Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Sources: Trump Captured On Tape Talking About Classified Document He Kept After Presidency; 2024 Republican Field Keeps Growing; All-Out War Between Trump And DeSantis; Biden Celebrates Bipartisan Debt Deal; Trump On Tape Discussing Classified Iran Document. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired June 04, 2023 - 11:00   ET



ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: Slugfest, the Trump-DeSantis battle devolves into a schoolyard brawl.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You don't change your name in the middle of a election. Changed his name in the middle of the election.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): His whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me?

PHILLIP: What's the DeSantis plan to convince voters he'd beat not just a better nominee, but a better president.

Plus, the GOP field keeps growing. Three more candidates will jump in this week, including Trump's former VP.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Republicans have to offer a positive vision grounded in conservative principles.

PHILLIP: But how many of them will make it to the Republican debate stage?

And disaster averted.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No one got everything they want, but the American people got what they needed.

PHILLIP: The president says, the debt deal is proof his brand of politics still works.

BIDEN: I know bipartisanship is hard, but we can never stop trying.


PHILLIP: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, I'm Abby Phillip. Thank you for joining us.

Well, it is officially all about Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. And yesterday marked the first unofficial start of the caucus season with eight presidential hopefuls gathered all in one place in Des Moines for an annual event to raise money for veterans. But there was one notable exception and that was Donald Trump. But Trump's war with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis still dominated the race in the last week, and boy, have things escalated between these two men.

With Trump in Iowa and DeSantis crisscrossing through multiple early states, they sparred over who can best make America great again.


DESANTIS: Let's just be clear, it really does take two terms as president to be able to finish this job.

TRUMP: You don't need eight years, you need six months. We can turn this thing around so quickly. If you need eight years, who the hell wants to wait eight years?

DESANTIS: Anyone that says that they can slay the deep state in six months should be asked, why didn't you do that when you had four years to try to do that?


PHILLIP: And that was just the beginning.


TRUMP: You really go after the one who's second. And I think the one who's second is going down so much and so rapidly that I don't think he's going to be second that much longer. I think he's going to be third or fourth.

DESANTIS: He used to say how great Florida was. Hell, his whole family moved to Florida under my governorship. Are you kidding me?

TRUMP: As you know, Ron, as I call him, Ron DeSanctimonious for reasons.

DESANTIS: I think it's so petty. I think it's so juvenile. I don't think that's what voters want.


PHILLIP: All right. Let's discuss all of this and more with Politico's Eli Stokols, Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post, Axios' Margaret Talev, and Daniel Strauss of The New Republic.

Well, here's the back and forth that I think a lot of people had wondered would happen. And it's pretty intense right at the get go.

MARGARET TALEV, AXIOS SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: Right. I mean, the question I think, from the get go was, is DeSantis going to go after Trump? Or is he going to try to go after the people polling beneath him and make it a two-way contest? You know, I'll say this. This is -- the polls all show that these are the top two vote getters in the early, you know, surveys. Trump outnumbering DeSantis around two to one.

I don't think Trump is really competing against DeSantis. I think Trump is competing against himself. And DeSantis is trying to lock down the number two spot so that if Trump becomes unraveled, DeSantis will ascend to the number one spot.

They are sparring with each other, but Donald Trump is so far ahead of Ron DeSantis in every poll. DeSantis plus everyone else added up, barely approximate where Trump is out in the standings that Trump's issue is whether he will come undone from the Justice Department investigations or the revelations into criminal liabilities.


TALEV: That's what's going.

PHILLIP: That's true. And but I also think that DeSantis is trying to change the narrative, right? I mean, part of the problem is that he entered the race under this narrative that he maybe wasn't ready for primetime. And so that's why you've seen him doing this, which is really getting after Trump in a very explicit way trying to show people he can do it.


DESANTIS: You don't elevate a Fauci. You bring them in, you tell him to pack his bags and tell him he is fired.

He also attacked me for voting against the omnibus bill that he signed in 2018. It was a grotesque omnibus bill, and it's really part of the reason why we're in such dire straits as a country fiscally now.


We will finally be the administration to bring this border issue to a conclusion.

I do think, unfortunately, he's decided to move left on some of these issues. And I think it's me that's just being true to kind of what we said we would do.


PHILLIP: And I mean, is that effective?

ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, he has to draw some contrast, right. And he's been a little tentative at doing that. I think it makes sense for him to emphasize, look, there are a lot of things that President Trump talked about doing that he didn't quite get done. Look at my record in Florida, we're actually doing things. Make sense for him to talk about his age, the ability to serve two terms. All these things make sense.

But I think more than, you know, what he's saying, it's kind of how he's saying it. How does he feel out there? Is he having any fun? Is there any levity? Is he actually connecting with voters, with primary voters? Because that was something that Donald Trump, in a lot of different ways, has been able to do. He has this incredibly strong bond with people. They appreciate the fact that he makes jokes up there, that he's completely, you know, DeSantis called a juvenile or sophomore.

Well, a lot of -- I mean, I don't know how many Trump rallies do I've been to, but when Trump is sophomore and juvenile, people love it. And so --

PHILLIP: [inaudible] is a critical part of it.

STOKOLS: I think being comfortable in your own skin may be more of a test for Ron DeSantis than whether he's able to prosecute these arguments.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Yes, that's kind of the problem with running against Donald Trump, is everyone knows who Donald Trump is. You either think that the election was stolen from Donald Trump, or you think that he tried to steal the election from Joe Biden.

Everyone has an opinion about him. He can't introduce himself to voters anymore. And so what the other candidates have to do like Ron DeSantis, is he's trying to introduce himself to voters, but he also has to persuade voters that he is better than Donald Trump.

And Donald Trump is, you know, he's omnipresent in every campaign, every conversation, every campaign events as well.

PHILLIP: To Margaret's point, one of the things about Donald Trump is Donald Trump might often become his own worst enemy. Just this past week, he put out a statement, praising Kim Jong-un for, you know, a position with the World Health Organization. And this was actually a good case study in how the candidates respond. So here is Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence.


DESANTIS: I was surprised to see that. I mean, I think one, Kim Jong- un is a murderous dictator. They just imprison for life a family including an infant.

PENCE: Whether he's my former running mate or anyone else, no one should be praising the dictator in North Korea, or praising the leader of Russia who has launched an unprovoked war of aggression in Ukraine.


PHILLIP: So pretty strong from Mike Pence, but I was surprised to see that from Ron DeSantis. I mean, a little bit soft there.

DANIEL STRAUSS, THE NEW REPUBLIC SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, these candidates have to respond because the thing about any kind of presidential primaries, you have to draw contrast, and you want to draw contrast with the frontrunner. At the same time, we know that Republicans are not going to respond too much to any big foreign policy development or discussion. I mean, this is -- the front runner in the primary is someone who stood on stage in Helsinki, alongside the president of Russia and said he trusted him more than the American intelligence community.

And Trump's base did not launched at that. And so I really -- this is not the subject that if you're Ron DeSantis, you want to be focused on too much, because it's not going to draw the contrast you need with Donald Trump.

PHILLIP: I mean, Kim Jong-un? That seems like -- that seems like a softball.

CALDWELL: Yes. And also, I mean, talking about drawing contrast with Donald Trump, the problem with Ron DeSantis is, he's trying to hit Donald Trump around the edges. He's not talking about the real -- you know, he's not talking about Donald Trump's position on the 2020 election. He's not talking about January 6 as well. And so he's trying to have kind of these more superficial attacks against the president. And it's a challenge for Ron DeSantis and other candidates because like we have all said, that he doesn't want to alienate the Trump base.

STOKOLS: Well, he's kind of caught between because he's trying to draw contrast, but the same time, he's trying to coopt Trumpism.

Ron DeSantis' central point -- the pillar of his campaign right now is being anti-woke -- anti, you know, saying that at every like -- that's his whole speech is the woke left is trying to do this. They're doing this to us. It's the same us versus them sort of politics of white grievance that Trump leverage so successfully that DeSantis is trying to do slightly differently, but it's basically the same thing.

TALEV: To oust Donald Trump.

STOKOLS: So when you're trying to say, I'm the competent Trump, I'm the younger Trump, I'm the more, you know, mannered Trump, I don't know if that's going to work. I mean, we're going to find out if that's going to work because he's got to draw these contrasts, at the same time, he needs a lot of Trump voters to see something that they liked and Trump in him.

PHILLIP: On Friday, I spoke to evangelical leader, Bob Vander Plaats about the evangelical vote, but also about Iowa, and here's what he said.


