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Inside Politics

Biden: Asia Trip "Not About Containing China"; Biden Touts G20 Ukraine Statement In Press Conference; Trump's Veepstakes Has Already Begun; DeSantis Ramps Up COVID Talk Amid Slight Case Upticks; Hardline Republicans say McCarthy's Job Is On The Line; White House Situation Room Gets A $50M Takeover. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired September 10, 2023 - 11:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Good morning and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, I'm Brianna Keilar.

President Biden, just moments ago, wrapping up a news conference in Vietnam on the heels of his trip to the G20 Summit in India.

Among other things, he told reporters that he's sincere about improving the United States' relationship with China, even as he tries to counter Beijing's influence in the region.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond is traveling with the president in Hanoi. Jeremy, tell us the latest.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, there's what the President is doing in this region. And then the message that he is trying to send China about those actions.

What we have witnessed from President Biden, over these last 48 hours, has been a concerted effort to try and provide a counterweight, an alternative to China's influence in this region, as well as in the developing world.

No more clearly than right here in Hanoi, Vietnam, where President Biden has now upgraded the U.S. Vietnam relationship to the highest level of Vietnamese diplomacy, the comprehensive strategic relationship directly aimed at countering China's influence in the region.

But the message that we heard from President Biden today in a series of questions that were largely focused on China and foreign policy was to tell China, I am not trying to contain you. I am not trying to see you fail. Here's the President earlier today.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have an opportunity to strengthen alliances around the world to maintain stability. That's what this trip was all about. Having India cooperate much more the United States be closer to the United States, Vietnam be close to the United States. It's not about containing China. It's about having a stable base.


DIAMOND: And the President also made it clear that what he is trying to do here is to continue to engage with China. Those efforts, though, so far have been unsuccessful. We've seen a series of Cabinet Secretaries traveled to Beijing over the summer to try and reestablish military to military communications to try and deepen that economic relationship so far, with very few tangible results. Those results could come should the president get a meeting with the Chinese president at some point later this year, which is certainly something that has been discussed.

I also was able to get a question into the president very briefly at the end, I asked him whether as he is making these moves in the region, is he putting the U.S. in strategic interests above those of human rights? Vietnam, in particular, has a poor record as it relates to any political dissent. They are the third largest jailer of journalists in the world. And the president said, I don't put anything above human rights. And he said that he has raised issues of human rights with every leader he has met with, including today with the Vietnamese General Secretary. Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Jeremy, thank you for getting that question.

And I want to bring in CNN Global Affairs analyst, Kim Dozier, to talk about this. Kim, Biden said, this trip is not about isolating China, it's not about hurting China, it's about making sure that they abide by rules. That's not how China operates, though. We know that.

So, how does that land domestically here in the U.S.? And how does China hear this?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, we've already had GOP officials, candidate Nikki Haley bashing Biden for not being strong enough on China. But, of course, Biden has to thread this passageway between not offending members of the G20, who have to do business with China or a major trading partners, and also signaling that to U.S. businessman, he understands that they need to find a more secure alternative, but that's going to take five years, 10 years.

And so we are seeing him navigate this, we got to keep Beijing on side for now, as you find alternatives. After all, this is the place where in Hong Kong, Beijing has reasserted control. And you've got people like publisher, Jimmy Lai, 75, in prison for the act of publishing news in Apple Daily and awaiting possible further prison sentences for demonstrating over Tiananmen Square in a peaceful demonstration. What Biden is trying to do was find a safer place for American businessmen to do business.


KEILAR: He defended the G20 unified statement which -- we have to point out, unlike last year, it stopped short of condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Biden said that there was, quote, sufficient agreement in the room for the need of just and lasting peace that respect sovereignty and territorial integrity. Is it sufficient if it's watered down?

DOZIER: It feels like the Biden administration officials decided this was as good as they were going to get this time around. And that they were coming to try to take the win from embracing India, bringing in the African Union to the G20. And talking about climate change, understanding that a year plus into this war, war fatigue is setting in.

