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Bleak New Polls For Biden With One Year Until Election Day; Biden Pressure To Push Israel For A "Pause" In Gaza; Dem Rep. Tlaib Accuses Biden Of Supporting Genocide; Aired 11-12 ET

Aired November 05, 2023 - 11:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Good morning, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

One year from today, America will be going to the polls to choose a president. And there are alarm bells going off inside the White House this morning. There are three big polls out about the race for the White House and none of it is good for Joe Biden. The race for president is decided state by state, not nationally.

So this morning, we want to focus on a series of battleground state polls for the New York Times.

In Nevada, Trump leads by 10. He leads by six in Georgia, five in Arizona, five in Michigan, and four in Pennsylvania.

Biden has just a narrow two-point lead in Wisconsin. Now Biden won all six of those states in 2020 and likely needs to win at least four of them to be reelected.

And if you dig a little deeper into the poll, things look even bleaker. Voters in the six states say Biden's policies have hurt them personally. And those numbers are flipped when you ask about Trump. More states, Trump's policies have helped them personally.

And then there are huge cracks in the coalition that won Biden the White House in 2020. Yes, he's leading among those demographics, but not by nearly as much as he needs to be. He's ahead of Trump among young voters in these battleground states by one point. Trump wins 22 percent of black voters, which would be historically huge measure for a Republican. And the margins are small for Biden among Hispanics and suburban voters.

So let's dig into all these numbers and the implications here with CNN's Melanie Zanona, CNN's Daniel Strauss, CNN's Isaac Dovere, and Seung Min Kim of the Associated Press. Good morning, everybody. Thank you for being here.

And, Isaac and several of you have been talking to your sources this morning. But, Isaac, I want to start with you about just what are you hearing about the Biden campaign, how they plan to deal with this? And is this going to prompt any change in strategy?

ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Oh, look, the Biden campaign feels, in terms of change in strategy, they have a strategy. They're basically sticking with it. The campaign officials that I've spoken with this morning say to me, they know these polls don't look good. But what they say is that, at this moment, the negative feelings about Biden are baked into the way people feel about him.

They haven't had the chance yet to make the positive argument for him and to get voters to think about that with all the campaigning and advertising they're going to do in the year ahead. They feel like also when you look at this as a question of Donald Trump versus Joe Biden, that a lot of voters, not only are they not clicked into the election yet, but they're not even thinking about Donald Trump as being the nominee. They haven't gotten to that stage of it. And in fact, he may not be the nominee.

Of course, though, what that means in these numbers might be that if someone others in Trump is the nominee, then all of those negatives that they're hoping will be attached to Donald Trump would not be there in the same way.

When you talk to other Democrats that are not on the Biden campaign, what they say is they know that Joe Biden is not going to be necessarily the person who's going to excite the voters and electrify the electorate.

RAJU: Yes.

DOVERE: But that what they need to do is to make this not a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, if that's what it is, but really a choice between two different visions of the country, two all the consequences that come with it.

RAJU: Right.

DOVERE: All the things about abortion, politics, and democracy, and all those things are part of it. That's -- and that Joe Biden will be the guy on the ballot.

RAJU: And you mentioned, they keep saying it's about a contrast. Once voters tune into the contrast, don't compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative. Biden's famous saying.

OK. Well, let's talk about these voters in that same New York Times story. They voted for Biden in 2020. This is about the voters in that poll story. They say the world is falling apart under Biden. That's from his voter name, Spencer Weiss, who's from Bloomberg, Pennsylvania.

He said, "I would much rather see somebody that I feel I can be a positive role model leader for the country. But at least I think Trump has his wits about him."

And then another person, "Travis Waterman from Phoenix, says, "I don't think he's the right guy to go toe-to-toe with these role leaders that don't respect him or fear him." He voted for Biden in 2020, but they see him as weak and now prefers Mr. Trump.

The same poll says that 71 percent of voters believe that Biden is 80, is too old. Even though he's only four years older than Donald Trump. Just 39 percent of voters believe that Trump is too old to be an effective president.