BOB VANDER PLAATS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, THE FAMILY LEADER: I think you sense in Iowa at a willingness to turn the page and primarily on not because of what President Trump has done as president in those four years, but today's 2024, it's not 2016. They want somebody who can win. They want a new generational leader that has a vision for the future, just not a complaint about the past. I think I was wide open.



PHILLIP: This is going to be a really critical question, not just about Iowa, but about whether DeSantis can pull evangelical voters. Vander Plaats is very clear, he wants to move on from Trump. But can DeSantis make the case?

TALEV: I mean, he's certainly trying, and so is his wife, you know. And we're seeing all the candidates trying Iowa. There's two things about Iowa to remember they're important. One is that it's a caucus state, it's not a primary. So we're talking about polling what the general Republican base wants.

Well, who turns out for a caucus is even more specific and concentrated than it turns out for a primary election. And the other is that evangelical voters historically had been so pivotal in Iowa. Two-thirds of the turnout almost last time.

PHILLIP: And you mentioned Casey DeSantis. There's been a lot of talk from both of them about their kids. Listen to this.


DESANTIS: We're literally just in the drive thru just sitting there. And so she had to go so I was like, OK. I will take her inside and just come. So we go in, we get in there. And I was like -- I was like, here you go. And she just like shakes her head. I'm like, what? She's like, little potty, little potty. I'm like, they don't have little potty and slim chickens.


STOKOLS: I mean, as a dad who's trying to incorporate the little potty right now with my 2-year-old, I can kind of relate to that. So I guess I'll give them credit for trying. I mean, you know --

PHILLIP: If that's showing you the person.

STOKOLS: We are seeing -- right, you're seeing Casey DeSantis in a lot of these events because the, you know, people pushing Ron DeSantis out there, they recognize that that's a liability. He needs some softening around the edges. We'll see if events like that, you know, make some headway there.

PHILLIPS: Yes, I mean, this -- it seems like a small thing. But this is going to be so important in a state like Iowa where those kinds of moments matter and they add up.

But coming up next for us, President Biden praises bipartisanship in Washington, and he hopes that voters will start rewarding him for it.




BIDEN: No one got everything they want, but the American people got what they needed. We averted an economic crisis and economic collapse.


PHILLIP: That was President Biden delivering his very first Oval Office address on Friday night to celebrate a crisis averted that the United States had not defaulted on its debt. And, yes, that may very well be a low bar to have cleared. But Biden said that his deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthy proves once again that in his Washington compromise doesn't have to be a dirty word.


BIDEN: I know bipartisanship is hard and unity is hard, but we can never stop trying. Because the moments like this one, the ones we just faced, where the American economy and the world economy is at risk of collapsing, there's no other way. No matter how tough our politics gets, when you see each other not as adversaries but as fellow Americans.


PHILLIP: And in some ways, this is not surprising at all. You could even look at that Oval Office address as the real start of his 2024 campaign.

STOKOLS: I think it is. And it's quite a journey from months of, we will not negotiate over the budget to. Let's do an Oval Office address to tout this bill in which we agreed to Republican spending caps, we agree to some light work requirements. The whole point, the reason they want to plant a flag on this is compromise. That's the Biden brand. And that's key that's being the grown up, right. And that is going to be a pillar of his reelection argument.

But, you know, you also have to step back. I mean, this was a fairly dysfunctional process when it's, you know, with him and Speaker McCarthy, how it started, you know, they were surprised when McCarthy was able to actually pass a bill that kind of caught the White House off guard.

PHILLIP: And they had to negotiate but they didn't want to.

STOKOLS: And it was ugly, the back and forth was ugly for a long time. It did not seem like they were close. They finally figured out, I mean, nothing like a deadline to kind of focus the mind a little bit, but they got there in the end.

And I think inside the White House, there's a real feeling of not just we averted the crisis, but we did pretty well in this negotiation. Maybe McCarthy didn't have a great hand, but they had to negotiate, they had to give something up. And they're relieved that they were able to get a two-year increase to the debt ceiling, and really not have to jeopardize much of the Biden agenda, the core things that they've been able to pack. TALEV: The biggest tell that this was an election speeches when Biden said, in my first four years as president, they're like, I'm sorry, it's only been -- it's been a long two and a half but it's actually not been four years, but his mind is already on the election. He because he's not running a primary, at least not at this moment.