The sanctions that the Biden administration has asked a number of these countries to maintain against Russia are starting to hurt -- well, they're not hurting Moscow. Sanctions have a diminishing rate of returns. After a bit Moscow, other countries that have been under sanction, find other ways to do business.

You see the channels that they are creating with China, with North Korea. The scary part is that China and Russia were able to influence Biden -- influence the G20 without having their top leaders there.

And then the other thing you got to say is, you know, Biden's going into his last year what people consider the lame duck presidency unless he gets a second term. And the recent polls, including CNN don't show him being very strong at this point. And world leaders are looking at that and saying, we got to hedge our bets because the next U.S. president might be at least more pro Russia than this one.

KEILAR: Yes, they are watching those polls. And they are sending a loud message. Kim Dozier, thank you so much.

I want to bring in our panel now. We have CNN's Isaac Dovere, CNN's Eva McKend, Marianna Sotomayor of The Washington Post. And Politico's Heidi Przybyla. Thank you so much for joining us all on this Sunday morning here.

It's interesting when you hear what Biden said, defending that G20 agreement, because GOP presidential candidate, Nikki Haley, saw some political opportunity in what happened at the G20. I want to listen to what she said to Jake Tapper this morning on "STATE OF THE UNION."


NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was a win for Russia and China. They're celebrating today. I mean, what we should have had was Biden should have really pushed hard to acknowledge what he acknowledged a year ago that Russia invaded a pro-American freedom- loving country. And that's a fact. And to deny a fact a year later is giving a win to Russia and China is gloating, because they're looking at Taiwan as this is happening and it's a shame.


KEILAR: Does she have a point? How tough is this for Joe Biden, Isaac?

ISAACS DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Joe Biden is playing for an international audience, most of all, when he's overseas, and talking about these relationships with these countries. Nikki Haley has a problem, of course, and she's talking about how that's worse than domestic politics. But within her own party, there is not the support for the tough position on Ukraine that she wants Joe Biden to have.

And so when it comes into the domestic politics of this, it's actually gets really muddled and hazy. And the Republican primary process on that seems like it's going to have to start at first for Nikki Haley.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The messages couldn't be any more different. But ultimately, President Biden's goal, I think right now is to just sort of competency, right, and stability. And that is what he went over there to do and to show the American people. Ambassador Haley's goal is very different.

KEILAR: Yes, it's tough, Marianna, because when you look at what voters are saying in this poll, 57 percent say Biden is making the U.S. position in the world weaker. He's got a tough sell here domestically, as well.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. And he ran in 2020 talking about his foreign policy chops. This is something that he has been able to do throughout his Senate career and prove on that stage. So the fact that Americans are not buying that selling point, which I'm sure the campaign will continue to stress is not a good thing. That is on top of a number of other issues domestically that he has to prove to the American people.

HEIDI PRZYBYLA, POLITICO NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: I don't think that voters are actually going to remember this statement 400 days from now. But what I do think is interesting is Nikki Haley, this is just another example of her taking a risk to set herself apart from her contenders in the primary.

She did that during the debate on abortion, she did it on fiscal spending. She attacks Trump and Pence on their record on spending. And this is just another example of her saying, you know what, look at those poll numbers right now. They're, they're in a totally different stratosphere from President Trump. So why not try something different?

KEILAR: Let's look at what Biden is facing because, you know, if you're in his camp, and you're looking at these latest poll numbers, you have to be really concerned. Job approval, 39 percent. And the trajectory here, not great, right? This has been dipping. How are things going in the country right now? Badly, 70 percent say. Does he have the stamina/sharpness to surf effectively? Seventy-four percent say no. I mean what's going on here as you see it?


SOTOMAYOR: Yes. I mean, and if you talk to people on the campaign, and even in the White House, there is a gap, a very evident gap that as much as they might be going out there and saying, hey, look, unemployment rate is very low, the economy is getting better, inflation is lower. People are not believing it.

