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Inside Politics

DeSantis Snubs Biden At Tour Of Hurricane Damage; Questions Swirl After Second McConnell Freeze; Poll: 68 Percent Of Americans In Favor Of Age Limits For Congress; Trump Wants Separate Trial From Other Defendants; McCarthy Facing Shutdown Showdown This Month; Teen Accuses DeSantis Security Of Physical Intimidation. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 03, 2023 - 11:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Misconnection. Governor DeSantis ease away as the president tours hurricane damage in Florida.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Your nation has your back will be with you until the job is done.

RAJU: Was the snub petty politics or a power play?

Plus, fit for duty? New questions on McConnell's health every freezes while taking questions again. As he faces calls to step down, what is McConnell's future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It behooves him for his sake and for the sake of his colleagues to go out on his own terms.

RAJU: Plus, plea time. Trump and several co-defendants plead not guilty in Georgia.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a political persecution, but we are not going to let them stop us.

RAJU: With mounting legal fees and harsh sentences possible, will any Trump's alleged co-conspirators flip?

Good morning. Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

And in the aftermath of Hurricane Idalia, the recovery begins and the politics are swirling. President Biden yesterday toured the hard hit community of Live Oak, Florida. And after surveying the damage, he pledged that the federal government would be there throughout the recovery.


BIDEN: I'm here today to deliver clear message to the people of Florida and throughout the southeast. As I told your governor, if there's anything your state needs, I'm ready to mobilize that support. Anything I need related to these storms. Your nation has your back and will be with you until the job is done.


RAJU: Now politics has seemed ended at the water's edge of Florida's beaches. The president was joined on his tour and praised by Republican Senator Rick Scott, a former Florida governor who ordinarily is one of Biden's biggest critics.

But the current governor who also happens to be a Republican presidential candidate, declined to meet with Biden during his visit. Instead, Ron DeSantis toured storm damage on his own, bringing food to residents and first responders just about 60 miles away.

And ahead of the visit, DeSantis and his team talked about the disruption a president brings to recovery. But yesterday, President Biden hinted politics were at play.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It would be very disruptive to have the whole kind of security apparatus that goes because there's only so many ways to get into these places. And so what we want to do is make sure that the power restoration continues, that the relief efforts continue.

BIDEN: I'm not disappointed. He may have had other reasons because -- but he did help us plan this. He sat with FEMA and decided where we should go, where be the least disruption.


RAJU: Now, let's discuss all of this and more with our great panel, Seung Min Kim of The Washington Post. John Bresnahan of Associated Press, I should say. John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News. Laura Barron- Lopez of the PBS NewsHour. And CNN's Daniel Straus. Seung Min Kim used to be at the Washington Post, now of the Associated Press, of course.

Now, President Biden moved quickly to go to Florida, much different than how we dealt with in Maui, got criticized for how he's handling of that. But DeSantis' political calculations here are interesting as well.

I mean, there was, of course, this infamous moment from 2012 when Chris Christie and then-president Obama embraced and -- in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Mitt Romney was running for president at the time. Their team was not so happy about this embrace.

What do we make of DeSantis? Did he not just want a picture like this?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean, that image, that hug happened 11 years ago, and it still comes up in conversation. It still came up at the Republican presidential debate late last month. So you have to imagine that the optics of this and then the optics of DeSantis and Biden standing side by side were clearly on the Florida governor's mind when he -- when he decided not to meet with President Biden for the visit.

Because remember, there have been other disasters in Florida before during President Biden's term in office, DeSantis has met with him what -- on those two other occasions, but there's clearly -- there was clearly a different calculation at play for DeSantis here.

He spent so much of his time on the campaign trail going after Biden, going after his policies, going after his time in office that it was just hard to see them those two standing side by side.

RAJU: Yes. And look, the president's tend to always meet with governors of the opposing party, current same party when they go to tragedies. Just look at the Democratic governors who met with Trump after disasters.

You see Trump meeting with the North Carolina Governor, Roy Cooper, after Hurricane Florence. Trump and Gavin Newsom meeting at the tour fire damage. And a little bit of embrace there too. Trump meets John Bel Edwards after Hurricane Laura. This is the Louisiana governor.


And then also Republican governors meet with Biden after disasters that's not also unusual. Greg Abbott after Uvalde, the horrific school shooting there in Mississippi, also the tornadoes that hit. And Tate Reeves there.

And also, of course, DeSantis after Hurricane Ian. I think that was 2022, before DeSantis was a presidential candidate.