SEUNG MIN KIM, ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. And I think with the liabilities that are facing President Biden right now, obviously, some of those liabilities, the campaign can work to change. For example, voters sediment about the economy, certainly the contrasting effort that they're going to make.


But unfortunately for Democrats, President Biden is not getting younger. That is one thing that they cannot reverse. So they really have to kind of set that age issue aside, make light of it. President Biden, for months, has kind of, first of all, two things, he's been making -- you know, poking fun at himself and getting laughs out of the crowd that way, also pointing to age as a sign of wisdom.

But that is a vulnerability that is certainly not going to go away and perhaps aggravate as the months go on. I was actually really fascinated in the New York Times poll about how he's doing in Nevada. Because Nevada is a state that he did win in 2020, probably trending a little bit more blue in recent cycles.

But the fact that he's down 10, and again, we are a year out from the election, but him being down 10 points in that state, I would think -- well, he's really certainly raised my eyebrows. And --

RAJU: Yes.

KIM: -- Nevada didn't look for great Democrats either. In 2022, obviously did well there for the most part, but still that was really eye-catching.

RAJU: Absolutely. And what was also eye-catching, just the numbers on the issues. That's what ultimately determines the elections. Economy, of course, always a central issue. Economy, 59 percent believe that Trump would do a better job than Biden, 22 more, 22-point favorite on the issue of the economy. And then he leads down the line, only abortion, Biden has nine point lead.

And also another concern here is that voters under 30 trust Trump better by -- on the economy by 28 points. That is a demographic that the Biden campaign needs to come out and droves to help him win.

And this is how, you know, the Biden campaign recognizes fully that the economy is going to be central. They point to the positive numbers and positive signs in the economy. This is how they've messaged it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, unemployment is at record lows. Our economy leading the world. Joe Biden passed historic laws to rebuild the country. There are some who say America is failing, not Joe Biden.


RAJU: Look, there are clear economic indicators that things are better in the country and also they passed a slew of legislation in the first two years. But the challenges, of course, always are voters feeling.

DANIEL STRAUSS, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. There's a perception cliche of Democrats, which is that on the economy, they will tell you things are getting better. We've made everything better and the voters won't feel this.

So the Biden reelection team has to walk a tightrope here. On the one hand, they have to tell what they've done, but they also have to message at the same time, we know that you're still feeling the impacts of a negative economy, of inflation.

And we are working to improve that. We still feel your pain. And that's going to be a big, big factor for the Biden reelection campaign to take into account over this next year.

RAJU: And, of course, this is all going to prompt the discussion and within the Democratic Party about what to do about Biden, whether he's the best candidate for the job. David Axelrod, the Obama advisor tweeted this morning about whether it's wise for Biden to continue on here as the candidate, even though he will certainly get the nomination, Axelrod says, but can he win a general? That's going to be Joe Biden's decision, he said that, who caused tremors among Democrats, this poll according to Axelrod.

Now, there is a candidate in the race that's against Biden, Dean Phillips. He's a congressman from Minnesota. He just entered the race just a few days ago. He has been saying this all along that the polls are bad for Biden and Biden will lose.


REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): There's this bizarre and very dangerous culture of silence --


PHILLIPS: -- in Washington, in certain political, industrial, complex circles, that is dangerous. I mean, dangerous. And we are putting blinders on. It'll make 2016 look like a joyful year.


RAJU: So I asked Phillips this morning about this poll. He sent me back a message saying, I could offer no statement more powerful than the one made by suffering Americans in this poll. He goes on to say that as a Democrat nominee, he would defeat Trump and pass his bill on Worker Family Relief Act to address the economic tragedy crushing millions of our neighbors.

Do you expect, as we get back, Congress comes back to session this week, the Democrats to be in full-on panic mode, or will they join the Biden campaign and say, it's a year out, everything will be fine?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: I think privately there's going to be a lot of panic if you're a Democrat right now. I don't know if they're going to say that publicly, but certainly this type of polling does give salience to a Dean Phillips argument.

