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GOP Speaker Candidates Make Their Case; McCarthy Endorses Tom Emmer For Speaker; Aid Crosses Into Gaza As Netanyahu Warns Lebanon Of Disaster; Biden's Trip To Israel Marks Second Visit To War Zone; Biden Makes Case For Wartime Aid To Israel And Ukraine; Danger Grows At Israel's Northern Border. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired October 22, 2023 - 11:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Today on INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, Republican turmoil deepening, and still no way out of a crisis that they caused, searching for a House Speaker as Congress entering its fourth week, still broken and unable to govern.

Plus, Flashpoint. Eight trucks across the border as desperation grips, and an Israeli airstrike escalates alarm about an all-consuming Middle East war.

And Joe Biden's ally, see Israel's war is a chance to remind the country why they believe he should have four more years.

INSIDE POLITICS, all the best reporting from inside the corridors of power starts now.

Good morning, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, I'm Manu Raju.

Republicans in the House find themselves in desperate times. It's day 19 without a speaker, and some of the nation's most urgent business has been put to a halt, until Republicans can resolve the leadership crisis started at the hands of one of their own members.

And after Congressman Jim Jordan became the second Republican to drop his bid for the speakership in the wake of Kevin McCarthy's unprecedented ouster nearly three weeks ago, there is now an urgent race to be the GOP's latest speaker candidate, a campaign happening mostly behind closed doors.

And it has been a free-for-all over the last two days. GOP sources tell me that seven new speaker hopefuls have been working the phones, having meetings with key blocks of members and trying to convince their colleagues that they can unify a badly fractured GOP conference and somehow get 217 votes on the floor.

Sources tell me this morning that House GOP whip, Tom Emmer, is locking in support across the Republican conference, but still uncertain if he can get the votes on the floor to be elected speaker. And on Friday afternoon, I found two other candidates in the hallway in the chaotic aftermath of Jordan dropping his bid, and they were already making their pitches.


REP. KEVIN HERN (R-OK): People want to be heard, they want to be valued. And I think that's what you're seeing right now. And there's a lot of historical relationships that some are not going to ever be able to work around. And I don't have those negatives out there.

REP. AUSTIN SCOTT (R-GA): It was a dangerous game that was being played. The consequences are real for the country. If men were angels, we wouldn't need the government, as you know, but men aren't angels, and we need the United States House of Representatives to open.


RAJU: And this morning, another candidate, Byron Donald's making his case on Fox.


REP. BYRON DONALDS (R-FL): We can have unity in our conference. It's going to start with a fresh voice in leadership, working with all of our colleagues to accomplish the mission that our voters sent here to do.


RAJU: Now the deadline to enter the race is in one hour, with the GOP candidate formed tomorrow night behind closed doors, a secret battle election for Republicans to nominate their new candidate on Tuesday morning, and a floor vote. Well, we'll see when that happens, but sometime after that.

And all the while, the clock ticks as a massive aid package for Israel and Ukraine awaits congressional action. And a potential government shutdown now less than one month away.

Now let's break down all this news with our great panel here, CNN's MJ Lee, Paul Kane from the Washington Post, Bloomberg's Mario Parker, and Margaret Talev from Axios. Good morning, everybody. Thank you all for being here. It's been a very ugly, ugly, messy week on the Hill, yet, another one, no clear way out of this crisis.

This is -- we're having -- the moment there's seven possible candidates who can -- who have emerged as speaker, there's the list of the potential nominees here, the people who are running to be the nominee of their party. There could be another. We'll see in the next hour or so if there -- if there is anyone else.

I'm hearing, and I'm sure you're hearing as well, Paul, you've worked as sort of the Capitol hallways, as you have for many years, talking to sources as well. Tom Emmer seems to be the clear front runner to win the Republican nomination on Tuesday, given his support internally, the infrastructure he has as a Republican whip. He used to be the chairman of the campaign committee. People say that he deserves some credit for taking them back to the majority.

But can he get the votes on the floor to be elected speaker? That is a dilemma for him and several of these other candidates as well.

PAUL KANE, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. He has the most experience in sort of the inside game. He ran their campaign committee, he's traveled to their districts. So on a secret ballot, that stacks up and he looks to be the front runner.