Does he risk, DeSantis, looking petty at this moment?

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Potentially, especially because you saw Senator Rick Scott show up, appear alongside President Biden, praised President Biden for his response to Hurricane Idalia, saying that he did everything he needed to do in terms of emergency declarations as quickly as possible.

And you have seen someone like Rick Scott actually positioned himself differently than Governor Ron DeSantis on this, on a number of other issues, including abortion.

So -- but I mean, at the end of the day, I think this really is a political calculation for DeSantis, because of the fact that appearing alongside Biden does him no favors with the GOP primary base. They do not want to see him alongside him, even if it is to the benefit of his state.

RAJU: Yes. And look, this comes all as he's trying to pitch him as a responsible chief executive. That is how he's trying to frame this. He is able to govern a state like this, also turning more conservative, as he says on the campaign trail. He's gotten some praise about that executive action from some of the conservatives.

Maybe people were not super thrilled with Donald Trump like the Wall Street Journal, editorial board. It says, "A question to ponder is whether today's soundbite-driven primaries are selected, selecting for the qualities that Republicans and Americans really want in a president. His competitors might have a better 15-second retort to 30- second drive-by at the debate. But could they get the bridge open?"

Is that enough to turn things around?

DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN REPORTER: I mean, it's a good question right now. It's clear that the DeSantis team, both his campaign and the super PAC is in sort of not quite damage control mode, but do no harm mode. And that's why they didn't -- they clearly did not want to put DeSantis next to the guy he's trying to succeed in the White House.

And we see that because at the last debate, DeSantis wasn't a huge presence. He didn't have a big splash. And that was clearly deliberate, the campaign it feels and it's been betting both overtly and covertly that they can just last out a lot of their competitors in this primary.

But, you know, Manu, I kept looking at those at the absence of DeSantis meeting with Biden. And I kept actually thinking about a big contrast when president Obama met with Jan Brewer in Arizona, and you know, she stuck her finger in his face.

And to a very active, angry conservative base, that could be appealing. But clearly here, either that didn't occur to the DeSantis team, or they didn't want to risk even putting those two in that situation where maybe DeSantis would flood that in some way.

RAJU: Yes. And, look, DeSantis obviously needs a campaign reset. They've had multiple reboots, they've gotten rid of aids. The campaign and the super PAC running short on cash.

Just look at some of the headlines from the last week. It's a DeSantis aligned super PAC, asking for 50 million from donors on the day of the first GOP primary debate. That's going to leak audio from our colleagues at CNN. There's an NBC story about the pro-DeSantis super PAC ends door-knocking in Nevada and Super Tuesday states.

John Bresnahan, you're on Capitol Hill every day, you talked to a lot of them members, some of them who supported DeSantis and who don't. Are their supporters getting nervous about where DeSantis is headed?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: Oh, I think so. Yes. I mean, look, they've been -- Congress had been gone for a month, so it's been hard to get talking to members face to face. But talking to them, I think there's concern that it -- and they've made calls -- the DeSantis campaign they made calls to their supporters on the Hill. That he doesn't have any momentum. He didn't do well at the debates.

I do think your point is well taken. They do think they can outlast a lot of, you know, Nikki Haley, you know, Ramaswamy. They think they can outlast them. But I think there's a lot of concern there.

And I do think -- there was no way if he appeared with Biden-Trump wasn't going to use. There's 1,000 percent Trump was going use.

RAJU: Right.

BRESNAHAN: So there we just going to have to do. I do think it's interesting because Scott and DeSantis are not, frankly.

RAJU: Yes.

BRESNAHAN: And Scott is in cycle also.

RAJU: Yes.

BRESNAHAN: So I mean, Scott had to completely -- he had a different agenda. You know, he had to show that he was there. So --

RAJU: We get to do a whole show on Rick Scott versus Ron DeSantis.


BRESNAHAN: And we're throwing Marco Rubio, so I know the love of Florida and politics.

RAJU: Exactly. But what's been interesting too is that, you know, if you look at just the overall trajectory of this race. I mean, Trump is obviously still dominating after poll after poll after poll. You look at the recent Wall Street Journal poll, Trump 59 percent. That's up 11 points in the same poll since April. DeSantis 13 percent, down 11 points.

Look at the rest of the it. Haley, eight percent. Ramaswamy, five percent. Christie, three percent. And (inaudible).


But look, Ramaswamy is at five percent, yet, Republican after Republican, they've been going after Ramaswamy. They've been on the airwaves attacking a guy at five percent, but not a guy at 59.