And to try and get people to understand that things might be getting better over time or have been getting better, that is a problem. And at this moment, we are not necessarily seeing the president or his campaign going out there trying to fix that gap. And I mean, if you're seeing -- and the things are still costing more. I think the economy is probably one of the bigger pieces that Biden, his campaign have to overcome, because, of course, when you look at it on the Republican side, that's all that they can talk about in terms of issues.

MCKEND: And another challenge they face is that constituencies that have historically supported Democrats, black voters, progressive voters. They feel as though that they keep voting for Democrats and their lives are not changing in consequential ways. So rather than dance around that, President Biden, the administration has to address that head on.

I will say, though, from traveling across the country during the midterms, speaking to Democratic voters, there is nothing more animating than just rank hatred for Trump. And so if Trump does emerge, ultimately and wins the Republican primaries, it seems that he may, given the polling, that is going to be a huge motivation for Democratic voters that I don't think we see reflected right now in the polling.

KEILAR: Yes. To that point, let's listen to Senator Warren because she says voters are going to vote for Biden to vote against Trump. Here it is.


SE. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): Voting for President Biden is going to be about preserving our democracy. And I think a lot of Americans are going to show up to do that. I think that every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, he draws that contrast pretty starkly.

And every time the Supreme Court gets out, and decides that they know what decisions women should make about their own health care and their own families, I think they draw that distinction pretty starkly.


KEILAR: The poll numbers are abysmal. But does Biden have a point when he's saying, don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative? And he's saying the alternative is Donald Trump.

DOVERE: That's part of what I think we should expect to go on over the course of the next year. But I'll tell you, I went back and I read an article that I wrote in late 2011, about Barack Obama's poll numbers, which were going down, the economy was down. It was -- the article looked at how even in blue states Obama was in trouble. And I don't know if you remember this, but Obama ended up winning, right?

KEILAR: That's right. I covered that reelection.

DOVERE: A lot can happen over the course of a year. And when you talk to people and when they say everything, why aren't people seeing it? They showed -- a White House aide that I was speaking with said to me, the feeling is sort of at this point, the politics will resolve itself, eventually, that it will start to click in. I don't think it's going to be over whatever happened at the G20, as Heidi was saying, but I do think it will be whether people feel in a credible way that their lives are better than they were, and that they are scared off enough by Trump if they're going to be scared off by Trump.

PRZYBYLA: The fascinating part about what Eva said is that when you drill down on those poll numbers, it is minority voters, but it's young minority voters.

And unlike past elections, we're not talking about the ultra- progressive wing of the Democratic Party. That's the problem here. We're talking about minority voters who may be a little bit more culturally conservative. They're not worried about the culture wars. They just care about what's happening with inflation or can't sit down and tell them, look, you're paying more for bananas, because, you know, the Saudis cut back on oil. And there's a war in Ukraine. Like that's not a breakthrough message.

That's why the Biden campaign -- well, actually not the Biden campaign, but the super PAC is coming out, historically, really early now with a huge multimillion dollar ad campaign that is launching to try and tout some of those accomplishments.

And to Warren's point, there's no bedwetting here unless the candidate is not Trump. Because once the candidate is it's clearly Trump, it's not a message for Democrats of Democrats versus Republicans, but it's Democrats versus as Bill Kristol says, the end of democracy, and that will be their message.

KEILAR: I went back to my reporting from 2011 and 2012, right, before the election. It's a good reminder also, what a difference 14 months can make. He has some time and a lot of things will happen that we don't know at this point in time.

All right. Stick around for us, because we have frat boys, football, and a former president from back in the first in the nation state, next.



KEILAR: This weekend, Iowa's biggest rivalry was not about politics. It was about college football. Iowa State beating arch nemesis, Iowa 20 to 13. Naturally, though, politics weren't too far from the field.

Donald Trump showed up to tailgate at a frat house. He flipped a burger, just one, no flip cup, but he did toss a few footballs and he took pictures with students and alumni. Then he watched the game from inside of a private luxury suite.

