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Inside Politics

One-On-One With Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; Manchin Headlines "No Labels" Event In New Hampshire, Raising Suspicious Among Dems; Federal Prosecutors Propose Rules For Sharing Classified Info In Trump Trial; Dem Lobby Group Airs Steamy Sex-Scene Ad With Message: "Keep Republicans Out Of Your Bedroom". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 17, 2023 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST: A popular Republican governor, the darling of the conservative of movement, runs for president. Now, this is not the story of Ron DeSantis 2024, but Scott Walker 2016. The former Wisconsin governor was running a traditional race to court Republican voters when he ran headfirst into the juggernaut named Donald Trump.

That is what then Governor Walker actually. Look at that. That's the two of us back in 2015 riding his campaign bus, although he reminded me it was actually a Winnebago. This is exactly eight years ago today.


BASH: Is Trump good or bad for the race?

SCOTT WALKER (R), 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I'll let Donald Trump speak for himself. To me, I think a wide open field with as many different Republican choices as possible is a good thing overall.


BASH: Joining me now from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is that state's former governor Scott Walker. It's crazy how we haven't aged in eight years, isn't it, governor?

WALKER: You look in that picture is still today, too.

BASH: You just heard that clip of the conversation we had eight years ago. Donald Trump was the front runner then, he is the front runner now. What's your overall impression of the picture of this race?

WALKER: Yes, it's certainly his to lose right now. He's an unconventional candidate, which is why when some people talk about him, you know, not going to the upcoming debate in August in Milwaukee, I think that would be a mistake. This isn't a guy who doesn't follow conventional wisdom, even with the lead.

I think right now, the more he's out there directly engaged with the other candidates, the better off for him. That's what I saw eight years ago, whether it was the first debate or the second one. Dana, you were a part of this guy dominates the stage, and he's a prize fighter. Prize fighters belong in the ring defending their title, and that's where he should be today, I think.

BASH: Well, back in February, you said the dynamics of this race in 2024 are probably better for Governor DeSantis than they were eight years ago. You made those comments before Governor DeSantis launched his campaign, do you share that same assessment today?

WALKER: Well, you look on one hand, there's talk about him going up or down or down in some of the polls. Obviously, the second quarter fundraising numbers show he's doing decisively well, very well organized in that regard, even outpacing former President Trump and the rest of the field in that regard. But the two have to go hand in hand.

One of the lessons I think any of the candidates, Governor DeSantis or anyone else, needs to learn from what I went through eight years ago. And that is, even if you've got a great record, that only gets you on the stage. You've got to be equally as bold when you go out and make the case to the American voters.

And Donald Trump did that eight years ago. It was clear whether you agreed with him or not, you know, he was going to build a wall. He was going to drain the swamp. These things were clear whether it was on the debate stage or at one of his campaign rallies. Nobody else could break through the way that he did.

And I think in the 2024 cycle, if Ron DeSantis or any of the other candidates are going to have any shot against Donald Trump, President Trump, they've got to make a really powerful case that they're going to be even more bold than Donald Trump was during his four years in office. And that's a tough sell.

BASH: I should remind our viewers that you were on the debate stage, as you mentioned, but you dropped out of the race even before the first votes were counted or taken in Iowa. And you mentioned that DeSantis has a huge fundraising hall in Q2, and that is true, but he's also spent a lot of money.

The -- just to be specific, he raised $20 million last quarter, again that was a lot, but he's already spent 39 percent of what he's raised and 15 percent of that funding. That's it, just 15 percent comes from small donors, which, as you well know, means that those are the donors that you can go back to over and over again. It's the big donors that have given to him, and they maxed out.

WALKER: Yes, that's definitely the case. And that's one of those where I think for him or anybody else to go even further in terms of being a true challenge to President Trump. They've got to go beyond just having a good organization, have a good track record, but step out and make some really bold proposals out there.

And I would say that even for President Trump, it's not enough to just say he had a great track record in office for four years. He as well, particularly not only in the primaries and the caucuses, but going into the fall, is going to have to make, I think, just as powerful a case that, yes, he did some good things, things that I loved during his four years in office.

But here's what's next. Elections are always about the future. They're never about the past, even if the past was just a few months ago. And that, to me, was the big mistake.


I learned from is, the consultants who came to me said, oh, you've got this great track record where people love. You've taken on the unions, taken on the big government special interest. And so we just focused on that. That could be a problem if Governor DeSantis's team just focuses on his track record instead of saying, here's we translate this into something even bigger if I'm elected as president of the United States.

BASH: That's so interesting. What an interesting perspective. I just have to ask, though, do you really think that the voters with this slate of candidates and in this current environment, care that much about what the proposals are that they're putting forward? Or is it as much, if not more, about kind of the cult of personality when you have people like Donald Trump and even Ron DeSantis on the ballot?