STRAUSS: It's remarkable. And it's remarkable because he's a first- time candidate. And we've seen in the past presidential campaign cycles, there are always these flavors of the week. There are always these sort of boom and bust candidates.

But at the same time, there's, I think, a fear in the Republican primary that Ramaswamy is something like a Pete Buttigieg who appears out of nowhere, but shows a strong political acumen and can hold on for a while.

And for someone like the Secretary of Transportation, he may not have gotten all the way to the White House, but he got a lot farther than I or a lot of people expected. And I think that is the fear here that this 38-year-old could beat two-term governors, could beat political presences who have been around for much longer.

KIM: I also think to that, and this was very evident at the debate that a lot of the candidates on the stage just really didn't like him. And you really felt that, for example, with the set -- the former South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, I think that's fueling some of the attacks here too.

RAJU: Yes. And they didn't like him, they attacked him, they elevate him in the polls.

KIM: Exactly.

BARRON-LOPEZ: But Haley is now ahead of them in the polls.

RAJU: Right, exactly. A lot -- still a lot of time left.

OK. Next, health scares for Mitch McConnell become a bigger fright for the GOP.



RAJU: All eyes on Mitch McConnell. The Senate comes back to town this week. A big topic for Republicans will be about the future of their leader, 81-year-old, Mitch McConnell, after he froze up at a news conference last week.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): On thoughts about what?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Running for reelection in 2026.

MCCONNELL: That's a --


RAJU: That's tough to watch. And it's also not the first time this happened. We saw a similar episode in July when he abruptly stopped speaking while answering questions from reporters at the Capitol.

Now, many are asking this question, how long can he continue to lead? Republican Senator Mike Rounds told our Dana Bash this morning. He spoke to McConnell just yesterday.


SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): He was in good shape. He was direct. He said, you know -- he said, I had that concussion and he said, they warned me that I would be lightheaded in the future and that I'm kind of be aware of it. So it happened twice. He said it just so happens. I'm doing it in front of reporters.

DANA BASH, CNN HOST: So you're comfortable with him staying on as leader?

ROUNDS: Oh, yes, no question. And look, there's a lot of folks out there who like to see him go, but that's because he is a very capable leader.


RAJU: So what was interesting there is that we've learned more from Mike Rounds about what was going on with Mitch McConnell than we've learned from Mitch McConnell. Rounds really making some news there, because there's been so much speculation about what is going on with McConnell's health.

He said that it was related to the concussion back in March and McConnell fell, hit his head. McConnell told Rounds, he's feeling lightheaded, which is, you know, only it's happened twice in front of reporters, where he froze up.

We've not heard any of this from Senator McConnell. Why -- what do you make of the way the Republican leader has been handling this?

BRESNAHAN: Oh, I think McConnell's personality, one, he's extremely stubborn, OK, which one has served him great through his career, and through his life. I mean, this is a guy who spent two years bedridden as a child with polio.

I mean, this is a stubborn man and he's very private. And those two traits are -- when you're dealing with a health situation, those are -- those are counterproductive for him. OK? He's going to have to -- and I think you'll see this on Wednesday, they'll meet Wednesday, the Republicans will meet privately, he's going to have to talk to members about his health situation. He's going to have to be much more candid about it.

Now, I don't think there's -- I don't think there's going to be any change right now, or a movement for change in leadership right now. But there's clearly the folks who could replace him are watching this very closely.

I think he's going to have to come forward and say something to his colleagues about, this is what's going on. This is what we can expect.

The problem for McConnell now is it happened twice, and now we're waiting for it to happen again, you know, and I think that is the real concern.

RAJU: And that he disdains focus on his health, but this is -- he's 81 years old. He's been in the leadership now for 16 years. Longest serving party leader in Senate history. And there are questions about what comes next. That is really the focus after this election that we fully expect him to serve for the next year, but what happens after that.

There's already discussion about the succession. And, of course, there's a lot of talk about the so-called Three John's, John Thune, John Cornyn, John Barrasso. They're all viewed as potential Republican leaders here. They -- we will see if they actually run.

These are secret ballot elections. So they're very, very hard to handicap. But, you know, Seung Min, you've covered the Hill for a very long time and the White House too, but you see the way these guys operate. How much different would it be if McConnell were not to be there and one of these three replaced him?

KIM: I mean, I think it's fair to say that Mitch McConnell is a much more disciplined leader than any of the other three, like, this is someone who is very focused on saying and doing what only he wants to say. I think with any of those other guys, we've all been able to kind of push them into various answers and with our questions in the hallways.