Gosh, but to get 217 out of 221, you have to placate so many different wings and factions. What happened on Friday afternoon? The very first person to come out of the gate to endorse Tom Emmer was Kevin McCarthy.

RAJU: Yes.

KANE: Kevin McCarthy has failed at everything he's tried to do this month. Everything he touches is falling apart. Why on earth did Tom Emmer want Kevin McCarthy to endorse him?


Kevin McCarthy just spent three rounds of votes sitting directly behind Jim Jordan, because he was Jim Jordan's guy. And what happened to Jim Jordan? He went down in flames. And now McCarthy is trying to say, Tom Emmer is my guy. That's not helping Tom Emmer get to 217.

And it's especially among the members who pushed him out, right? There are eight Republicans who voted --

KANE: Yes.

RAJU: -- to push him out. You can only lose to four to four to lose four votes on the floor. McCarthy's been saying to me and others this past week, he's been calling those eight members the crazy aides that who put -- who led to this crisis in the House.

And this morning, he was -- he also made that pitch on national television about Tom Emmer taking to the airwaves and saying that Emmer is the guy.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This is not a moment in time to play around with learning on the job. We need someone who understands how to do this job. I believe Tom Emmer, our whip, he's been in the room with all of our successes from our bills to secure the border, from parents' bill of rights, from cutting $2 trillion, getting work requirements.

He knows how to do the job across the street at the same time, helping us win the majority. He sets himself head and shoulders above all those others who want to run.


RAJU: I mean the challenge is that some of the folks in the far right, the House Freedom Caucus, yes, some of them may be very close to Tom Emmer. In fact, I know for a fact some of them are, but some of them are just skeptical of anybody in Republican leadership. And that's going to be the challenge if its Emmer or some of these other ones who were close to McCarthy.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Some of them are proxies for Jim Jordan and some of them are proxies for Donald Trump. And if you make a list of the handful of people that are -- that we know to be in this race right now, they're from the Southeastern United States and they're from Midwestern states.

And I think all but one initially moved to block to certify the election. So there are all kinds of cross currents and cross winds going on here.

And if you want to get super Machiavellian, if you just took out the name Emmer and replaced it with McCarthy with everything Kevin McCarthy, just said there would be Kevin McCarthy's outside bid to become the speaker again.

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: I just think if you run through this whole list and nobody can get to 217 and there is a shutdown looming, where is the country going to be? And it's actually -- it's not to play a parlor game. This is an actual possible way.

RAJU: And, look, they just kept out on anything. I mean, everything has been stalled. Typically, they've been making some progress possibly towards avoiding a government shutdown at least getting an agenda, passed or messaging bills. Nothing. Absolutely nothing has happened this -- the last several weeks because of this fight.

But you talked about their records, which is interesting. We did look at some of their past records and some of the key issues. We pulled out two of them just for to make clear of the viewers on where these seven candidates stand.

One was on the spending bill to avoid a government shutdown. Remember, Kevin McCarthy cut that, allowed that spending bill to go forward. That led him the ouster have his speakership. Then the other one about certifying the 2020 legend, which you just said, Margaret.

And Kevin Hern voted against both. Austin Scott, another one of the candidates voted for both. Tom Emmer voted for both. Byron Donalds didn't vote for the spending bill, voted against certifying the election. Pete Sessions is another Texas Republican who is running, voted for both. Jack Bergman, from Michigan, voted for the spending bill, against certifying the election. Mike Johnson from Louisiana, someone also seen as a serious candidate in this race, voted against both. So that's -- the issue of certifying the election is something that some of the Trump allies have already been seizing upon because Emmer and some others here voted to certify the 2020 election.

MARIO PARKER, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE AND POLITICS TEAM LEADER: Absolutely. And while Donald Trump endorsed Jim Jordan for the gavel and the Republicans didn't follow through, we're going to see the next test here because from what we understand from sources, Trump is actively lobbying against Emmer right now, right?

So -- and part of it, of course, is because of that vindictive nature of him voting to certify the 2020 election. Maybe someone like Pete Sessions emerges if Emmer doesn't. Pete Sessions was at the helm, the last time that Republicans had this red wave.