WALKER: I think it's three things. I think overall, I think voters in general, not just Republican voters, but overall with voters, there's a personality, but just because they're sick and tired of everybody letting them down to Washington. So first and foremost, that's why Donald Trump got elected the first time. It's why he was the nominee and why he's on track potentially to be the nominee as well.

They've had it with everybody. And to the extent that somebody -- even on the other side, Bernie Sanders, I think that's for a while, that's why he had the traction he had, even though he's not a typical candidate. It was just habit with people who make these promises and don't deliver.

BASH: Yes.

WALKER: So one's personality. But then the other two closely follow, and that is what are you going to do with that? Not just that you're against the status quo, you're against the swamp, but what are you going to do about it? And can you make the case that you're the best position to get those things done?

And then third, winnability. Right now, if I was anybody other than Donald Trump, I'd be pushing that point. Unfortunately for them, while DeSantis and some of the other candidates may pull slightly better against Biden than, say, President Trump does, it's pretty much going to be just as tight of a race in '24 as it was in 2020 and 2016.

And, you know, to me, that's the third component. If you could say we're clearly better positioned to win against Joe Biden, that could be an issue, at least for some in the primary and caucus cycle.

BASH: Former Governor Scott Walker, thank you so much. I have a lot more to ask you. Will you come back?

WALKER: I will indeed. Love to be with you.

BASH: OK, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

And if you've been around in Washington long enough, it's a question you've heard plenty of times. What does Joe Manchin really want? Why we're asking that question again today, after a quick break.



BASH: Democrats to the left, Republicans to the right. And here's Joe Manchin stuck in the middle with No Labels. The middle of the road Democrat is sparking panic in some corners of his party. Today's event a New Hampshire appearance to unveil an agenda about resetting American policy. That's a big reason why.

So let's talk about that. I'm going to go to the person who spends more time with Joe Manchin than anybody, maybe other than his staff and his wife.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) just referring to Manu of the entirety of his staff.

BASH: Joe Manchin --


BASH: You -- Joe Manchin of the halls and --

RAJU: Of the halls.

BASH: -- Manu Raju and a camera Joe Manchin.

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: What do you make of this? Is he going to run for president? What's your --

RAJU: I'm highly skeptical --

BASH: Yes.

RAJU: -- that he's going to run for president. Now, he knows that the second he takes himself out of the conversation, we're not going to be talking about the message he wants to deliver. Now, I do think he has legitimate concerns about the dysfunction in the government, in the country, and in Congress, and he wants to have that message about putting the two differences aside, two parties working together.

That's been his message for most of his political career. But will he mount a third party bid that he knows himself is highly unlikely to be successful, could very well, undercut Joe Biden, could potentially re- elect Donald Trump. That seems highly, highly unlikely to me. Now, he also is keeping open the option of running for reelection --

BASH: Right.

RAJU: -- for the Senate for the same reason. The second he decides he wants to retire, he's a lame duck and perhaps not as effective in Congress. So this is a clear calculation.

BASH: I want to read something that the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, said over the weekend. "Joe" -- meaning Joe Manchin -- "is America's biggest political tease. And I trust that he'll make a judgment to run for reelection in West Virginia. I hope he will."

MATTINGLY: I mean, the beauty of what Manu does every single day is you have people like Joe Manchin and Dick Durbin who give great quotes on camera on a regular basis.

BASH: He does give good quotes.

MATTINGLY: It's an accurate assessment of things. And, again, I defer to Manu and Manu's expertise on the Manchin meter of the moment, to quote our friend of the show Burgess Everett. But I think that what's critical in what Manu was describing is all of us who have spoken to Manchin regularly over the course of the last couple of years, what Manu's saying about his, I think, almost visceral distaste for this current moment in American politics is strong desire to try and find some type of middle ground, whether or not that exists at all, is very real.

BASH: It is very real.

MATTINGLY: And so what are the opportunities he sees that he has to kind of deliver that message repeatedly? It's not a subtle thing, and it's not something that he's just doing to do. Like, he genuinely thinks about that constantly --

BASH: Yes.

MATTINGLY: -- talks about it constantly. In Manu's point, like this is an opportunity to ensure that Manu is standing outside of his office, among he's following him down a hallway. You got 51 votes in the Senate. Now, if you're a Democrat, it's not always on Senator Manchin.


BASH: So let's talk about the group where he's speaking no labels. It is a group I know you've done a lot of reporting on. They're going to put out their agenda, which is rather long, and we'll just give you some of the highlights. They want to broaden legal immigration. They want to enact universal background checks, promote community policing, regain control of the borders, preserve the Second Amendment access, stop career criminals from repeat offending.

Most, if not all, of what they have in there is like, OK, that -- everything makes sense. And they are trying to appeal to Americans who are just, like, throw their hands up with both parties because they talk past each other. And there's a but.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: The but is that when you look at the data, by their own data, and this is according to Democrats who are so upset about this, who I've talked to, they would take implicitly away from the Democratic candidate. So if Donald Trump is a nominee for the Republicans, they say by their own metrics, they would take away votes from the Democratic, make it more easy for Donald Trump to get elected.

Now, I talked with Mark McKinnon recently about this, who's former No Labels founder. He's not involved in it now too much, but he did speak to them, and he said, look, I think they're misunderstood. This is an insurance policy. If we get to Super Tuesday and Biden looks like he's really doing very well, I think that they'll pull it, pull the plug on it.

Many Democrats are very skeptical of that --

BASH: Yes.

PRZYBYLA: -- and they believe that if you pull back the curtain, Dana, what you would see here is primarily GOP donors who do want to kneecap Biden. And I confirmed in my reporting that one of those donors, at least in the past, a whale, meaning one of their big ones, is Harlan Crow, who is, of course, the donor behind Clarence Thomas.

And if you look at where a lot of their activity has been, it's been down in Dallas. You know, fundraisers, and that's where they plan --

BASH: Yes.

PRZYBYLA: -- to hold their convention.

BASH: And that's what's really interesting. And we have to go to break but the idea that the donors are, except for excellent reporting like yours, they don't have to disclose them, and we don't really know who's behind them. And there have been suspicions that there have been a lot of big time Republican donors trying to make mischief.

All right, guys, stand by because coming up, we are down to the wire. The Trump legal team has just over 24 hours until their next hearing in the classified documents case, but they still do not have everything completed. Stay with us.



BASH: Timing is everything. The first hearing in Donald Trump's classified documents case begins tomorrow. And we just got a new filing from prosecutors.

Joining us now is CNN's Evan Perez. So Evan, what is the special counsel asking for?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're asking, Dana, for a protective order from the judge that will govern essentially how the classified information that is part, that is key and center of this case, how that gets handled by the defense team. What is interesting about the court filing, though, is that obviously, it's coming, you know, 24 hours before they're due in court before Judge Cannon first time that the two sides are going to be before her.

And they're raising some concerns because they say that the Trump team has raised the idea that they're going to object to at least some of the restrictions that prosecutors want on the classified information that's going to be shared with them as part of the discovery process.

The Trump team apparently is raising some objections, but they won't say exactly what those objections are. They've been apparently trying to get on the phone and they can't get on the phone. So what you can tell here is that the prosecution is concerned is perhaps getting frustrated and these are tiny delays that are adding up.

BASH: Yes.

PEREZ: And you know what the game is from the Trump team. They want this delayed and pushed off as far as possible.

BASH: Until after the election.

PEREZ: Until after the election.

BASH: I mean that's really the game here, that the legal game and the political game are one and the same.

PEREZ: Are one and the same. And the former president you can expect tomorrow is going to maybe finally have to tell the judge what their objections are. We know that one of the things that we've been waiting for is for the Trump team and Walt Nauta's team. Walt Nauta is his co- defendant for them to complete the process to get access to that classified information.

So we know that the courts already have restricted on how stuff gets handled, how information gets handled. Now we're getting to the classified information and that's going to be the key here.

BASH: Is the former president going to be in court?

PEREZ: It's not clear that he will be. We don't expect that he will be. Walt Nauta is another one. We don't know whether he'll be in court at this point but, you know, he has a campaign that he's running. So he doesn't have to show up for all of these hearings.

But we do know that, you know, the issue for the former president he's raised it, is that he has a campaign to run. He needs to go around the country. And that's one of the reasons why he says he cannot go on trial in December, which is what the prosecution is asking (ph).

BASH: Every one of these steps is so unprecedented and so fascinating. Thanks for leading us through it, Evan.

PEREZ: Sure. BASH: Good to see you.

Ahead, a new political spot turns heads and raises eyebrows. Could it be the racist ad in this race, or maybe any race? That's next.



BASH: In our political radar today, perhaps the most risque political ad you've ever seen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a condom?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, you can't use those.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What are you talking about? Who are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm your Republican congressman. Now that we're in charge, we're banning birth control.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is our decision, not yours. Get out of our bedroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won the last election. I'm not going anywhere. I'm just going to watch and make sure you don't do anything illegal.


BASH: O, that's from the democratic political group called Progress Action Fund. They're urging Ohioans to fight Republican efforts to raise the bar for amending the state Constitution. Doing that could make it tougher to get abortion rights on the ballot in November of 2024.

Thank you so much for joining Inside Politics. CNN News Central starts right now.