So if he were running a primary, he might not be touting compromises. They answered to everything. He is talking to the general election audience. Kevin McCarthy is not. Kevin McCarthy is still doing some damage control with his Freedom Caucus but that's --


TALEV: -- that's the setting. That's how the table is set right now.

PHILLIP: And we'll get to that definitely in a second. But I mean, I just have to know, Daniel, before you come in. It just so happened that this kept a pretty strong period of economic news. I mean, the jobs numbers that came out also on Friday, 339,000 jobs created. That was a huge number. Gas prices are down, inflation is down for 10 straight months. The White House wants to tout this stuff.

STRAUSS: Yes. Look, and I think Eli's point earlier about 24 months till we do this again is a pretty big victory for the White House, right? This is -- so if you are the White House, you don't have to worry about debt ceiling fight, a hostage negotiation during much of the campaign cycle. And that's clearly on their minds in part. I mean, Democrats don't want to have another debt ceiling fight again, but this will be one of the longer periods where we don't have to think about this for a while.

And it's been a roller coaster for this White House. This is a White House that's dealt with questions on gas prices that had been felt by Americans. So for the moment, things are looked pretty good for them, but that could easily change.

PHILLIP: And Kevin McCarthy was also pretty happy this week with the deal, but at the same time, there was so much rumbling on the right and you heard it even this morning from Ken Buck who was on the Danna Bash on the "STATE OF THE UNION"



REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): I don't know if a motion to vacate is going to happen right away. I do know that Speaker McCarthy has credibility issues.

Nancy Pelosi and her years and years of being speaker never once asked Republicans to vote for the rule, the -- a procedural mechanism that puts the bill on the floor. Kevin McCarthy, in his first five months, had to ask the Democrats that's really unheard of and shows weakness.


PHILLIP: I mean, the Nancy Pelosi dig coming from him, I think, says a lot.

CALDWELL: Yes. And on the right, you know, the Steve Bannon, some of the Freedom Caucus world, they're calling Hakeem Jeffries majority leader now, because he had to provide -- he provided those votes to pass that rule. And there was more democratic votes that passed the debt limit bill in the House.

So Kevin McCarthy, though he made a decision, he made a decision to govern, even though it was the right who really brought him to the brink, brought him to this place. But when he entered these negotiations, he did work with President Biden.

And I will say, getting back to the debt limit, that's not going to happen again until 2025. I do know inside one of those oval office meetings between McCarthy and Biden, that when things got tense, McCarthy said to Biden said, look, we will only do a debt limit, and we'll make you fight this in the middle of an election year. And do you want that? And so it was kind of a threat inside there. And they decided to put this off.

So, you know, I think that this was good for both McCarthy and for Biden, even though both Biden got a lot of flak from his left flank as well, even moderates in the House Democratic Caucus is really worried about the status of these negotiations through the process and McCarthy got a lot from his right, so.

PHILLIP: But the narrative has been up until this point that Biden is feckless that he can't do the job. The White House was pretty happy with being able to get a deal done. But then this happened, as President Biden was delivering a speech, a fall, really the worst nightmare, I think of some of the President's advisors, not just the optics of it. I mean, there's also just the real life implications of what a fall means for an 80-year-old.

TALEV: Both of those things are true. I think what -- Donald Trump is not much younger than Joe Biden, but he reads as younger, he moves physically in a more nimble way. He's quicker rhetorically. And whether or not that's fair, it's the reality of how Americans how voters perceive your age is how you carry yourself, how stiff you are, how quickly you move.

It's dangerous if you fall at around age 80. Or he got right back up, he seemed fine during his remarks, like, you've recovered well, but it doesn't mean that it's not going to keep being a conversation it is. And for anyone on the advanced staff, every sandbag has to be me on green from now through the --

STRAUSS: I won't be surprised if we will see that clip in Republicans' primary ads.

TALEV: They're already covering it.

STRAUSS: Yes. So it's going to be persistent throughout this 2024 election cycle.

PHILLIP: There are some real challenges. I mean, for Biden, I mean, the Times has a big piece this morning about how difficult it is to run for president under the real physical limitations that he faces and how his staff navigates that. No one likes to have this conversation. But it has to happen because you cannot negate the fact that that is actually -- that is his age.