While Governor Ron DeSantis mingled with fans and watched the game from the field with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. In between, he took a jab at Trump's more hands-off campaign strategy in the Hawkeye State.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): And I'm actually starting to hear a lot of people saying, because you're showing up, I'm supporting you because that's the way you got to do it.

Iowans don't want the campaign to be about the past or to be about the candidate's issues. They want it to be about their future and the future of this country. And that's what I represent.


KEILAR: He represents showing up. He's trying to hit all the counties, Eva, in Iowa. He's about halfway there. He's making this point, you have to show up if you want to win Iowa. But I wonder if you do, Donald Trump, I mean, pretty good at the retail politics we see but, he's sort of testing that.


MCKEND: And Governor DeSantis is not the only one. I mean, the reason why Vivek Ramaswamy is doing so well is because he just spent so much time in Iowa meeting, you know, voter by voter, is how these contests work, how you do well in these early nominating contests.

I thought it was curious that the former president went to South Dakota, that seems sort of, you know, it's not an early state. So that surprised me why he was there to sort of stroke his ego. And you do have to wonder if he does have to spend more time in these early states when he's so far out ahead out in these polls, that he seems pretty confident and not having sort of this aggressive round game.

KEILAR: Could he regret not doing this? Could he regret not getting out there in Iowa? What do you guys think?

SOTOMAYOR: I'll say is like he has name recognition, right? He doesn't have to be out there all the time. However, sure. I'm sure there are voters, especially in Iowa, New Hampshire, who love to be courted, especially this early, who would love to see their preferred candidate out and about talking to them.

However, still leading significantly in the polls. Should he go back? Yes. Can he spend time in South Dakota kind of running a general election campaign? Probably too, as well.

PRZYBYLA: He's so far ahead. He does not have to go there, but I'm sure he wants to keep his foot on the lid on the 30-point plus lid that he's got over his challengers.

And the visit to North Dakota just shows how confident he is and how he's using state parties as well to pay for the photo ops of him with adoring crowds. And that he's at a point where he can do that. He can go to a state that's not competitive that has a late primary, and also allow someone Kristi Noem, essentially audition for the role of vice president. I guess there were signs in the audience there of Noem- Trump 2024. KEILAR: There sure were. And I want to talk about that. But first, I want to talk about something from that South Dakota event that we saw, which is this moment, a promise that former president Trump made about if he is reelected, how he might seek political retribution.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But remember, it's a -- it's a Democrat charging his opponent. Nobody's ever seen anything like it. That means that if I win, and somebody wants to run against me, I call my attorney general. I say, listen, indict him.

Well, he hasn't done anything wrong that we know of. I don't know. Indict him on income tax evasion. You'll figure it out.


KEILAR: He challenged institutions and the rule of law before he's making it very clear. There will be no difference. It'll just accelerate that.

DOVERE: Yes. He's spent a long time at rallies, chanting lock her up for Hillary Clinton. It's not like this is new. He did try to get his attorney general to indict people that were political opponents when he was president.

But over the course of the next year, we are going to see Donald Trump on trial, maybe on several trials. It is -- it's seemingly inevitable that we're going to hear more of this rhetoric. That's going to escalate more and more as there's more attention on him, as there's more pressure on him.

And that, again, is going to put forward to voters at whether he's the Republican nominee or not what that means as a choice in this election, not just about the economy and all these things, but about institutions and how all these things work.

PRZYBYLA: Can I weigh on this?


PRZYBYLA: Because that did happen in 2016. And some people laughed at it. They thought that it wasn't serious, you know, lock her up. The difference, I think, with today is just how much more transparent it is.

There are actual white papers being drawn up by his colleagues who are working on policy to fold in major aspects of the Justice Department under the control of the president to essentially blow up that wall that has existed since Nixon's problems between the Justice Department and the executive branch. And the same thing with gutting agencies, agencies that are meant to provide very important oversight of industries and businesses.

MCKEND: And that will be the argument that the Democrats use, that our institutions, as we know them, if the former president is reelected, will cease to exist.

KEILAR: Yes. It'll be interesting to see how this goes with voters who may be kind of soured on Donald Trump. Are they really going to want this drama? He's putting it out there front and center.