But I also want to point out a -- another really critical point about Mitch McConnell is just how the Biden White House sees him as a partner in this time. I mean, obviously, liberals abhor Mitch McConnell. They see Him just as a complete antithesis of what they want -- what they want as a Senate Leader.

But for the Biden White House, they see him as a critical partner in a lot of it -- a lot of important priorities. First and foremost, Ukraine funding, so I can tell you White House officials are watching McConnell's health very closely, not just for Biden, as a friend of McConnell, they go back, you know, generations they go back decades, but just as someone who can kind of be this bulwark against a really conservative right-wing House Republican Conference that really concerns them on their priorities.

BRESNAHAN: There's nothing he hates more than a shutdown, government shutdown.

BARRON-LOPEZ: McConnell, great. And that's exactly why, just to Seung Min's point, I mean this White House, you saw President Biden very quickly speak out and defend McConnell and say, I spoke to him. He sounds fine.


Also, this is -- Biden essentially trying to say that this was par for the course to what Senator Rounds was also saying that after you have a concussion, episodes like this occur. And so trying to downplay these prior two episodes.

And Biden himself, of course, wants to talk about this and wants to say that it's OK for McConnell, because we all know that Democrats are concerned about Biden's health as well and know that his age is a big question heading into the election.

RAJU: Yes. It's really remarkable to hear Democrats talking very positively about Mitch McConnell. Something they have not really done for most of his time in running the Senate Republican Conference.

You know, the question will be if there is a new leader, and there's a new president, Trump and the Republican leader, how would that work? Thune and Trump, they have not really -- Trump has attacked John Thune repeatedly. One-time called him a RINO. He called -- John Cornyn, one- time, he called him a stiff. There was actually a comment about John Barrasso kind of a McConnell flunky, even though Barrasso is aligned himself much more with Trump, at least has defended him, unlike Cornyn and Thune who want to keep the president -- former president at an arm's length.

How do you think this would work with Trump with any of these Republicans? STRAUSS: I mean, it's a good question. I -- especially if -- especially because Trump defers to his own criteria for supporters, which is strong compliments for him from anyone he's thinking about endorsing. And then they have to look the part also.

But beyond that, I think the hazard for McConnell and his allies or anyone in the Senate is that Trump is very malleable to whatever you put in front of him. So if you put a list of quotes or criticism from any of these three senators in front of him, that's going to set him off. He will not think strategically beyond those quotes.

RAJU: Who do you think the favorite is to replace him of the three? The question (inaudible)

BRESNAHAN: No one like --

RAJU: I'll put you on the spot.

BRESNAHAN: Right now, the minority whip is Thune, so there -- if you -- in that way. But Cornyn was minority whip, served for six years as minority whip.

I think it would be a toss-up. I do think --

RAJU: A secret ballot election too is so hard to handicap.

BRESNAHAN: But the question -- I don't know is can McConnell last the entire Congress? And I think -- listen, I think right now, people are wondering, can McConnell last the rest of the year?

And to go to Seung Min's point, it was like, they need him on Ukraine. They need him on government funding.

RAJU: Yes.

BRESNAHAN: They -- the White House needs him. And actually, McCarthy needs him. He needs him as a foil. So it's -- I think it's a very difficult situation. And the Congress is much more leader focused than it used to be. You can't hide as a party leader. It's the big four, the House and Senate leadership, they run everything.

RAJU: They -- right. And like they're going to have to avoid a government shutdown immediately, which we're going to talk about later in the show.

But there's also injected this whole discussion about age. This is something of some of the candidates have really tried to seize upon, including Nikki Haley.


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: At what point do they get it's time to leave? They need to let a younger generation take over. We want to go and start working for our kids to make sure we have a strong national security, to make sure we have a stronger economic policy, to make sure that America is safe. And we can't do that if these individuals refuse to give up power.


RAJU: So there are -- this question has been asked about and there should be an age limit to run for Congress. It's a poll from the AP saying, 68 percent age limit. They do support that. Twelve percent, no. There is no age limit in the Senate.

In fact, if you look at the senators, by age by decades, 66 senators are from, you know, from the boomers, eight from before that.

BRESNAHAN: There is an age limit. There's a minimum age.

RAJU: Yes, age limit. Exactly.

BRESNAHAN: Yes, right.

RAJU: Exactly. But I mean, how do you think this age issue is going to have any impact on the Republican primary?