And this moment, we have to remember, Republicans are haunted by that specter of what didn't happen in 2022. That's what we're all dealing with right now --

RAJU: Yes.

PARKER: -- that narrow majority.

RAJU: It's just so hard to predict because, one, it is a secret ballot election. Two, it's been so chaotic. There's also been still that talk of an interim speaker, Patrick McHenry. That was an idea that had been propped up. It looked like he had momentum, but Republicans themselves shelved that under just a furious backlash.

You know, I can tell you, just talking to Republicans all week and the last several weeks, we've -- they are just so much at butting heads with each other and taking personal direct aim at each other. It's something that I've just simply have never seen before.

We've done this week after week because it is so -- the tension is so palpable. And these members are really going after members of their own party. Listen.


REP. JIM BANKS (R-N): It's the biggest F you to Republican voters I've ever seen.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): This conference is absolutely broken.

REP. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-SD): Americans are sick of it. And I know most members of the House are sick of it. It is time for big boys and big girls to stop with the nonsense.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): The swampy swamp gets.

REP. MIKE WALTZ (R-FL): We need to get over it and we need to move on.

REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R-PA): We cannot have an entire branch of government offline.

REP. TROY NEHLS (R-TX): We got to get our act together because I'm getting calls from my constituents and saying, what the hell is going on with you Republicans?

REP. NICK LALOTA (R-NY): I think history will assign the blame in the right places.


RAJU: I mean, the challenge is that they all say we need to move forward, but they can't. The candidate is unable to bridge that divide and convince those members that they are the ones that can get the House back open.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, there is real exasperation. There is real exhaustion. And I think for these members, yes, they're also thinking about their political futures too, right? If the House Republican caucus continues to be an absolute clown show heading into 2024, it just makes it easier and easier for President Biden, the Democrats, to campaign against a party that is the party of insurrection, of chaos, of doing nothing. And that is something that Democrats have shown that they are eager to do already.

I also just have to say, this isn't just about sort of political chaos, right? I mean, you guys know this better than anyone else. This is about their personal lives being thrown into chaos as well. These members take on these jobs and design their entire personal lives so that they can be members of Congress. They have often families that are waiting for them back home. They have these grueling travel schedules.

And now the question is why? Like for what? What are we doing this for? We're not doing anything in our day job.

RAJU: It is such a good point. Because I've heard from members that they could see potentially more retirements in the aftermath of this and that could change the whole political dynamic. And the talk of keeping them in it last -- this past weekend, there was so much backlash to that idea about keeping people in over the weekend.

Personal schedules do matter in the cap. I can tell you. That is absolutely true. But you got also raised an issue to point about the politics of this because we are headed into not just in the hugely significant presidential election. The House's employee as well. This is a narrow Republican House majority. There are 18 Republicans who are in Biden districts who are concerned about their seats, concerned about the chaos. I've talked to so many of these members about all this. Those are the 18 on your screen right there.

Nine of them voted for Jim Jordan all three times. Six of them voted against Jim Jordan all three times. Three of them flipped against Jordan on the third ballot that would include Tom Kean, Jr. of New Jersey, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Marc Molinaro of New York. Those three did vote against him on the third ballot.

How concerned, Paul, are these members that this chaos could cause them their seats and the Republican majority?

KANE: They are very concerned. And -- but the reason a lot of them voted for Jordan was because they had a built in belief that while Jordan is probably going to win this, we think, and they want to stay loyal to the guy who's going to be speaker.

They are from districts that are around New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia. These are really expensive media markets and they don't know what to do. They're afraid because, like, there are five of them up in the New York media market.

And, well, whoever is speaker next might only have money to finance three of the five campaigns.

RAJU: Yes.

KANE: And so they just sort of were just -- a lot of them were basically trying to hide --

RAJU: Yes.

KANE: -- as they were casting their votes for Jordan.

RAJU: And you can't overstate the significance of McCarthy's fundraising machine. I mean, he raised so much money for these members and now he's set aside. The next speaker will have to do what McCarthy did. We'll see if they're able to do that.

And there's -- although there's so much finger pointing at the eight, the eight Republicans who voted with Democrats, but it started by Republicans, but the Democrats did vote with those eight Republicans to oust Kevin McCarthy. I talked to some of them this past week about what they thought they got out of this.