OK, veepstakes. I want to talk about that now. Kristi Noem, and you alluded to this, the pictures, and this is something that popped up. Look at this. Trump-Noem 2024 popped up for just a moment. And this was, by the way, a South Dakota Republican party event. We don't know exactly how this popped up.

But what do you think about this possibility? What this matchup could mean?

MCKEND: Yes. You can tell that the Trump campaign is looking past the primary and is trying to see, you know, who is loyal to me? I would throw in some other names from my perch on Capitol Hill. Elise Stefanik is someone who has really amped up. She's always been behind Trump, but amp that up and kind of like a, hey look at me over here I am here for you.


Obviously, you have people like Marjorie Taylor Greene as well, who has recently weighed in a lot more on Trump's position, as you were talking about, in terms of weaponization in the DOJ. So it's interesting to see that he's already kind of going around talking to a number of people. A lot of people are putting their names out there.

It's interesting, though, that the Iowa Governor has been spending a lot more time with Ron DeSantis.


SOTOMAYOR: It's not like Trump has necessarily been next to her cozying up or anything, he's been more critical of her.

DOVERE: And you have a situation, right, where Trump is leading by so much that a lot of Republican politicians can make the calculation that it's good to try to attach themselves to him. He wants their endorsements, he can hold that open. And have that be the story -- the political story over the course of the next year almost until he picks a running mate if he ends up being the nominee.

And like the -- what it does is it puts the rest of the Republican Party in the situation of who's endorsing Trump versus who's not endorsing Trump not versus who's endorsing other people. And when the -- our CNN polling earlier this week about the Republican race not just -- didn't just show Trump ahead in the horse race part of it, but showed him with a massive lead on every issue.

That means there's just not that room at the moment for the other Republican candidates to say like, hey, think about who might be my running mate, maybe to think about whether they're going to get more than five percent in Iowa.

KEILAR: Well, they're throwing stuff at the wall. They are trying to do what they can.

And coming up, Ron DeSantis, one of them trying to turn back time on COVID to do that.



KEILAR: Crank up the volume because Ron DeSantis is playing all the hits on COVID. That is his attacks on COVID lockdowns and vaccine mandates are what made him a conservative star and now he's hoping it can reinvigorate his lagging campaign.


RON DESANTIS, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A lot of these leftists, they think that these lockdown policies worked. They did not work.

Here in Florida, we did not and we will not allow the dystopian visions of paranoid hypochondriacs control our health policies, let alone our state.


KEILAR: So this isn't really a thing. Yes, some individual businesses and schools have responded to recent COVID outbreaks with mask requirements or other precautions, but new national lockdowns or federal mandates, they're not really on the table here. We should note that Florida, DeSantis state has the highest rate of new COVID hospitalizations. That's according to the CDC.

All right, so here he is, he's playing the oldies, are people listening.

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: COVID is not a major concern for pretty much anyone anymore. And the question of whether it will continue to -- whether it will grow as a concern over the winter, has a lot to do with whether the cases go up. And there is no indication at this point there's going to be a major spike. Some people are kind of worried about it. If it is, then maybe there will be people who remember it, but I think COVID feels more and more remote by the day, which is, you know, in general a good thing.

But whether DeSantis can tap into that old energy and connect it to this idea of the government being over everything and telling you what to do, that's where he may have more of an opening and more of an immediate sense in people's minds.

MCKEND: There's not a huge pool of voters, I think, for this argument, you know, continuing to sort of remind people he wasn't principally concerned about the health and safety of his residents. But a lot of people suffered economically during the pandemic, and I was in Georgia last cycle, covered Governor Kemp's reelection, and he emphasized this, too, that he sort of bucked the pressure and got businesses reopened as quickly as possible. And I was at a Diwali celebration. Some people who didn't always

support Republicans, and they liked Governor Kemp for this reason. Small business owners who were happy that their businesses got reopened quickly. So I do understand, you know, why Governor DeSantis is making this political argument.