STRAUSS: On the Republican primary?

RAJU: Yes.

STRAUSS: I mean, you can see the tension right now among the candidates. There is an argument that more experience is the way to go. That the study expert hand is the one that should get the keys to the nomination. Then there's the opposite side, which is that the too many top officials in government are too old. And there -- it's time to pass the baton to a younger generation.

And by the way, that is not only attention in the Republican primary, it's the same among Democrats too with Biden.

RAJU: Yes. And that's Biden's, perhaps, biggest vulnerability here. And he's got to face those questions time and time again.


RAJU: And, you know, he and Mitch McConnell.

STRAUSS: But it's also a perception, because like Trump is a spry at something.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. I don't think age has anything to do with the GOP Republican primary. Trump is, what, 40 points ahead in the polls. And, yes, Nikki Haley has tried to make an issue out of this, but she's what you just showed like nine percent in the polls --

RAJU: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- or 10 percent in the polls. Nothing has changed the GOP today.

RAJU: That generational part of it just has not gotten traction. So interesting. [11:25:58]

OK. Coming up, the trials and tribulations of Trump and his 18 co- defendants in Fulton County.


RAJU: Prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia have been adamant that they want to try all 19 defendants in the election subversion case together, even as Trump tries his best to distance himself from his co-defendants.


TRUMP: It's so sad. And they don't have a lot of money, and some of them almost nothing. They don't even know what they're being charged for. It's just a horrible thing. I don't even know -- again, I don't even know some of these people.


RAJU: Now, at least two of the 19 won a speedy trial as soon as October, but Trump does not. So he filed a motion last week to separate his case from theirs, something legal experts say may be inevitable.


TEMIDAYO AGANGA-WILLIAMS, FORMER SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE COUNSEL, JANUARY 6 COMMITTEE: I think these 19 folks are not, going to go to trial together. I think that's incredibly unlikely. I think there's going to be some kind of break here, as more folks are filing for their own motion to sever, and then the court will have to decide what that looks like.



RAJU: Former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu now joins us for this part of the discussion, Shan, it's great to have you here to break this down. But talk to us about just the not just the mechanics of trying 19 people at the same time, but if they succeed, is defendants succeed in trying to separate these out? How problematic would that be for the prosecution?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, it's logistically not impossible to try that many people at the same time, you just have less room in the courtroom for spectators, actually. They end up spilling out into the well.

From a strategic standpoint, it's not just unusual for Trump to want to separate. I mean, when you have a particularly RICO charge, none of those defendants want to be sitting together at a table together looking like a group that has engaged in a conspiracy, very bad look for him. For the prosecutors, the big disadvantage of having a break up is that

there'll be a preview of the government's case for the defendants to go later. So they'll get a sense of what the defense can work with, what they can't work with, of course, what the jury buys, what the jury doesn't buy. That's the biggest problem for the prosecution is they don't like to have to show all their cards early on to someone.

RAJU: And it will also, the co-defendants will -- will be painted as taking incremental tasks, right? It'll be harder to paint the broad brush of a conspiracy if they're not all being tried, at the same time together. Is that a risk as well?

WU: Oh, absolutely. Because, again, from a defense standpoint, what you want to do is you want that jury to think of your client as an individual person caught up. And of course, if you're going separately, you got all these empty chairs there that you can blame, as opposed to being caught up in that groups. So absolutely.

RAJU: Yeah. So just a little bit more about Trump's argument here, one of his co-defendants Kenneth Chesebro, he wants a speedy trial and at the moment is scheduled to start next month. Trump's lawyers say they want a separate trial. That's what they said in their legal fines. It respectfully requiring less than two months preparation time to defend a 98-page indictment charging 19 defendants with 41 various charges would violate President Trump's federal and state constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law. So Shan, do you think that Trump's going to win this this argument?

WU: I don't think he will, because it's inconsistent with other defendants charged with exactly the same issues who want to go to trial faster.

Now, it's possible it may slip some but on that basis alone, unless he can show that there's something antagonistic and the defense's -- that's a really good reason for severance is that you want to put on a defense, which would be hostile to another co-defendants defense, then the court needs to separate everybody so they can have individual trials, but just on that basis, that it's a complicated case. I need more time, probably not if other people can go.

RAJU: Yeah, and there's also the question about his co-defendants how they're dealing with this, their legal bills. One thing we learned about is that perhaps surprising, not surprising. Trump is not helping them with their legal bills. This is what a story from CNN on Friday said some of Donald Trump's co-defendants in the sprawling election subversion case in Georgia are trying all sorts of ways to fund their mounting legal bills, yet the cost of the 2020 election fallout may quickly exceed their abilities to pay.