RAJU: What do you actually get for leading this charge to push out Kevin McCarthy?

GAETZ: We're shaking up Washington, D.C. We're breaking the fever, and you know what? It's messy. But the only reason people think there's chaos in this town right now is because the special interests aren't in control anymore.

Raju: What did you get out of this?

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): We're changing the direction of Washington. Doing the same thing we've always done is not going to work.


RAJU: Did they get anything out of this?

TALEV: I mean, they got talking points to take back to their primary voters, that's, if you were to go to some of these districts and say what's important and you would hear things like during the swamp or change the way things are done, they need some message to explain what is still happening.

RAJU: Yes.

TALEV: But I don't see any evidence that Washington has changed for the good.

You also -- one other point in the realm of 2024, there are major implications for the Senate also where Republicans actually think they have a good chance of taking back control as long as they don't get bogged down by these guys.

You're seeing not just Mitch McConnell, but a lot of Senate Republicans trying to distance themselves from all of those.


RAJU: Yes. And what will be interesting to see is that those donors, what they decide to give money to the senators, because they think the Senate is in play, and not the House. That has a real impact down the line about the -- how the money game, money rates, plays out.

And also significant because the House can't act. That means no aid to Israel can be acted upon as well. And that's what we're going to talk about next.

More aid trucks entering Gaza as Israel assembles tanks and troops near Lebanon. We'll bring you the latest live from Israel.


RAJU: Today, relief crosses into a war zone. And Israel issues a warning to a neighbor.

This morning, you can see it here, supply trucks finally rolling across the Rafah crossing. But in Israel's north, Bibi Netanyahu issued an ultimatum to Hezbollah, stand down or face devastation.

Now here to discuss all of the developments on the ground, CNN's Alex Marquardt and CNN's Kim Dozier. Thank you both so much for coming out of this consequential morning.


Alex, you have some new reporting about what is happening about this possible incursion inside Gaza, the hostage situation. What are you learning?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have seen, obviously, the U.S. from the get-go expressing solidarity with Israel and what they plan to do in Gaza. At the same time, there are major humanitarian concerns.

So, what I've been told from two different sources is that the Biden administration is pressing the Israelis to slow down, to delay their incursion into Gaza, to allow for more time to make progress on the humanitarian front on both the hostages and the aid. We've just seen this first batch of aid going into Gaza. We know that the U.S. wants that aid to be sustained. We've seen the first two American hostages coming out of Gaza on Friday. We know that the U.S., of course, wants all of those hostages to be released.

So, what I'm hearing is that there has been some pressing by the administration on the Israelis to allow for more time for progress on both of those fronts.

I should note, Manu, that the Israelis are denying this. I heard from a senior Israeli official this morning who said that they have a close dialogue and consultation with the administration and that the U.S. is not pressing Israel.

But we've also heard publicly, from the top officials in the Biden administration. Secretary Blinken, earlier today, when asked whether there was any pressure on the Israelis, he said that the Israelis have to make their own decisions. When President Biden was asked about this, he just said, we are speaking with the Israelis.

The Biden administration is very wary about giving the impression that they are telling the Israelis what to do. But there are significant humanitarian concerns on the American side.

RAJU: And what are the Israelis now considering? Because we had heard that this ground invasion might be imminent. That was even before last weekend.

What -- is that part of the -- are they listening to those concerns? Or are they -- do you sense that they're still pressing ahead here?

KIM DOZIER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Look, every day that you make the opposition think that you might be invading the next day is a day you rob them of sleep. It's psychological operations in a sense. So it works to the Israelis advantage.

But one of the reasons the Israelis wouldn't want Hamas to think that they had this lever with the Americans that, hey, we can get the Americans to stop the Israelis from going in on the ground by releasing hostages and dribs and drabs.

The Israelis don't want that because then that's exactly what's going to happen. We're going to see ones and twos instead of a big bulk release.

So that's why Hamas is still holding on to the hostages, negotiating with the Qataris in the background. And the Israeli troops, each day that they keep attacking from the air. It's more targets on the ground that their relatively green troops who are going in won't have to deal with.

One of the latest things they talked about was that they're taking out many of the high rises because those are potential sniper nests for the Hamas militants as the Israeli troops come in.