KEILAR: Yeah, for those folks, for sure, they do remember it. It really is important to them. Why is he doing this? He has a lot of ground to make up. And he's also playing the expectations game. His team sort of saying, a strong second in Iowa is fine. Second place is fine. He's not, Marianna, a strong second right now in the polls. He is so far behind Trump in Iowa?

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah, and this is the one issue that one can argue, gave him that national name ID during the pandemic. So why not lean into it? It's not going to hurt him. And I think it is one of the very few issues where he could make a differentiation on policy with Trump, because of course Trump was president. Operation Warp Speed, Go Get Vaccinated was a bit of the Trump administration message at the time. And while DeSantis did adopt that in Florida, he did open things up early. And Floridians love that.

I'm from Florida. I heard it from Democratic voters, independents that they very much appreciated how DeSantis took on the pandemic. So this is a strong suit for him. And you can see why he's leaning into it more while the conversation is ramping up. But is it going to make a difference? Doesn't seem like it.

PRZYBYLA: It also seems to be a tacit admission that the war on woke, which is where he was going to make his mark in this primary has kind of ground to a halt in terms of the narrative that prior to this the narrative have been that, you know, maybe picking a fight with Disney wasn't the smartest idea, maybe all the -- the schools wars was not the smartest idea and now you're kind of seeing him pivot to the next thing going back to a place where he felt like he was strong.

But I think this is different in that when he's attacking vaccines or his supporters are attacking the use of vaccines and you're coming from a state that had some of the highest death rates and now some of the highest hospitalizations. I don't think that you can go back and assume that that's going to be as great of a strength given that we're not talking about shutting down the economy anymore. This is just in the context of protecting people from the virus.


KEILAR: Let's talk about Tim Scott, right? Also in the contention in that he is trying to contend, right? He's not really catching on with voters. He's defending what he has, which is this approach, this kind of too nice approach. Let's listen to what he said.


SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As a guy who -- I grew up in tough neighborhoods. My friends were locked up, buried. I got to say that being tough is easy. The question is, is tough enough to be successful? We've lost seven out of the last eight national elections. It's not because we weren't the loudest voices, the loudest voices, who often say so little.


KEILAR: Really interesting, you've been to some of his events. What are you hearing?

MCKEND: Well, I would say that he is resonating with some voters, especially in a place like Iowa where he has this fluency talking about his faith in an authentic way, not in a way where he's just sort of throwing out Bible verses, but he's actually a Christian. And so that helps him with those evangelical voters there.

But it is very difficult because this sort of slug fest that this can become that we saw in the last debate, that is not his style. And I think the challenge for him, I think for the next debate, we have some reporting that he is going to get a little bit more aggressive in the next debate, is that he doesn't want to come off as inauthentic as someone who he is not, because that will be potentially problematic as well.

DOVERE: It reminds me a little bit of in the Democratic race last time around, Cory Booker comparing him not because he is also a black senator, but because Booker was trying to say that there was this message of love and connecting with people and not being the fighter all the time.

And that race went very badly for Booker. And afterwards, Booker's -- some of the people on this campaign told me that they just realized that, like, the Democratic Party didn't want that right then. They wanted somebody who was going to take on Trump aggressively. It seems like the Republican Party wants people who are going to fight aggressively. They want what's coming out of Trump. They want at least some of what's coming out of DeSantis. Even Nikki Haley talks about the chief kicks forward, right? That's not to the side. That's what seems to be animating the Republican base. It's a question of whether Tim Scott's message can connect with that kind of feeling.

KEILAR: Yeah, clearly this voting block is activated in a certain way where they need a certain energy from candidates. I mean, I think that is just undisputable here.

All right, so I know it feels a little maybe soon to talk about the field consolidating, but actually if you go back in time to other elections, you'll see it was around this time near the second debate that U.S. Rick Perry suspending his campaign, Scott Walker dropping out. So it's not unheard of, this is in the realm. September 11th, September 21st, when are we going to see this race consolidate, do you think?