Laura, you've covered Donald Trump for a long time. Does it surprise you in any way that he's not helping these co-defendants?

BARRON-LOPEZ: No, it doesn't surprise me. You know, he doesn't -- he also doesn't want to spend his own personal money on his legal bills, which is why he uses what he's raised for his campaign and diverted over to his legal bills. There is a risk there, though, to him not trying to help his co-

defendants, we saw that. Just about a week or so ago, we found out from the Justice Department from the Special Counsel that a Mar-a-Lago security aide, flipped his testimony, got a new lawyer and decided oh, actually, I lied before, I'm going to tell the truth now, and flipped and is now providing testimony against Donald Trump's actions and against others that helped him with the Mar-a-Lago classified documents holding on to those documents. So in this case, you could very well see as this all plays out, some of these co-defendants deciding this isn't worth it anymore. I don't have the money to pay for this, and changing their testimony.

RAJU: But he -- the risk of a change their testimony, right, Shan?

WU: I flip --

RAJU: They get cross examined and that they could look like that they're doing something politically very grave. And because they're simply not getting their legal bills pay?

WU: Oh, absolutely. It's late in the day to cooperate when you've already been charged. And then you become a liability for the prosecution, because if you changed your prior testimony, particularly the grand jury, that's a big problem. And also the first question on cross one who is going to be the other reason you're sitting here is because Mr. Trump wouldn't pay your legal bills.

RAJU: Yeah, so exactly. In Trump has, of course, been talking about how the DOJ has been weaponized, the Justice Department's weaponized against him, but then he said he would weaponize the Justice Department himself?


GLENN BECK, HOST, " THE GLENN BECK PROGRAM" BLAZE TV: You said in 2016, you know, "Lock her up." And then when you became president you said we don't do that in America that's just not the right thing to do. That's what they're doing. Do you regret not locking her up? And if you're president again, will you lock people up?


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I'll give you an example. The answer is you have no choice

because they're doing it to us.


RAJU: So, yes, basically.

KIM: Basically, yes. And this is the -- this is how Donald Trump thinks throughout his presidency, he has never looked at the Justice Department as an independent entity. We know that, for example, President Joe Biden has repeatedly insisted that the actions of the DOJ are separate from what's coming from the White House. But when we were all covering Donald Trump as president, he looked at the Justice Department as his own personal lawyer almost. So when he -- when -- when the lawyers at DOJ would not go along with his actions on not just on January 6, or on or their issues, but on many things, he found it as a personal affront. So that's not surprising that should he become president again, that he would do that? Or he would take that approach.

RAJU: And what's been interesting is that some of his candidates have attacked Donald Trump for not locking up Hillary Clinton. Listen to Ron DeSantis said?


RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember, I went to the rallies in 2016, Laura, you remember them, lock her up, lock her up, about holding Hillary accountable. And then two weeks after the election, he said, never mind that I said that and let her off the hook.


RAJU: What do you make of that?

STRAUSS: What we saw there is just the core of Ron DeSantis' argument, which is that Donald Trump is inconsistent in his conservative promises. But I -- to the larger point of the judicial department or the -- the Justice Department, it adds to a sense among Americans that their institutions and the federal government are fraying and politically tainted. And if you are a candidate, if you are Donald Trump, if you are Ron DeSantis, if you are any of the other GOP candidates right now, you are tempted to harness that because that is a rallying cry in the Republican Party.

RAJU: In one of the questions too, is when we hear this rhetoric from time to time and again, how will that plan the trials, Shan, what do you think about that?

WU: Oh, it's going to play out in the trials in the sense of he's trying to reach the bigger jury pool. But I think they'll be able to screen out that kind of bias when you're actually selecting the jury, is a little bit unclear to me. I have to say as a prosecutor how walking Hillary Clinton up would have made any difference right now.

RAJU: Exactly. Whole separate discussion.

WU: All right.

RAJU: OK, the House GOP on the verge of a messy funding fight and Kevin McCarthy playing all sides. My new reporting, next



RAJU: The end of the long weekend, we'll bring the beginning of a new round of drama for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. I've got some new reporting on that this morning. And private conference call last week McCarthy urged his colleagues to back a short-term spending bill to avoid a shutdown on October 1. And instead focus on bigger funding fight later this fall, which of course could also lead to a shutdown.

Now, while the Speaker has privately criticized how the White House has handled its request for billions in aid to Ukraine, he will have to decide whether to tie that aid to this must pass funding bill. If he does, it will infuriate GOP hardliners who want the Speaker to use the threat of a government shutdown as leverage to enact conservative priorities, whether it's on immigration or targeting the Justice Department, and those hardliners are telling us they are prepared to block the spending bill and his first procedural vote if they don't get their way.

Meanwhile, the more moderate members say they are tired of the games. Congressman, Don Bacon told my colleague Melanie Zanona, this theory that you got to have 100% of what you want. And if you don't get 100, they'll take zero. It's not the way it works. It's not good for the country.

Now, John Bresnahan. You follow this closer than perhaps anybody? And this is been the dilemma all Congress for Kevin McCarthy and his majority now we're getting into really complicated set of decisions and the prospects of a shutdown.

BRESNAHAN: Yeah, I think that I think there's very likely to be a shutdown, if not October 1. We could see it in November. We could see it later. You had Chip Roy tweeting this morning, he's tweeting about this to the Freedom Caucus member hardline conservative.

I think McCarthy's argument is look, if we -- if we don't do something, we don't try and pass some more appropriations bills, they have 12 annual bills, they have to pass. They don't try to pass some more, get some stuff done, that they'll -- they'll end up having, you know, running up against the wall and the Senate and the White House will leverage that against them. And they'll lose this.

RAJU: Yeah.

BRESNAHAN: Though hardliners are saying we're going to lose anyway, we as well fight on principle. McCarthy is stuck in this position that he can go to the Freedom Caucus, he can go to these hardliners and say, What's your endgame? This is the problems conservatives always have. We saw this in shutdowns going back to, you know, 2013. We saw this in the Trump administration. The conservatives, they want to find out policy, but they don't have an ending.

RAJU: Yeah.

BRESNAHAN: And in this case, you know, if you don't fund the government, disaster for Republicans.

RAJU: And the challenge for McCarthy is that he's going to have to decide whether to work with Democrats, because Democrats are going to want something for their votes. And if he does that, he angers those members on the far right. And obviously, they have the power to use so-called motion to vacate one person call for vote as a speaker, and they're calling for things that simply are just simply not going to get part of this spending bill.

You know, the -- so among the things here that are talking about are dealing, actually no more funding for Ukraine. That is a huge complicated calculation for McCarthy right now to deal with that they want much, much more stringent immigration measures as part of it. We'll see if they get some of that, some of them wanted to fund the Justice Department and the FBI. They're not going to get a whole lot of this stuff. How do you see this playing out?

MIN KIM: Right. And that's the point that the Speaker has made in his call with members that you pointed out that you can have these fights later. This is just -- let's just remember, this is just a stopgap funding bill to take us through traditionally it's been December just to keep the government running at the current operations.


So we've seen kind of these big knockout policy fights in December, not in September when we just need to keep the government running and keep it -- and keep it open. But the White House sees this. And they know that this is a really tricky situation for Kevin McCarthy, but they also have their own priorities such as Ukraine aid, and certainly disaster funding, which is why they've sent those two packages tied together to Congress.

I was actually with President Biden when he was vacationing in Lake Tahoe a couple of weeks ago. And I asked him, is there any possibility that you would split off the disaster aid, which we know, disasters affect red and blue states. It's generally very popular in Congress? Would you split? Is there any possibility that you would split that off from Ukraine aid? President Biden leans in, and he says, none.

RAJU: Yeah. I mean, that's --

MIN KIM: So you see the calculus for the White House is coming from.

RAJU: And that is going to be the really, really big question this month is whether they will split that up. Well, the White House back up in that, will McCarthy continue to tie that together, all decisions that have not been made, but also a new pressure point will be when are they going to impeach Joe Biden? He says with some folks on the far right say.

MIN KIM: Yeah.

RAJU: We could not talk about the evidence. That's a whole different question as to whether they can tie them to all these most incendiary allegations that they have against the current president. But McCarthy did tell Breitbart on Friday that they would have an impeachment inquiry vote to actually have an inquiry that is just to investigate Joe Biden, doesn't mean actual impeach him, but investigate. That means the vote would need 218 members, you can't lose more than four. And a lot of members are not there yet about whether to support them?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And what are those 18 Republicans that are in Biden, one district is going to do. Are they actually going to go along with an impeachment inquiry vote? I mean, you have to wonder also with McCarthy saying let's do a vote on impeachment inquiry, rather than just declaring one the way, you know, Nancy Pelosi did in the past, because he maybe hopes that it fails, you know, trying to show that there isn't enough support for them to actually go down this path because Republicans have admitted House Republicans have admitted a number of them time and time again, that they don't have the evidence that connects the president to his son's business dealings. And yet they continue to launch, you know, talk about these baseless allegations.

RAJU: And look, he's going to need the support of someone like Congressman Mike Lawler. It's a freshman from New York. I was up there earlier in August, talking to him about this very issue. And he made very clear he's not there yet and supporting an impeachment inquiry.


REP. MIKE LAWLER, (R) NEW YORK: Hunter Biden, and the investigations that have ensued have revealed a lot of damaging and disturbing facts. And I think for me with respect to impeachment, we're not there yet. It is not about focusing on the impeachment. It is a question of do the facts and evidence warrant any further action?


RAJU: I mean, challenge is going to be the far right is pushing him in this direction?

STRAUSS: Yeah. And look, it's a hard position for House leadership right now because there's -- there just isn't much evidence that the end game here helps Republicans in either case. They have usually gotten blamed for the last few shutdowns and impeachment doesn't usually help the party trying to impeach.

RAJU: Very quickly, will Biden get impeached, that's a -- yes or no?

BRESNAHAN: I think right now, I would think, no.




RAJU: It's only don't have the votes.

BRESNAHAN: I think we're here is with impeachment inquiry a vote is an out for McCarthy.

RAJU: Yeah.

BRESNAHAN: You know, it cuts both ways.

RAJU: Exactly.

BRESNAHAN: So I don't think it's -- RAJU: -- actual impeachment?

BRESNAHAN: I don't -- there may never be a vote, right?

RAJU: Right. We'll see -- we'll, so much to say.

All right next, meet the kids whose after school activities include teaching 24 candidates a lesson or two.



RAJU: Time now for kids say the darndest things, campaign edition. Watch this moment from the trail on Friday, Vivek Ramaswamy was holding a Town Hall in New Hampshire when he called on a young girl for what he probably thought would be a softball question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you're president, what are you going to do about like, what are you going to do when China attacks Taiwan?

RAMASWAMY: Oh, that's a tough -- tough question all day, came from what's your -- what's your -- what's your name?


RAMASWAMY: Grace, how old are you?


RAMASWAMY: Let's give Grace a round of applause.


RAMASWAMY: I love that. I respect that.


RAJU: Ramaswamy's reaction was a far cry from how Ron DeSantis and his campaign have reacted to a tough question from a 15-year-old in New Hampshire back in June.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe that Trump violated the peaceful transfer of power, a key principle that American democracy that we must uphold.

DESANTIS: Are you in High School?


DESANTIS: Where do you go to school? You go around here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vermont, but I live in New Hampshire.

DESANTIS: Oh OK, so you weren't from Vermont. I wasn't anywhere near Washington that day. I have nothing to do with what happened that day. Obviously I didn't enjoy seeing, you know, what happened. But we've got to go forward on this stuff. We cannot be looking backwards and be mired in the past.


RAJU: Now DeSantis was widely mocked for that answer. And now 15-year- old Quinn Mitchell says he was harassed by DeSantis' security to other events including a fourth of July parade where DeSantis security physically restrained him he says, to keep him away from the Governor.


QUINN MITCHELL, 15-YEAR-OLD NEW HAMPSHIRE RESIDENT: He's met with glares, team glared at me. Eventually, like close to him. I was pulled away and surrounded by security. I was told not to move for five minutes while that was going on. It was definitely physical intimidation and then my next event for him, again, met the foster glares. They were sneaking pictures of me with the Snapchat caption, got the kid -- got her kid. So it's concerning to me.



RAJU: Mitchell says he's been impressed by how other candidates, especially Chris Christie, Vivek Ramaswamy and Nikki Haley are engaging with New Hampshire voters.

So that's it for Inside Politics Sunday. But before we go, some news about the show, I'll be back here in a few weeks as the new host of this program. You'll still be able to watch Abby Phillip weeknights at 10 p.m. Eastern Time and you won't want to miss her great interviews and analysis.

For me, I'm extremely honored to spend Sunday mornings right here with you. Now, I'll still be reporting on Capitol Hill during the week so that means every Sunday at 11 a.m. I'll be able to bring you new information on the most important political stories at this crucial time in U.S. politics. Can't wait to begin. Have a great rest of your holiday weekend.