STOKOLS: It is. And this hits on of central liability for his campaign. We've had a lot of old white men in that Oval Office, but we've never had one at 80 who's seeking a second term that starts when he's 82. And when people observe Biden -- I mean, Biden will always say, to the age question, watch me, watch me. You don't think I can do the job? Watch me. And he's got a record of accomplishment from two years in terms of legislating. They got the debt ceiling done. But people are also watching things like what happened on Thursday.

And, you know, as -- look, I don't think there's too many voters out there who pay attention to politics who don't already know that Joe Biden is 80 years old. But how they evaluate that, how they think about it in terms of should he be serving another four years after this, you know, things like that could be a big factor if we -- especially if we see more.

CALDWELL: And people see 80 years old now, but they also remember that at the end of his term, he will be 86. And that is -- and that's a factor too.


CALDWELL: And then I think that it also brings in the Kamala Harris if people are comfortable with Kamala Harris, perhaps stepping in if something were to happen to an 80 something year old presidents.

PHILLIP: Yes. I mean, it was just a week in which the two sides of the coin were really on sharp display a president getting the deal done, but then also having that moment caught on tape.

But next, also caught on tape. Why a recording of a meeting inside former president Trump's New Jersey golf club could be a pivotal piece of evidence in this classified documents case against him.



PHILLIP: There are signs that the investigation into Donald Trump's possession of classified material, after leaving the White House, is nearing an end. And CNN was the first to report on what could be a key piece of evidence, an audio tape in which Trump himself refers to a classified document about a potential attack on Iran. And it's hard to imagine that there is a topic that could be more sensitive to national security than that.

The reporting states that the recording indicates Trump understood that he retained classified material after leaving the White House, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. And Trump's comments suggest that he would like to share the information, but he's aware of the limitations on his ability post-presidency to declassify records. Two of the sources said.

Now Trump told Fox's Sean Hannity that it's all a big nothing burger.


TRUMP: I know nothing about it. All I know is just everything I did was right. We have the Presidential Records Act which I abided by 100 percent. This is about election interference. It's a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time. It's a hoax.



PHILLIP: And CNN's own Paula Reid is joining us at the table. She's one of the reporters who broke this story and several other major developments in this case. It is really significant for a couple of reasons, as you've said, it tells us how much maybe we don't know about what Jack Smith is up to. But it also is some of the clearest evidence that we have that Trump knew what he had and what he couldn't share.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, that's what makes this so significant, is on this recording, according to our sources, you can hear him not only describing generally a classified document, but also suggesting that he wants to share it, but that he can't. And he acknowledges the limits of his ability to declassify once he's out of the White House. And those two comments undercut every public defense that he or his attorneys have provided since this investigation became public.

PHILLIP: How do you -- what do you feel and what are you hearing are the tea leaves about where Jack Smith is in this process?

REID: So we know that at this point, obviously there are two investigations January 6, which we expect to go on a little bit longer because the Mar-a-Lago case appears to be in its final phase. At this point we know that the special counsel investigators, they're talking to the kinds of witnesses who you would speak to at the end of an investigation, right? They tend to go with the smaller fish, build up to more significant players.

We have seen them engage in very aggressive pursuits to try to get around different kinds of privileges. We seem to be in the final phase, but this question of when will there be on charges? I think one thing our reporting really taught us this week is we really don't know, because there's people like General Milley that he spoke with you that we didn't know about. And they have this kind of evidence that's a reminder to all of us that there's a lot we don't know.

PHILLIP: Yeah. Earlier this week, I spoke to Jim Trusty, one of the president's lawyers, and here's what he said about all of this that Paula has been reporting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JIM TRUSTY, DONALD TRUMP ATTORNEY: The President, under the Presidential Records Act, has unfettered authority to do what he wants with documents that he's taken from the White House while president. And so if he wants to declassify them, if he wants to personalize them under the Presidential Record Act, that is his right.

PHILLIP: Were any documents that former President Trump took with him to any of his properties? Did they contain any of them contain sensitive military plans?

TRUSTY: Yeah, I'm not trying my case in the press. So he would have the right to possess them if they did, but I'm not going to address that.

PHILLIP: He would have to -- would he have the right to possess them if they were classified documents? Because --



PHILLIP: It's such an interesting argument, but it just strikes me. I mean, what we're talking about here is potentially, you know, not only classified documents that relate to national security. And is that really the argument that they're going to take to voters about whether or not this was right or wrong for him to do?