PRZYBYLA: We just saw over the weekend, Larry Hogan, the former governor of Maryland say, OK, guys, I love you. But if you're not making the debate stage, Will Hurd and some others, then it's maybe time to think about dropping out. But in addition to that, even if you're talking about the folks who are on the debate stage, I think we can all have great conversations about the attributes of Tim Scott and Nikki Haley and how aggressive she's been.

But until it consolidates even beyond the people who are not on the debate stage, I don't think we're having a conversation about anything other than a potential -- potential VP stage this early in the game. Because when you look at those polls, 91 felony counts against Trump and still 78% of his supporters say he was justified in trying to overturn the election. So what is a trial going to do to change that?

But replay this, please, if I'm wrong. However, if you look at those poll numbers, his support is really rock solid among the people who've already decided and a number have decided.

KEILAR: Really is. So up next, will Kevin McCarthy take on the right wing of his own party to avoid a government shutdown?



KEILAR: 21 days, that is how long Congress has to reach a spending deal and to avoid yet another government shutdown. And it's how long Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker, has to figure out how to do it without losing his job. Hardline Republicans are demanding deep cuts as a condition for their votes. And on top of that, they've been pushing McCarthy all summer to start an official impeachment inquiry.


REP. MATT GAETZ, (R) FLORIDA: When we get back to Washington in the coming weeks, we have got to seize the initiative. That means forcing votes on impeachment and if Kevin McCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long.


KEILAR: All right, Marianna, do Gaetz at all have the votes to actually follow through on that?

SOTOMAYOR: To an impeachment inquiry?

KEILAR: An impeachment inquiry, getting rid of Kevin McCarthy if he doesn't do what they want.

SOTOMAYOR: There's enough of a block, yeah, absolutely. I mean, on impeachment inquiry, what I've been hearing from leadership base is that it is inevitable. So they might have to have that vote. But the Freedom Caucus is already pointing out, and far-right lawmakers like Gaetz, they're saying, OK, but my vote for impeachment inquiry does not equal a vote for the government, to fund the government.

And that is a tricky point for McCarthy, because he does really have to figure out the math here, can only lose for Republican votes. And they haven't really had tangible conversations over August recess.

Lawmakers have been telling me, we're going to find out once we're all in a room. But at the same time, we already know what the Freedom Caucus wants. They're going to make demands. They say, if the longer a short-term government funding bill, because that is what is going to have to happen here, the more demands that we will make. And that's just part one, that's just making sure the government stays open for the next month or so.


Part two is actually trying to fund the government for the next year, where you have so many more requests. And McCarthy's speakership, the promises that were made in early January, hinge on curtailing government spending. It's why I've been hearing from Republicans since early this year that this is the testing moment for McCarthy.

DOVERE: But are there votes for an impeachment? That seems to be a real question here. They can go after McCarthy for not doing the vote, but they seem to be on the Republican side, far short of the number of votes that it would take, not just from Republicans who are in districts that supported Biden, the 18 Biden Republicans people talk about, but also people like Ken Buck from Colorado, Judiciary Committee member who has said, he has not seen the evidence that points to the need for an impeachment inquiry.

Ken Buck is no squish. He is not someone who would be seen as a progressive member of the Republican Party. That seems to suggest that they're real short of where they would need to be as that pressure comes on McCarthy.

PRZYBYLA: Something very instructive happened in a tweet actually this weekend which was Marjorie Taylor Greene I think kind of gave up the game a little bit about what the approach here is going to be. And she said --

KEILAR: Let's put those up.

PRZYBYLA: Oh you have it?

KEILAR: Yeah we have, this was a -- you're always one step ahead of me. She knows right where we're going, she knows all the good stuff. It was like a tweet thread. She went off on him.

PRZYBYLA: Right. And -- but in that tweet thread, she's making the case that Biden's corruption guys, hey, it's so vast and it's so difficult to untangle this that we have to have a really extensive impeachment inquiry.

So we can't wrap this up and we should not rush to a vote. So, hey, guys, I know you really want to do this, but just stick with us. Yeah, we're going to look into all of that. We need to keep the government open.