RAJU: I want you to -- you know, there's all these concerns about -- real serious concerns about this escalating into a broader regional conflict. Perhaps the U.S. could get drawn into it as well. Lloyd Austin, the Defense Secretary, was asked about that this morning.


LLOYD AUSTIN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation that we see, our advice is don't. We maintain the right to defend ourselves. And we won't hesitate to take the appropriate action.


RAJU: What do you make of that?

MARQUARDT: It's a reflection of very significant concerns in the Biden administration about what Iranian proxies and perhaps Iran themselves might do. We've seen a building, a growing number of examples of the potential for this to really explode.

The most dramatic of which was the Houthis, the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, firing missiles and drones northwards in the direction of Israel. They were taken down by a U.S. destroyer in the Red Sea called the USS Carney.

But, Manu, this is -- this is a major fear of the Biden administration. They have been issuing that warning repeatedly.

Obviously, the most pressing one, when it comes to Israel and perhaps U.S. assets, is Hezbollah in Lebanon. They are far better equipped, far better trained, far better armed than Hamas is. And were they to open up that second front, that would not only be a threat to Israel, but also to -- we have now these two carrier groups in the eastern Mediterranean.

Iran has proxies all across the region. And Secretary Austin today also said that they are -- they are expecting an escalation against troops and Americans in the region, that they're sending more air defense systems to help with that.

RAJU: And we saw these aid trucks roll into the Rafah crossing this morning.

How delicate is this diplomatic relationship with -- between Israel, Egypt, Qatar, others to accomplish that small but a critical task?

DOZIER: Well, the more aid that gets into Gaza, the more it fights the narrative that the Israelis aren't allowing humanitarian supplies to reach the displaced Palestinians, something like a million, according to the U.N. at this point.


But let's remember that the Rafah crossing is controlled by Hamas and Egypt. So a lot of the delay, the Israelis have no control over beyond saying that we're not going to bomb the root coming in. From the Palestinian perspective, though, there have been bombs continuing in the South. And so you still have some of the quarter million that are estimated to be left in the North who are worried about going south because they can see foods running out, waters running out, the U.N. says it's running out of fuel. So that aid is not getting in fast enough and Israel is wearing the blank for it.

RAJU: Yes. And humanitarian crisis growing, growing by the day. Thank you both for that.

And coming up, as the conflict continues abroad, how has President Biden handled the situation?



RAJU: Now to the fight over the war here at home, $105 billion, that is the amount that President Biden wants Congress to approve for aid to Israel, Ukraine and to deal with problems at the southern border. The deepening U.S. involvement in foreign wars opening up a new and defining chapter in Biden's presidency, something that came to stark relief when he delivered a rare primetime address to the nation from the Oval Office.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Hamas and Putin represent different threats, or they share this in common. They both want to completely annihilate in neighboring democracy. American alliances are what keep us America safe. American values, what make us a partner that other nations want to work with. To put all that at risk, if we walk away from Ukraine, we turn our backs on Israel. It's just not worth it.


RAJU: Now, the President also flew to Israel meeting with leaders in a whirlwind seven-and-a-half-hour trip, and mark his second time -- second visit to an active war zone during his presidency, the first being to Ukraine.

Now, the panel is back with me to discuss all this. MJ, you cover the White House for us here at CNN, Biden, when he was on this trip to Israel, he -- he essentially said he got the job done that he accomplished. To our viewers, let listen to what he had to say.


BIDEN: look, I came to get something done. I got it done. Not many people thought I could get this done. And not many people wanted to be associated with failure. It had to be in my view we either took all the blame, or -- and not put anybody else on the spot, or we get it done and I thought it was worth taking the chance to get it done.


RAJU: Why does the White House see what he has done, so far, in Israel successful in their view so far?

LEE: I mean, I think a lot of this will actually take time, we have seen how difficult it has been to get the humanitarian aid flowing into Gaza, of course, the release of the two American hostages, that is something that the White House was incredibly joyful about.

Look, I think if we could put the politics completely aside for a second, there is a bigger point to be made about how this is entirely sort of the sphere that President Biden has always felt the most enthusiastic about, right? It is foreign policy. It is national security. This is why he ran. This is why he wanted this job to begin with. But I do think if you start to bring the politics in a little bit, this obviously doesn't help him with anything on the home front, if you are a voter who is sort of dissatisfied with the Biden presidency, because for example of the high cost of living, you watch him travel to Israel, you watch him make this kind of speech from the Oval Office. And it doesn't make you feel better about any of that, right? So that is going to be a balancing act --

RAJU: Yeah. Obviously, this is war. This is incredibly serious lives are on the line. That is all true. It's also true that we are in the middle of a presidential election and voters will be judging his performance. The New York Times, David Sanger wrote about just how he's dealing with this trip. And obviously the concerns about Biden's age that is -- that is polls show, that is a predominant issue among the minds of many voters.

This is what Sanger wrote in the story. "Biden's argument reflects his certainty that this -- this is the moment he has trained for his entire political career, a point he often makes when challenged about his age. His sense of mission explains why at age 80, he has in the past eight months, visited two countries in the midst of active wars. What do you say, what do you think?

PARKER: No, this is true. I mean, for the White House, you get the message. And again, not to trivialize this with politics, as you mentioned, Manu. But you get a message an 80-year-old President going into the second war -- active war zone this year, right? I mean, and if -- if Biden strongest suit is consoler in chief, he's his second strongest suit as being, you know, to MJ's point, as a longtime member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well. He didn't, in this instance, he didn't necessarily gain points with domestic voters, but he didn't lose any as well.

What we have to remember is, the honeymoon of Biden's presidency started, I mean, excuse me, ended with a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, so you get punished for the foreign policy mistake.

RAJU: And we're going to pause this discussion about the politics, the campaign, how Biden is dealing with this significant conversation. But we also have CNN's Matthew Chance who is live in northern Israel. Matthew, you are with the troops who are preparing for the possibility of a second front in the north. How concerned is Israel that there could be an escalation with Hezbollah?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, and I think it's really concerned, Manu, not least because Hezbollah which is the Iranian backed militia in Lebanon, just across the border from here, is many times more powerful in terms of its missile arsenal than the militants in Hamas in Gaza are, and obviously forces are massing towards the Gaza Strip, in preparation for that widely anticipated land operation.


But the big concern is that Hezbollah could start really opening up its missile Arsenal here to areas in the north of the country already, the entire region has been evacuated of its people. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have now been pushed for the homeless, both from here in the upper Galilee region in northern Israel, but also in the South as well, fleeing from where those atrocities happened.

Last week, also, we've seen sort of tens of thousands of Israeli forces move up towards this northern border, in anticipation or defending against the possibility that there could be a second front opening up here now, Israeli political figures that we've spoken to in the military say they're not looking for that second front to open up, but if it does, the Israelis have been very clear that they will unleash absolute destruction on southern Lebanon, on Hezbollah oppositions there. They're basically appealed, essentially, or warned rather, is a better word, Hezbollah, not to drag Lebanon into -- into a destructive conflict. But nevertheless, tension is still very high.

RAJU: Yeah. Real fears of a regional war growing and escalating by the date. Matthew Chance stay safe. And thank you for that report on the ground here.

Back here in the panel here in Washington, they're dealing with the possibility of dealing with a significant aid package. That's what President Biden called for $105 billion, not just with Israel, but the aid to Ukraine, southern border dealing with some other partners as well helping with Taiwan -- the situation in Taiwan.

I want to listen to what Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who was on the Sunday shows this morning, rare appearance on the Sunday shows I might add. And the reason why he did it, was to try to make the case for tying the aid to Israel to the aid to Ukraine, something that President Biden is pushing for, but it's facing opposition, among other Republicans.


MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I know there are some Republicans in the Senate and maybe more in the House that think Ukraine is somehow different. I'd do it as all interconnected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You sound like you have a lot in common with President Biden, in his worldview, based on what you just laid out.

MCCONNELL: Well, not on the domestic side, but on this issue that we were discussing today. We generally in the same place.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: But how complicated is this going to be to get this through Congress, given the fact that -- first, the house can't even act on anything because they don't have a speaker? So we just reported in the last segment, but this is the politics and the GOP and dealing with this are very tricky right now.

KANE: Yes. McConnell is laying out something that is the standard way of doing things for the last 15 years. There are very big issues. People -- some people want to have Ukraine funding. Some people want to have Israel funding. A whole lot of Republicans want border security funding along our Southwest border with Mexico.

Let's just put it all together. Oh, don't forget Taiwan. You know, big China hawks, let's put all that together. We will get support from all these different places. Any senators will vote for it. Boom. The House Republicans hate that.

RAJU: Yeah.

KANE: We are in the situation we are in the House right now with no speaker I've lost track. What are we on day?

RAJU: This is day -- yeah, almost a 21, yeah.

KANE: You know, and House Republicans have been, you know, screaming for single issue bills, single issue bills, appropriations as just one measure. This is the anathema to what they have been trying to do over there. So, you know, you take away the idea that there's no speaker right now. I'm not even sure if Kevin McCarthy were around, that he still a speaker that he'd be able to get through the House.

RAJU: How concerned should the White House be about getting that aid through Congress?

TALEV: They are concerned but they should be happy to have an alliance with Mitch McConnell. And I think to the topic we were talking about just a comment a couple minutes ago, before we heard from Matthew Chance, this idea of why Biden is leaning so hard into his handling of foreign policy. It's not because Americans care that much about foreign policy, we know Gallup polling tells us, economy is by far, the top issue. A third of Americans say it's the top issue, nothing else even comes close. The other issues that are up there, though, strong and competent leadership in government and handling of immigration.

When you ask people how do you feel about this foreign policy, important as Russia important? You're getting barely single digits numbers. But if Joe Biden can take the national debate a little bit for a moment, away from the economy and to competent handling of major, major geopolitical moments that could impact people and could roll in immigration and some of this other stuff in that package, it has the support from a majority of Senate Republicans. That could be important, not just for him politically, but for a coalition to get this over the phone tomorrow.

RAJU: The polls show that while he is underwater and his approval ratings on the handling of his policy towards Israel and Ukraine, it is higher up than he is with the economy and overall in terms of how Americans view his handling of all those issues. That was a Quinnipiac poll last week and more I'm sure will be tested in the days ahead.


Next, Trump's courtroom campaign, all the latest legal and political developments up ahead.


RAJU: Donald Trump may have a new reason to worry, even as he maintains a commanding lead in the GOP primary, the criminal charges in four separate cases continue to loom. Now two of his co-defendants in the Fulton County Georgia election interference case have reached plea deals. Attorney Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro pled -- pleaded guilty to charges related to conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

Our panel is back with me here. Trump had a post about this morning. About Sidney Powell, who was one of those who pleaded guilty and is cooperating now with prosecutors, this is what he said, on Truth Social, he said, "Ms. Powell was not my attorney and never was." That was his post from this morning.


Well, turned back the clock to 2020, not too long ago, he said on Twitter, he said that, Sidney Powell added to our wonderful lawyers and representatives. And of course, she was at the November of 17 RNC press conference where Rudy Giuliani introduced her as a member of the legal team. She was in the Oval Office meetings with Trump and efforts trying to overturn the election. She was an attorney in the filings in Michigan. And in the plea deal for Georgia, specifically says she was an attorney for the campaign, which is the same thing as an attorney for Trump.

PARKER: Yes, I remember that time. I remember when there were measures at the White House to try to prevent her from getting in. And she still got in because she knew the VIP there as well, which is a former President Donald Trump. So there's that. I think what it -- what it shows, though, right, between Sidney Powell and Chesebro, is the fact that Powell is more of a threat, right? Again, I invoked the Oval Office meetings. What Chesebro maybe is more of a threat to John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and the lawyers who were advising Trump, Sidney Powell is privy to conversations one on one with the President about what was taking place during that -- that time period.

RAJU: And this class at Trump, someone gets close to him gets in trouble, could implicate him. I don't know him. I don't know her. That's what he says. That's what he does.

LEE: Yeah, and I think there are two things going on here that should be keeping Donald Trump up at night. One is you look at the calendar, and it is just extraordinary how besieged he is with court appointments, and these legal obligations. And so if you think about the 2024, general election coming up, that takes away a lot of time for him to be able to make any kind of case for himself as a candidate.

And second, to your point. These are not peripheral -- peripheral characters that we're talking about, right? A Sidney Powell or Chesebro, these are potentially people that could make the difference between there being evidence or not being evidence to make the case against Donald Trump. And I think for a long time, there was sort of this understanding or maybe an assumption that the inner circle around Donald Trump was not going to crack. But now it seems like that is totally shattered.

RAJU: Yeah. And there's been some issues that have played out here there was a gag order that was put in place in the D.C. gag order or the 2020 election fraud criminal case that is now being litigated today. It's been on freeze because of appeal that went through the appeals court. But that's the question is how Trump can manage this campaign while running for president, he was outside a civil case and last Wednesday in New York, trying to essentially use the courtroom as his campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: If I were president, Israel would not have been attacked, it was viciously attack, it would not have been attacked. Ukraine would not have been attacked. You take a look at what's going on throughout the world, the world right now is at mess.


RAJU: I'm not sure how Israel would not have been attacked or how Ukraine would not have been attacked, he doesn't explain that in the -- in that. But the larger point is that he is not, you know, you may be having rallies, but he views him going to these courthouse is what he can use to drive his message and drive attention to him and take attention away from his rivals.

TALEV: Yes, the courtroom has become the backdrop for the campaign, which tells you that he's not putting his eggs in the legal asset. He's putting his eggs in the political basket. If there are so many different ways to cut this data, if you look at the polling, Donald Trump still by far leads at least all the rest of his rivals in the dust for the GOP nomination. He's either ahead of within the margin of error, or ahead of slightly outside the margin of error, Joe Biden and a lot of national polls, but there are a couple of things to watch here, and one I think is that it's still early for most voters. And I've seen little bits of color from our colleagues who are out on the campaign trail at Republican rallies. There's this DeSantis, Nikki Haley, you know, battle for survival for number two. Everyone else is running out of money. I think we're about to see some consolidation sometime in the coming weeks in this race.

But one quote -- I wish I could remember whose story it was really stood out to me, it was a woman who went to a Nikki Haley thing, and she had been leaning more towards DeSantis, but she'd never heard Nikki Haley speak before.

RAJU: Yeah.

TALEV: I think we -- people are not paying attention the way we are paying attention right now, even inside the GOP base. So what Donald Trump can control is, at what point are --


RAJU: Voters going to --

TALEV: -- voters can start --

RAJU: -- tuning in, exactly. And to that point, I mean, there is a fight for the second place. You mentioned DeSantis versus Haley. It was in your paper, the Washington Post headline, Haley threatens to overtake DeSantis as Trump alternative sending sparks flying. I mean, that is really, really -- that's where things are. But they're still 40 points ahead, could they make up 40 points behind Trump? Can they make up that deficit at Iowa?

KANE: I think it's -- it's hard to envision because he is just sucking up all the oxygen right now. He continues to do so.


The better Haley performs, the more she might be setting herself up for 2028. The Republican Party has a long tradition, a lot of tradition has been broken in the last seven, eight years and Republican Party, but they do have a long tradition of that person who finished second, gets the leg up for the next go round. So if she continues to perform well, I don't think she'll end up on the VP slot. Exactly, Margaret.

RAJU: Yeah.

KANE: But she could be positioning herself to be a front runner in 2028, should Trump lose.

RAJU: The long game. We'll see how that plays out. Thank you guys. All right, coming up, Mitt Romney is doing -- doing his own name calling on his way out of Washington.



RAJU: Retiring Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney is not holding back on his way out of Washington. The New York Times published quotes from McKay Coppins new biography of the retiring Senator. Lines from Romney's journal called Senator Ted Cruz of Texas scary and a demagogue. And he recalls thinking former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich seemed like a smug know-it-all.

Romney has similarly harsh words for the current GOP primary field. He refers to Chris Christie's prima donna tendencies and calls him another bridge and tunnel loudmouth just like President Trump. Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney saved his most stinging words for the former president. And an email to Chris Christie in 2016, Romney said quote, "Trump is unquestionably mentally unstable, he is racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, vulgar and prone to violence. There is simply no rational argument that could lead me to vote for someone with those characteristics."

Now, what was Republican peers respond to him in kind or will they ignore him altogether? We shall see. That's it for Inside Politics Sunday. State of the Union is next. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. See you next time.