ELI STOKOLS, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I mean, if voters just care about, like, you know, Republican primary voters only care about Donald Trump and his ability to do whatever he wants in office, then sure, maybe that's an effective case.

But, you know, one, although I'm not a lawyer, I've read a lot of legal analysis. There are a lot of lawyers out there who disagree with Jim Trusty's summation there and the president's contention that he can declassify anything he wants on a whim whenever he wants.

This is national security information. I think what a lot of Republicans are going to argue in the primary, what certainly you'll hear from the White House is that more than Donald Trump's vanity, his ability to show off these top-secret documents to friends when they come to visit, national security actually matters more than that. We're talking about the security of this country, talking about information that is vital to keeping America's operatives overseas alive, covert operatives. I mean, this is serious stuff, and I think that's the argument you're going to hear.

PHILLIP: It'll also be interesting to see if there are charges in this case. If the arguments in court sound anything like what he just said.

REID: That's a key. That's a key point, because it's not a crime to lie to journalists, but it is a crime to lie to judges, to investigators. And we haven't seen them put forth these arguments that he could declassify with his mind, right? Or there was a standing declassification order that I've asked about that no one has seen. It's very different to make those in a court of law and we haven't seen that. So it will be really interesting. But the biggest question right now is where is this document?


REID: Because as we reported, they were subpoenaed for it and they can't find it. So speaking to your point about lives could be in danger here, the big question now just for American citizens, is, hey, where is classified documents?

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, THE WASHINGTON POST, EARLY 2020 CO-AUTHOR: Well, it's also interesting because if Trump could hold these classified documents, why then did they open an investigation into Mike Pence and to the former President Barack Obama as well for having classified documents. And the clear difference between, especially the Mike Pence and the Donald Trump case is that they closed the Mike Pence one. And --

PHILLIP: Although Pence -- Trump said this week, well, they should close mine, too, because I'm -- I don't know if it was just as innocent as Mike Pence, but, I mean, he's going to try to make the argument that because Pence wasn't charged, he shouldn't be charged either.


And by the way, Margaret, I mean, obviously this is not the only case he could be facing this summer?

MARGARET TALEV, AXIOS SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR: That's a good point. That's also true. But look, the former president is in a completely different level of legal jeopardy than he is political jeopardy with this matter. The base of the Republican Party is not developing how they view his conduct with records on the basis of legal briefs or what the constitution says, or what the legal analysis of his responsibilities are.

They're basing it on news coverage, on conservative outlets, and on the president's own words himself, and on the idea that there's a distrust of the establishment or there's traction to this idea inside the base that the FBI has gone left on, you know, on politics or something like that.

That is completely different than whether he has actually put himself in legal jeopardy because of his conduct. And so I think you can't necessarily look at what Jack Smith's going to do or what the findings are going to be and say how that would have any impact on the primary. I think it's apples and oranges. If he were to be the nominee again, it could matter in a general election. But I think politically, legally, it's just different.

REID: Yeah. And the facts of the case are so different. If you take Pence, we're talking about a dozen classified documents, President Biden's investigation, dozens of documents. With former President Trump, it's over 100. That's just volume. Then it comes to cooperation with trying to get these documents back.

Mike Pence, I think, really hit the nail on the head. He said, look, this was inappropriate. I shouldn't have done this. Biden has been cooperative, but some of his comments could have been a little more contrite. But former President Trump, he's in just a completely different league. I mean, he's under investigation for obstruction for a reason. They're still not convinced they have all the documents back.

PHILLIP: And one other point before you go, Paula, how is DOJ handling? It's not just one thing that jack smith is doing. He's also doing January 6. What can we expect as it relates to those multiple investigations, even within.

REID: So I think one question a lot of people had was, will Jack Smith wait to finish both Trump investigations and present them together? And it's my understanding from our reporting that that will not be the case. Mar-a-Lago in the classified document, probe is seen as being a little more straightforward.

It's also a smaller universe of people and players, though it is still quite expansive, as we learned from our reporting. But we do expect that one to be wrapped up first, and then it's unclear how long it will take them to wrap up the January 6 probe. But based on our reporting, we don't expect them to be delivered as twins, you might say.

PHILLIP: All right, Paula Reid, you've been working so hard. Great reporting. Thank you so much.

And coming up next for us, who is that Harley riding politician on the far left of your screen? Well, you have to stick around for an answer to that after the break.



PHILLIP: All right, so did you guess correctly? Believe it or not, that is former Vice President Mike Pence, and he is rather expert. Driving a Harley-Davidson through the streets of Des Moines, Iowa yesterday. He and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst led a parade of 250 motorcyclists to kick off Ernst's annual roast and ride to raise money for veterans causes.

Now, Pence was just one of several Republican presidential hopefuls at that event, but the only one to participate in the actual ride, part of the roast and ride to his credit, he will officially joined the field this week, along with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and current North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. That will bring the field of Republican hopefuls to double digits.

Several more Republicans, including Governors Chris Sununu and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, are still mulling over some candidacies. And now we have this massive field yet again. But Pence jumping into this race, I think is very significant. Wasn't, I think, always a foregone conclusion that Pence would decide to ultimately do it? But he made the pitch on Saturday to voters. Listen.


MIKE PENCE, (R) FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Republicans have to offer a positive vision of the future grounded in conservative principles, and we got to speak hard truths. I believe we have to resist the politics of personality and the siren song of populism unmoored to timeless conservative principles. And we need to stand firm on the conservative agenda of life and liberty and a commitment to freedom that has always led us to victory.


PHILLIP: For Mike Pence, that is very pointed, I would think, right?

TALEV: He was Donald Trump's Vice President.


TALEV: Now running against Donald Trump, so the candidacy is pointed to begin with. He understands, I think, that Iowa is an opportunity to take -- to test run both the message of religious faith and conviction and the message of sort of positivity and moving forward. But the early polling puts him at somewhere around four or five percent.

So it's a perfectly good place to test your creds, whether it's on a motorcycle or in a church on Sunday. But it's difficult for him, and it's difficult for all these other candidates who are going to be emerging in the next couple of days.

Chris Christie, slightly different message, but similar to the extent that he's saying it shouldn't be Donald Trump again. And I offer a positive alternative.

PHILLIP: Well, let's hear Chris Christie.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: When you decide with your own ego is more important than the people's belief in their democracy, when you say that it is patriotic to suspend the Constitution, if you believe the election is being stolen from you, that person is disqualified, in my view, from the president of United States again.


PHILLIP: Chris Christie is on one mission and one mission only, and that is to stop Donald Trump.

CALDWELL: Yeah, and he's, you know, like I said earlier, Ron DeSantis and others aren't willing to go there regarding 2020 election January 6 with Donald Trump, but Chris Christie is.


Asa Hutchinson, who doesn't get a lot of attention. He is also willing to play that part as well. So you definitely have the anti-Trump lane of the party now that is running essentially two candidates.

I just want to get back to Mike Pence because one thing that really struck me in what he said is he criticized populism, and that was really --

PHILLIP: That gets stick out.

CALDWELL: -- that was really interesting considering so much of the Trump movement and the Trump base is a populist movement and has been reshaping the Republican Party. And so what he's also trying to do is kind of bring the Republican Party back to what, the Pence Party, the Ronald Reagan Party, the more traditional component of the Republican Party. And I mean, I would argue we'll say, but the Republican Party has kind of moved on from that.

STRAUSS: It's a small and perilous lane, right? Like, so Pence wants to have a positive, cheerful candidacy. He wants to focus on life and abortion, and he wants to defy the politics of personality, which is a clear allusion to Trump and populism. Those are the dominant forces that have been covering the Republican primary. And it's really hard to see a dramatic shift, even with one candidacy of a former vice president, changing that anytime soon.

PHILLIP: I do also wonder if some of these candidates, like Mike Pence, will have to also contrast with Ron DeSantis if, as we were discussing earlier in the program, DeSantis is not running necessarily. He's running as like a different kind of Trump ism in some ways.

STOKOLS: Right. I mean, like we were talking about, there's not all that many contrast for DeSantis to draw with Donald Trump because he's trying to co-opt and take over his movement, sort of bring it into the next generation. As far as Mike Pence, yeah, he sort of sounds like he's just popped out of a time capsule from 1996 and is hopeful that people still, you know, would like to go back to that time. Doesn't seem like there's a huge market for that.

We're going to see how this plays out. I think that, you know, you can sort of laugh at some of these guys, say, where's your lane? What are you doing? You're polling at one percent or two percent presidential politics, right? All these guys have huge egos. They all think they should be president. They all have a lot of highly paid consultants around them who like to be highly paid and are telling them that they should be running.

And I think given the vulnerabilities that DeSantis has shown in the last several months is not the clear alternative to Trump, and given the legal jeopardy that former President Trump finds himself in, I think it's understandable why you're seeing a lot of candidates sit there and say, OK, I may be pulling a 2% now, but you never really know what might happen. And you want to be in that position if something happens, to be able to capitalize and move to the first.

PHILLIP: You also want to be on the debate stage and we have learned now, finally, this week, the criteria. It's been put out by the RNC, one percent of support. So really a very low bar in polling in three approved polls, 40,000 contributors, which is actually also a low bar. That sounds like a big number, but that's actually a pretty low number, and at least 200 contributors in each of the 20 states.

But this is the kicker. You must pledge to support the eventual nominee, which might have been a problem for some people, like an Asa Hutchinson, or if Chris Sununu gets into the race, or a Donald Trump who doesn't want to support anyone presumptively who is not Donald Trump.

TALEV: I don't even know where this goes. I mean, are there going to be debates? I guess there are going to be debates. There's rules on debates. But, yeah, we know that. You know, it's actually not -- if you're not off base in terms of even asking the question, because there is the subtext of Trump wanting to skip debates, of DeSantis wanting to skip debates. We are in June, and we don't really know what the debate schedule looks like.

STRAUSS: We don't. But we do know that Trump has been willing in the past to skip debates, and we also know how important debates are to him. He loves saying, I won the debate as he screamed to me on the phone once. He loves being on stage. He loves that contrast. And so it's hard for me to see him not actually being on this debate stage. He'll probably swallow his pride. One of the few moments he does that and say he will support the eventual nominee, and he'll say, it's him.

PHILLIP: Well, here's a little flashback from the 2016 campaign of Trump on the debate stage.


RAND PAUL: I think you're on the wrong side of this if you're still arguing for a single players.

TRUMP: I'm not -- I don't think you heard me. You're having a hard time tonight.

All right, one second. I didn't want to -- yes, OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, the simple fact is, Donald, you cannot take --

TRUMP: More energy tonight, I like that.

He was such a nice guy, and he said, oh, I'm never going to attack. But then his poll numbers tanked. He's got very -- that's why he's on the end. And he got nasty.

TED CRUZ: For 40 years, you've been funded liberal Democratic politicians, and by the way.

TRUMP: I funded you.

CRUZ: The reason -- Donald relaxed.

TRUMP: Go ahead. I'm relaxing. You're the best in case. Go ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PHILLIP: And there's the entertainment factor, by the way, that he specializes in.


CALDWELL: That's right. But to get to Daniel's point, he absolutely loves the debate stage.


CALDWELL: He always came up on top of outside of every -- after every single debate. And the debate that actually sticks out the most in my mind is when he was hovering over Hillary Clinton, which was also another monumental moment debates.

PHILLIP: Yeah, so we will see. I mean, lots of questions about what that is going to look like for a lot of these candidates.

But stand by, coming up next for us, a Confederate general who is known for losing battles is now losing the army base that has been named after him.


PHILLIP: America's biggest army base has a brand-new name. As of this weekend, Fort Bragg in North Carolina will be known as Fort Liberty. It is just one of nine military bases named after confederate figures that are now being rebranded.


The other eight are taking on the names of notable American heroes, many of them women and people of color. But Fort Liberty will be the only one named after an American value. It was a suggestion from a gold star mom who says that the name will honor those who serve their past, present, and future.


PATTI ELLIOTT, GOLD STAR MOM: The thousands and thousands of soldiers who have come before in the legacy that they built. But it's also the thousands and thousands yet to come. And with a name like Liberty, you're honoring all of them.


PHILLIP: Now, Fort Bragg, it was originally named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg, a slaveholder with a losing record on the battlefield.

And coming up next for the renaming will be Fort Polk in Louisiana, and it'll be rechristened as Fort Johnson, named after Sergeant William Henry Johnson. He was a hero of World War I. And from one of the all-black regiments known as the Hellfighters from Harlem.

And that's it for us on Inside Politics Sunday. Thank you for joining us.

Coming up next, "State of the Union" with Dana Bash. And tonight at 08:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Jake Tapper will moderate a CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. So be sure to tune in for that. And thank you for spending part of your morning with us. I'll see you tonight in our special coverage.