What I think most likely will happen, which is based on previous sequels to this story is that at some point, McCarthy will be forced to give these show votes on additional writers and all of the issues that the Freedom Caucus wants. But the Senate is already said, we're going to jam you guys. We're going to pass this and we're going to go home. You guys figure it out and Kevin McCarthy may have to come to rely on Democrats. It'll be really interesting to see if they would even potentially Democrat support him on a motion to vacate and protect him.

DOVERE: The Democratic feeling about saving McCarthy's hide is not enthusiastic.

MCKEND: Well, he may need them to bail him out once again, but I mean how reliable of a negotiator is he now with the White House going forward? He negotiated a deal with the White House and this should not have come down to this.

But Senator McConnell always says that these shutdowns are mutually assured destruction and everyone comes out looking bad. We know that Senate Republicans have very little appetite for that. So we know that McConnell and McCarthy have a relationship. I'm curious to see how much pressure McConnell puts on McCarthy to just work with Democrats to get this done.

KEILAR: To your point, Eva, Senate Republicans are irritated right now looking at their House Republican counterparts, and you're out there so often talking to voters. They have to be thinking about how is this going to play where we're maybe shooting ourselves in the foot with some very important voters out there right now?

MCKEND: We are in such a highly partisan environment that there are going to be a lot of conservatives that cheer Kevin McCarthy on. But it does present, I think, a challenge for more moderate, independent voters who want to see ultimately their government at work.

DOVERE: Yeah, put the political frame on it. Thinking about going into Biden's reelection, about what the 2024 races are going to be. What the Democrats would love to say Republicans are about is chaos, is the government not doing things for people, is people in Washington getting caught up in partisan ideological fights and not doing things like helping on drug prices or the economy in any way. That may be the story they get to tell off of a shutdown.

KEILAR: Just the drama may be ensured. Coming up, one of the world's most famous rooms gets a high-tech upgrade.



KEILAR: The White House Situation Room is quite literally the room where it happens. Even more so perhaps after a $50 million makeover that just finished last week. Here's CNN's Senior White House Correspondent, Kayla Tausche.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Morning, Mr. President.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we got?

TAUSCHE: The White House Situation Room, where history happens in real time, got its own modern-day Hollywood makeover.

JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Pretty fancy, you guys.

TAUSCHE: The Situation Room's director said Biden was blown away when he saw it this week. With stone slabs from Virginia, mahogany paneling from Maryland, LED lighting, high-risk monitors, and handmade seals to swap in if a meeting is helmed by Biden, Vice President Harris, or National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, the gut renovation took a year and more than $50 million to complete.

JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It's on time and on schedule to be back on station here in the not-too-distant future.

TAUSCHE: The secretive high-security complex beneath the Oval Office is actually five rooms, most called WIZR, for the WHSR acronym used by those in the know. The main conference room, known as WIZR JFK, was built for John F. Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs invasion. That's where President Biden huddled with world leaders in the days leading up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And President Trump watched drone footage as U.S. forces killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It was something really amazing to see. I got to watch it along with General Milley, Vice President Pence, others in the Situation Room. And we watched it so clearly.

TAUSCHE: Around the corner, there's the watch floor, where intelligence and media feeds including CNN are piped in 24/7.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President. Prepare us for war.

TAUSCHE: And a smaller room, famously depicted in 2011 as President Obama and his national security team watched Navy Seals raid the compound of Osama bin Laden.

BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: This is where we actually had a live view of what was happening. And so, as you can see, it's a pretty small conference room. We were all jammed up in here.

TAUSCHE: That's now two cubby offices with the old room removed and rebuilt at Obama's library in Chicago. In Washington, the top-secret complex is now open for business. And its director says the upgrades now make it feel just like the movies. Kayla Tausche, CNN, the White House Situation Room.


KEILAR: Thank you to Kayla for that. That is it for Inside Politics Sunday. Up next, State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Republican Presidential Candidate, Nikki Haley. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning.