going to be the trickiest line for any of these candidates to walk how you bridge those two divides in the party.

PHILLIP: Yes. And I think, Molly, you made a good point. It is a real question. I mean, is policy going to win the day here for Ron DeSantis?

BALL: And if it does matter, you know, you do hear already some heartburn from the donor class and from sort of establishment Republicans about how right wing DeSantis' agenda is in Florida. You know, having been reelected last November, he used that as a mandate to push even more right wing legislation.

And so a lot of Republicans are looking at his electability argument and saying, is that really true? If he's further out on abortion than even Trump is, is that really going to be something that sells to the American public when and if he gets that nomination? So I think even on policy, it could be a tricky case for him to make.

PHILLIP: Yes, very much so, especially some of the more controversial things around LGBTQ Americans as well. But coming up next for us, Republican lawmakers shake up abortion access in the United States once again with new state bans, but it's the 2024 GOP hopefuls that are actually struggling with how to talk about this issue. Let's talk about it next.




PHILLIP: The U.S. abortion landscape shifted dramatically this week as several states passed highly controversial measures to roll back access. On Friday, protesters flooded the Nebraska State Capitol as lawmakers voted to ban abortions after 12-weeks, with few exceptions.

And in North Carolina, the Republican controlled legislature passed its own 12-week law on Tuesday after overriding a veto from the Democratic Governor, Roy Cooper.

And in South Carolina, the state House approved a bill on Wednesday that would restrict most abortions at 6-weeks, often before many women even know that they are pregnant.

The state Senate could pass it as early as this week, which means that abortion will be banned or severely limited in the entire southeast region of the country. This is a story that keeps on going. And in the midst of all of this, by the way, there are real life stories of real people who are affected by these abortion restrictions that want to be, you know, the conservatives want to couch them as being moderate in some ways, 12-weeks being moderate.

But just take a look at this number. Just 7% of abortions happen at or after the 14-week point. And what I think that says to us is that it's actually pretty rare and that when it does happen, in some cases, it's in life-or-death situation.

So what do you make of the fact that we are still kind of seeing these restrictions being put into place and in some ways Republicans want frame it as a compromise, but it's maybe not?

HARRIS: Yeah, as you mentioned, the Republicans are trying to frame this as a compromise because you have groups that effectively say that, oh, we want a 15-week federal abortion ban, but you also have the more restrictive six weeks bans that have happened in South Carolina and Florida, right?

So, just considering that 12 weeks is their sort of, oh, we're offering a fig leaf to say that we have exceptions for rape and incest that at 20 weeks and 24 weeks. But I also think that this is effectively their way of saying, look, we've seen what happened in 2022, we saw what happened in 2020, that voters did not respond the way that we thought that they might respond to our more aggressive actions on abortion. And so maybe we need to allow a little bit more wiggle room. But even

that is far from when many, as you mentioned, when many women will either get abortions or when they even know that they are pregnant and need one.

ZANONA: And not to mention North Carolina was a safe haven in the south because there's so many other states that have already banned, you know, six-week ban in Florida. So abortion is not only going to be limited severely in North Carolina but in the south in general.

So that is huge implications for women. And also from a political perspective as well. Democrats are going to capitalize on this. I mean, North Carolina is a swing state. It's a battleground. It's purple, probably more so now with this ban. And I think the fact that Republicans pushed this through essentially in the dead of night. They went through very quickly, I think, speaks volume at all.


PHILLIP: Yeah, to that point on the political front, here's CNN's reporting on this saying that Democrats are poised to, "Reap The Whirlwind: Biden and North Carolina Democrats see 2024 edge and GOP ban." It says President Biden's campaign is already drawing up plans to focus on that ban.

And one advisor told the President -- of the President told CNN that North Carolina is a place that will reinforce and create another clear messaging opportunity on what's at stake. A messaging opportunity that they did take advantage of in 2022 and stopped a Republican wave that could have been?

CHALIAN: Well, there's no doubt that they took advantage of that messaging opportunity. They were responding to what they were seeing voters doing time and again in some special elections throughout 2022 which was rejecting this effort to try and further restrict abortion rights in a post-Roe world.

It is -- we're in such an interesting moment politically on this issue because for 50 years there was just one unifying force for Republicans and pro-life activists in the political side of this which was unify around the overturning of Roe.

And so the party spoke with one consistent voice for half a century on this. And then the Roe gets overturned by the Supreme Court. It goes back to the states. We see all these legislatures and governors trying different things here and it's why you see a Republican presidential field not all singing from the same hymn book now.

They are now trying to navigate how you run as a federal candidate for president in a post-Roe world, which was supposed to return this issue to and you see it's sort of a cacophony of ideas right now.

PHILLIP: Yeah. I mean, listen to Trump talking to Newsmax about this. I mean, he would like to call himself the leader of the Republican Party. And here's a position that he's taking right now. When asked about a six-week ban. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: DeSantis or Ron DeSanctimonius, as I call him, he came out with the six weeks. Other people agree with it and a lot of people don't. We're in a position now, and I'm going to be leading the charge, we're in a position now where we can get something that the whole country can agree with, and that's only because I got us out of the Roe v. Wade.


PHILLIP: So what does that really mean?

BALL: We don't know, and it's been really remarkable to see him dance around this issue. I mean, when he was on CNN, you saw him repeatedly refusing to answer the question of whether he would support some kind of federal legislation. And all of the candidates have been in this difficult situation.

And what we know is this is just going to continue to be a live issue because the landscape continues to change in state after state, a lot of pro-abortion or Democratic groups are working on ballot initiatives in order to put this issue directly on the ballot in various states in 2024 or further down the road.

A lot of judicial decisions still to come down. Florida, one of many states where courts are considering whether some of these bans that have passed are legal according to state constitutions or other legal challenges to them.

So it just means this issue and then, of course, you have the tragic horror stories that continue to come out from women who've been denied abortions and been in really horrible situations. So this is just going to be an issue that continues to be in the news that the candidates continue to answer for.

And so far, even Republicans have tried to make an argument that Democrats are the ones in an extreme position, tried to make them answer for some of the controversy surrounding late term abortion. But what we've seen so far is that it's really Republicans who are on the back foot in this and in a challenging position in terms of finding a position that's actually popular.

PHILLIP: And they are not going to be able to hide the ball on this. I mean, we are entering a presidential election cycle in which this is top of mind for a lot of voters. There's a new poll out from Reuters showing 64% of Americans say they are less likely to back a 2024 candidate who wants to restrict abortion further.

But up next for us, an inferno, lost ballots and lies. Succession takes viewers through a hellish U.S. presidential election scenario. So how realistic is it, really? That's coming up next.


[11:43:14] PHILLIP: All right, you've been warned that this is a spoiler alert for Succession fans who are not caught up. But in the latest episode of the hit HBO series, the U.S. is facing an electoral crisis that can only be described as the stuff of nightmares.

The show's election night plot centers around this fire that breaks out at a voting precinct in Battleground, Wisconsin, and it wipes out 100,000 absent ballots that could determine a nail biter presidential race. So what happens next? Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One report about a fire in Milwaukee initially thought to have been caused by an electrical failure. But now there are claims and some counterclaims being made by groups who were protesting alleged voting irregularities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, OK, well, do you know if any of the ballots intact?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It doesn't look likely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are you at, it's been so many votes have gone. But ballots have been lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh yeah. We're chartering flights to Milwaukee, a ton of number crunching by our analytics team. We're trying to check the Milwaukee County. Voter rolls to see who's voted so far.


PHILLIP: Joining me now at the table is Kara Swisher, Editor-at-Large for the New York Magazine and she's also the host of the popular podcast including the official Succession podcast. And we have CNN's David Chalian, the Director -- Political Director here at CNN help -- to help us break all of this down. So Kara, I watched this and everybody watched it and promptly freaked out.


PHILLIP: What did you think? I mean this really is the nightmare?

SWISHER: Yes, it is. That's the idea of something happening like a getting completely rid of ballots, not trying to decide what the ballots are, if they were false ballots, but actually destruction of ballots. And so, you know, I think they had written this well before a lot of our other election fraud kind of allegations. So that was kind of interesting. They're often ahead of things.


PHILLIP: Like before 2020 or before?

SWISHER: No, not before 2020.

PHILLIP: Before some of the other crazy? SWISHER: Yeah, some of the other crazy stuff.


SWISHER: And so I think they really wanted to have interviewed Jesse -- interviewed Jesse Armstrong, who runs the show, and he really wanted an election theme and narrative throughout the show to create sort of because this family is based on some family, least perhaps the trump -- I'm sorry, perhaps the Murdochs. And so they wanted to create an election drama because this ATN is such an important player.

PHILLIP: The other part of me, David, kind of felt like, well, this really wouldn't happen maybe quite this way. And OK, Politico spoke to an expert on Wisconsin law here who put it this way, as the episode played out in Wisconsin, the law doesn't say what to do with these ballots.

So it would certainly go to the courts, which we are very familiar with at this point. This is according to Barry Burden, but Burden said that he thought that a judge would be extremely likely to grant some kind of accommodation.

And I think that what this underscores to me is that real life is actually maybe a little bit messier than how it was obviously portrayed in this show in that there are courts, there are local election officials, all of which would cast doubt on a news organization doing what ATN tried to do.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about it. I mean, certainly if we were talking about a determinative amount of ballots here, number of ballots that have been destroyed, we know it's going to go to litigation. I could speak for CNN. I don't see that we would be in the range of making a projection in that kind of scenario because we know that -- I mean, litigation would have already been filed. It within moments of that fire being exposed.

I think I love this episode. I love the show. I'm a big fan of your podcast on the show. The drama of this show, so much of it was taking place in the boardroom. The family that we follow throughout the show. But actually on election night, the real drama is in the control room, like of producing the live television unfolding of the results all night, not up in a boardroom. That part didn't feel --

PHILLIP: But that's part of it too, is that the boardroom is supposed to represent this unscrupulous news organization. We're not talking about a CNN here. We're talking about some other organization that is not following the sort of ethics of the business and what they can do if they have an audience, a captive audience.

SWISHER: Right. You have to keep in mind this is all one day. Every episode this season is one day after the next. So we don't know, you know, because we don't know where the litigation would go because it would happen the next day or in the days to come.

And so what I think they were trying to do was the idea of how many people are personally involved in things. And if you look at the Arizona call by Fox News, they were being called by Trump officials, they were being called by Biden officials, and they were personally involved in making that determination, which some people criticize that they did it before Nate Cohn wrote a piece about it. I don't know how you felt about it, but there is people involved who run these networks who do make these calls.

CHALIAN: And who are in touch with the campaigns in real time. There's no doubt about that. I think the difference here is the ownership executive level versus those that have the editorial responsibility of the network. And obviously drawing the Fox News comparison that you're saying is does that get blurred at a place like ATN in this fictional world or in Fox pitch you into Murdochs.


CHALIAN: Precisely.

SWISHER: They were fired later.

CHALIAN: There's no doubt about it.

PHILLIP: Let's play a little bit more actually kind of speaking to what you're talking about here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello? Hey, Tom. So call it. You can call it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're calling it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, we called Wisconsin. Now we're going to call Arizona. So we call the election. We call the election.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, Tom. No, you're making a terrible mistake. Please don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey guys, it's not my call. It's not my call. It's your call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, it's our call.




PHILLIP: And in this case, the self-interest here, all of the children here have self-interest.


PHILLIP: And it's not just about the money. It's also about whether they want the deal to go through or not. It's about being able to exert a certain amount of influence in the media marketplace.

SWISHER: Right. And that's the important part of it, is they're trying to depict a company like this. It's family run, of which there's one or two, more than one in this country. And so the question is which one is going to come out on top and which is going to benefit them. And so they were trying all the whole previous episodes to influence the candidates, the different candidates and what would happen.

PHILLIP: And Chalian, do you think this is a prequel of what could come or how bad it could possibly be?

CHALIAN: Listen, the 2000 election, that Bush-Gore election changed everything when it comes to how networks deal with election results. And in fact, our Bureau Chief here, Sam Feist, strongly encourages all of us involved in the process on election night of projections, our decision desk, the editorial executives around it, urges us to reread the congressional testimony that the network presidents had to go up to Congress and give because no network ever wants to find itself in that position.


PHILLIP: Yeah, yeah.

SWISHER: And I interviewed some people who were involved in that, too, just to give a sense of it. But you could see parts of this happening and then later the repercussions of what's happening, and so that's what they're trying to do. And so that's why you have a nightmare, not because it's fiction, it's that it could happen.

PHILLIP: Yeah. There are elements of reality in everything that we see here. Kara Swisher and David Chalian, thank you both very much.

And coming up next for us, what can a hit TV show teach recent college graduates about navigating life? Well, Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, she has the answers, next.


PHILLIP: Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson gave her first commencement address as a sitting justice yesterday, hoping to inspire the new graduates with the message drawn from a long-standing touchstone of American culture.



KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: Survivor, yes, that's right. When I say survivor, I am indeed referring to the reality TV show where people are stranded on an island and compete to become the last person standing. And if you can believe it, that show has been running 23 years and is currently in its 44th season.

And I am a Survivor super fan. I have seen every episode since the Second Season, and I watch it with my husband and my daughters even now, which I will admit, it's not easy to do with the demands of my day job. But you have to set priorities, people.

And that's exactly the first lesson that I have for you today. As you leave this wonderful institution and embark on your careers, you will sometimes face difficult choices about how to spend your time as you balance work and family and all of the other things that are important in your life. But no matter how busy you get, you can and should find time for the things you love. And I love that show.


PHILLIP: All right, that's pretty impressive if you ask me. But that's it for us here on Inside Politics Sunday. Thank you again for sharing your Sunday morning with us, and have a great rest of your day.