You look at the polling and it says, Trump actually loses to a generic Democrat. I think also this type of polling is going to take the wind out of the sails of some of the Republican candidates who are trying to take on Trump, particularly a Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley, who have made a huge part of their campaign on this idea that Trump is not electable in the general election, and that they are better positioned to beat Joe Biden. But clearly, based on this polling, again, only a year out, not necessarily.


DOVERE: Yes. The tricky thing, of course, for Democrats is, who would it be in this like fantasy scenario that someone would come in?

I had a piece that came up last week about Democrat saying, look, it's time to get on the train, Gretchen Whitmer, among the people saying that, because they feel like actually all these doubts that they've had over the last year, have seeded some of Joe Biden's problems here.

And so they are going to have to figure out here what they do. Of course, if Joe Biden somehow said he wasn't running, then I think we'd be back here in a couple of weeks having the discussion about the Democrats and disarray not being able to figure out who could be popular. That's the problem that they've got here with Trump continuing to show strength.

RAJU: And what's remarkable, of course, is Trump has, obviously, so many legal problems. He's got four criminal indictments, something we've never seen before. These are very, very serious allegations. Some of these can go to trial before the election. He's going to testify tomorrow in court in a civil fraud trial.

And all these problems, though, are helping him in the primary. And they don't seem to be hurting him in the general election according to these polls today.

KIM: Right. And it could be the argument that a lot of voters, a lot of these swing voters, aren't necessarily tuned into the intricacies of Trump's legal problems. But at least in the primary, he has somehow turned 91 criminal indictments and a host of civil issues into a strength. His messaging has been that they're coming after me because I am fighting for you.

He has somehow made his legal problems about the very voters that he is trying to keep in his camp. And it has worked, which is why you are seeing beyond just the long loyalty that Republican primary voters have had for Trump. It's why he is continuing to lead and all of the Republican primary early states and all of the polling.

The only person that seems to be gaining any traction is Nikki Haley as of late when you see it --

RAJU: Yes.

KIM: -- in the Republican debate on --

RAJU: She's still -- she's still --

KIM: But she's still significantly from behind.

RAJU: Forty some odd points.

KIM: Exactly.

ZANONA: I do think the one area that you saw in that polling where Biden is leading on Trump is abortion. And I think on Tuesday, we're going to get a really clear preview of whether that is still a potent issue for Democrats. There's elections in Virginia. There's an Ohio ballot initiative on Tuesday and both parties are testing out their messages.

Republicans, for the first time, are actually punching back, trying to actually respond instead of ignore it. We'll see how that plays out on Tuesday.

RAJU: And it's such a good point because in Ohio, there's a referendum there on abortion to constitutionalized state rights. So far, pro- abortion rights efforts have succeeded in six states so far, including in places like Kansas and Kentucky, red states, Virginia, the legislative races. That will be a big test. Abortion is a big issue there. So we'll see. A year out. A lot can happen. The issues could change. We'll see the candidates do too.

All right. Next, President Biden faces pressure to bridge the growing Democratic divide on the Middle East.

And later, my exclusive one-on-one with Congressman George Santos. Hear what he had to say about the calls for his expulsion and the 23 federal criminal charges he's facing, coming up.



RAJU: Welcome back to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I want to turn to the Middle East where Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the West Bank today for an unannounced visit to meet with the president of the Palestinian Authority.

Now Blinken has spent the weekend in the region trying to thread the needle between Israel's right to defend itself and growing calls for a ceasefire to stop the suffering in Gaza.

Here's how White House's Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer described the meetings just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JONATHAN FINER, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The number of the Arab countries are calling for a ceasefire. Secretary Blinken spoke quite clearly to why we believe now is not the time for an overall ceasefire, although we have made clear that we would support and are advocating for humanitarian pauses.

But I think underneath that area of disagreement, there is actually a lot of alignment among the United States and our Arab partners on the fact that we cannot go back to a pre-October 7th mindset.


RAJU: Now President Biden says there's progress in achieving a humanitarian pause in Gaza, but Israel's airstrikes are not stopping. This video shows the aftermath from a strike this morning. And as the civilian death toll rises, Biden is losing patience in his own party.

CNN's Dan Bash asked Senator Bernie Sanders about that moments ago.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Israel has the right to defend itself. Hamas has sworn. That's what its goal is to destroy Israel. They got to deal with that. But there got to be a better way than killing thousands of men, women, and children.

So, once again, the immediate concern is you've got to have a pause in the bombing. You've got to take care of the immediate disaster.


RAJU: Seung, when you covered the White House with the Associated Press, you've heard about the outreach to Muslims from the White House this past week. How are they trying to balance? How's the president trying to balance this humanitarian crisis that's happening in Gaza with showing this resolute support for Israel?

KIM: It is a really difficult line to walk because from October 7th on, they have made clear there's staunch support for Israel. Israel's military actions. They've made it clear when we've asked them that they are not going to dictate what Israel's military does.

But they say in public -- more increasingly in public, and they say they've relayed this sentiment in private that Israel really does have to keep the toll on civilians in mind. And you see that coming as you're seeing growing pressures and growing unease from members of his own party about Israel's actions.

I was really struck by Chris Murphy's statement late last week. He is someone who is a defender of the administration when it comes to its foreign policy decisions.

And the fact that he said this is, you know, basically this is going too far, this is -- there needs to be some sort of a course change. I think that's indicative of what a lot of Democratic lawmakers feeling right now. But it is -- but Israel is an incredibly important issue for President Joe Biden. It is an issue with him that goes back decades. And it's really hard. How do you -- you see no scale that support back without angering your Israeli allies and other people and hear who are very supportive of Israel, it's a -- it's really hard to do.

RAJU: You know, as we talked about in the last segment, that this is all playing out in the presidential campaign. And this is obviously an issue that a lot of voters care deeply about.

And, Isaac, you have a story out today about just the tension here within the Democratic Party. And there's the headline of your story there by needs grapple with 2024. Outreach is Israel-Hamas war exposes cracks in coalition. Is there tension or frustration between the White House and the president's handling this issue and what the campaign wants the president to do?

DOVERE: Well, look, as I'm saying, Israel, for Joe Biden, is not an issue about politics. He feels it in his core. It goes to things that he thinks about right and wrong. And he is not going to back away from his support of Israel, even if you told him that it's a political liability.

That being said, some people even in the West Wing have told him, it is looking like a political liability. And so what you've seen out of the White House is this push to connect with Muslim-Americans and Arab-Americans that has been off to a somewhat rocky start.


For example, someone told me that one of the first e-mails that went out to a list of their Muslim supporters was addressed salams (ph) with an S at the end, right? Just like giving that typo and figuring out what to do. But they have been working at and really connecting with a lot of people that way, starting to build that up.

They've also been reaching out to a lot of Jewish supporters around the country. I think it's important here. We sometimes talk only about where the critics are and where the opponents are. But there are a lot of people who seem to have been drawn to connect to Biden on this.

A lot of Jewish Americans you talk to. And we can think about this as states that have really large Muslim populations like Michigan and Minnesota and Georgia. But those states also have large Jewish populations.

RAJU: Yes.

DOVERE: And so, you know, it's all these things in the balance.

RAJU: So, yes. I'm glad you brought both of those things up.

First, just look at how the polls, what the polls are saying. Quinnipiac Poll, do you approve how Israel is responding to the attack? Democrats, just 33 percent support Israel's response to the Hamas terror attack. And the 49 percent say no according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

Then you talk about the battleground states, Michigan, being so critical. This is one that even Democrats recognize it could slip away, depending on how Biden handles this issue.

One of our colleagues, Diane Gallagher, was out in Michigan, spoke to a number of voters, Muslim voters, Arab voters in Michigan, and asked them about Joe Biden.


EMAN HAMMOUD, MICHIGAN IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have said absolutely 100 percent, no doubt about it. But honestly, the past few weeks have changed everything.

HUSSEIN DABAJEH, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I will gladly turn in an empty ballot.

SAM BAYDOUN, WAYNE COUNTY COMMISSIONER: If the election was to be held today, I can't promise you that he will get five votes from Arab- Americans in the city of Dearborn.


STRAUSS: Look, I mean, that's my home state. And it's shocking and important for any political team to realize that there is a large, very active Muslim population in Michigan. And there is an equally large, very active, very politically conscious Jewish population in Michigan. And there's no better sort of petri dish for sentiment among those two groups.

I also just want to, like, point out here that for Republicans, this topic is not really international relations. It is a question about foreign -- about Biden's competency. So when they attack him on his handling of this crisis in Gaza, when they attack him on Afghanistan, they all want to tie this to whether Biden is up to the job, up to handling a major world crisis like this. It's -- and they think that that is effective for the voters that they're reaching out to this election cycle.

RAJU: And there's one Michigan Democratic Congressman, Rashida Tlaib we're shooting to leave. She is someone who has gotten a lot of attention. She's Palestinian-American. She has not directly condemned the Hamas attack. She also had this warning for the president as well.


REP. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): Mr. President, the American people are not with you on this one.

We will remember in 2024.


RAJU: I mean, one of the things there that she's talked about from the river to the sea, she calls it an aspirational call for freedom. It's widely viewed as an anti-Semitic remark too.

DOVERE (PH): I mean, it's an anti-Israel.

RAJU: Yes, anti-Israel common -- real inquirer for Hamas to get rid of the Jewish state. Democrats -- how are Democrats are dealing with Rashida Tlaib right now?

ZANONA: Well, there was an effort led by Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has her own history of anti-Semitic remarks to censure her, which is a formal reprimand in the House. No Democrat supported that. Even Democrats who have been critical of Tlaib behind closed doors, or even publicly in some cases, they really took issue with the fact that it was Marjorie Taylor Greene leading that resolution.

But this is -- Tlaib has really come to be the face of the divide in the Democratic Party over Israel. It's a generational divide. I think that's also what you're saying reflected in how Biden has been handling this situation.

But I will say there has been a slight shift in tone from Democrats on the hill who are largely giving Israel the benefit of the doubt when it came to their military strategy. Now, they are saying things, like, well, maybe this could backfire. We need a more surgical approach.

RAJU: Yes.

ZANONA: We need a pause for humanitarian aid to get in. And you are seeing that somewhat reflected in the way Biden is now talking about this. He is mentioning the civilian toll more and more than he speaks publicly. So I do think there is an effort to try to nod to that side of the party. But it has created real divisions in the Democrat Party as we've seen.

DOVERE: Rashida Tlaib, she's Palestinian-American. She's been very clear on where she is on this issue for a long time. I'm not sure that she demonstrates that where this divide is at this point.

As much as, for example, on Friday night, there was a big gathering of Obama campaign alumni in Chicago. Thousands of them were there. And he did a live interview about the pods of America. And he spoke -- I'm talking about the occupation in Israel. And he talked about anti- Semitism. He talked about all these things.

When he talked about anything that was defending Israel or condemning anti-Semitism, there was silence in the room. When he talked about how there needs to be a Palestinian state, there needs to be a change in what's going on Gaza, there were cheers and applause. That is one measure of where things are, at least among some parts of the Democratic Party.


RAJU: Yes. So much will continue to play out as this war carries on.

And coming up for us, he's one of the most famous people on Capitol Hill, but for all the wrong reasons. My exclusive interview with Congressman George Santos, next.


RAJU: Would you acknowledge though, fabricating large portions of your life. So why do that? I'm just wondering, people want to know why. Why did he do it?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Manu, Manu, we've gone through this.


RAJU: A year ago, few ever heard the name George Santos. But after winning a House in 2022, much of his life was exposed as a lie. He became a joke on late night T.V. and a pariah in Congress.

And when he arrived in Washington 10 months ago, he wanted nothing to do with those of us in the Capitol Hill Press corps.


RAJU: Mr. Santos, why did you lie to your voters about your qualifications, your past, being Jewish?

What has the speaker said to you, Mr. Santos?

REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): When you stop lying in your bad reporting, I will start talking to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, wait. You actually were on a volleyball team? Is that right?

RAJU: What was the source of your funds, sir? What was the source of that money?

So, are you saying you're planning to change your campaign finance filings? You have not done that yet. Why is that? Why haven't you explained -- why haven't you explained that yet?


RAJU: He has a very different attitude now. He agreed to sit with me on Friday, even as he's facing 23 federal criminal charges related to, among other things, how he raised and spent money for his campaign. He has pleaded not guilty. He did notch a win last week when the House defeated a resolution to expel him from Congress, but that could be short-lived.

The House Ethics Committee is nearly done with its own investigation of Santos, and that could trigger another expulsion vote. He told me that, even if he loses that vote, he will run again in 2024.


RAJU: So, if they expel you, and then they put someone else in the seat, you're going to run in 2024?

SANTOS: Absolutely.

RAJU: Uh-huh. Can you win a primary, given of all these --


RAJU: -- things that are lined up against you?


RAJU: -- and the general election? This is a --

SANTOS: Well --

RAJU: -- Biden-leaning district. And you have all these issues against you?

SANTOS: Could I have won the general election last time? Nobody said I could. But I survived.

RAJU: It was a different situation.

SANTOS: No, I understand. But elections are tricky. There -- there's no predetermined outcome.

RAJU: What is the rationale for running for reelection? Why should a voter entrust you with two more years?

SANTOS: Manu, I --

RAJU: What have you done to deserve reelection?

SANTOS: Manu, I'm the most conservative New Yorker in the entire delegation with the most conservative record of all my colleagues.

I'm the only one that, if you look at my campaign website and the campaign promises, as far as policies I made, I haven't broke a single promise. You look at all my other colleagues, they all break promises, they all bend and vote one way or another to benefit whatever special interest is in this town.

RAJU: But they're not facing federal charges.

SANTOS: That's fine. But here's -- at the end of the day, the people are sick and tired. I go back home. I go into, you call it rallies, protests. I'm in the fray with them. They love it, because I represent their voice here. They like the fact that I'm a scrappy guy. I come here, I do my job, and they feel like it's one of them here.

RAJU: So, the -- on these charges, is there any chance you would accept a plea deal?

SANTOS: Well, I'm not exploring any of that right now, right? Those conversations are yet to be had.

RAJU: But they may happen?

SANTOS: I don't know. I don't know. Right now, I'm pretty focused on my defense and putting together my defense with my attorneys.

RAJU: But you're not ruling out a plea deal?


SANTOS: I'm not saying I'm not -- I'm not saying I'm not ruling it out. As of right now, it's not on the table.

RAJU: Yes, but, as of tomorrow, it could be, I suppose.

SANTOS: Like I said, I don't know.

RAJU: The feds are saying that you and your campaign treasurer conspired to make it appear your campaign was hitting fund-raising benchmarks to get on the radar of GOP officials. You say -- did you know about this?

SANTOS: Manu, I never, ever submitted or even looked at a single report. So, obviously --

RAJU: But -- yes.

SANTOS: -- for me to sit here and unpack this for you --

RAJU: Yes.

SANTOS: -- I essentially ruin my defense.

RAJU: Sure. I understand that.

SANTOS: Look, I can just tell you this, to save you the time.

RAJU: Yes. Yes.

SANTOS: As far as all the allegations, remember how a campaign works. I'm a candidate. Candidates do not handle money. Candidates do not handle finances. Candidates do not handle filings.

I don't even know what the FEC filing system looks like, to give you a well-rounded --

RAJU: But they say that you have -- they have text messages and emails where you guys are talking about all of this.

SANTOS: I would love to see them.

RAJU: Do you not believe what it says in the indictment?

SANTOS: It's not that I don't believe. It's really easy to take things out of context.

RAJU: Because one of the things they say is that there's a $500,000 loan that you made.

SANTOS: Oh, I made the $500,000 loan.

RAJU: But you had $800 -- $8,000 in your bank account. And they say there's no evidence that that $500,000 loan was made.

SANTOS: Like I said, I made -- I made -- I can guarantee you that I made the financial loans to my campaign that are on the record.

RAJU: So -- but, even though you didn't have the money in your account? So, where did you do -- where did that come from?

SANTOS: I'm very interested to know where they get that information.

RAJU: So, that's -- that, you're saying is completely --


SANTOS: I'm totally going to defend that, yes, 100%.

RAJU: Because Nancy Marks, your treasurer, she said in court: "I did these things in agreement with Co-Conspirator Number One" -- that's you -- "for his benefit to obtain money for the campaign by artificially inflating his funds to meet thresholds set by a national political committee."

So why would she say that?

SANTOS: People will say whatever they have to say, cut whatever deal they have to cut in order to save their hide. And this isn't surprising. I don't know why people are so stuck --

RAJU: So, she's making this up in court?

SANTOS: I'm not accusing her of anything. All I'm saying is, she has her story. I'm going to come with my facts, and I'm going to tell my side of the story.

RAJU: Because they're saying that you got credit card information from donors and jacked up their contributions beyond the federal campaign finance limits. And --

SANTOS: I don't even -- I didn't --

RAJU: I can show you the citations.

SANTOS: No, no, I have seen the citations, Manu.

RAJU: Yes.

SANTOS: I didn't even handle donations. A lot of that happened in our campaign. And whenever people say, oh, got charged again, we would refund them. It's on the reports. At least, to the best of my knowledge, we would refund them.


RAJU: They're saying the donor contacted you directly.

SANTOS: Yes, look, I'm not going to get into specifics. I can say that I did not handle donations in my campaign. RAJU: Because, in one case, it says it even went to your personal bank account --


RAJU: -- roughly $12,000, you bought designer goods. You benefit yourself with a donor's money.

SANTOS: So, essentially -- essentially, everything I do, everything I have ever spent in my account is going to be deemed as, oh, my God, George Santos stole money. George Santos bought designer clothes. That's what I buy. I mean, I have been a client of the same stores for many years. And if you go and you go through my closet, you will see. It's not like I amassed and bought all my clothes, all my shoes in the last campaign.

RAJU: OK. So, there -- so, obviously, you're very much denying that. Are you also -- you had mentioned that perhaps there was some issue with the jobless benefits, because the allegation in the indictment is that you defrauded them, pretended you were unemployed. There were $24,000 in jobless benefits. Is that true?

SANTOS: Look, I'm not going to get into the -- to the -- to the nitty-gritty of the pandemic. I beg -- I beg defer to say that the entire country can get indicted, I'm pretty sure, based on how crazy times were.

RAJU: So -- but you admit there was something amiss?

SANTOS: I'm not admitting anything.

RAJU: Yes.

SANTOS: I'm saying that I did, in my defense, what I think I was qualified for.

Now, let's make this very clear. In any other circumstance, a person that goes and takes a -- a unemployment check and then, God willing, like, oh, no, you actually didn't qualify because you quit, you were not terminated, so you didn't qualify for benefits, you don't indict that person.

You know what? Every single time it happens, they go ahead and deduct it from your taxes. They put a lien on you, oh, you can't take unemployment benefits, oh -- every year. They will just chip away at it slowly.

I got indicted. So, just put that on the scale.

RAJU: So, you're saying this is a common error?

SANTOS: I'm not saying common error.

RAJU: Twenty-four thousand dollars is a lot of money.

SANTOS: I'm not saying common error. And I'm not saying $24,000 is not a lot of money. I'm just saying there's people out there who have gone through this process of overtaking a check or two or whatever the case is, and then just having to pay it back. But nobody gets criminally indicted. It's crazy.

RAJU: In the indictment, it says -- and this is the serious part -- about filing false reports with the House, allegedly, financials. They said you made up your income. And that could be a problem for your ethics problem.

What happened? I mean, did you not list your income properly here?

SANTOS: All I can say is, first, no, that's not true. Second, were there mistakes made on those forms? I'm -- now I know they were. Was I -- were they malicious? No. And I'm a new candidate, and I'm sorry that, like, mistakes were made. But it's another -- here's another thing. Every time somebody suspects there's a mistake on your ethics report, do you know what happens? The Ethics Committee reaches out and said, hey, this looks funky. Guess what happened? That never happened.

RAJU: So you acknowledge mistakes were made on your income?

SANTOS: I have acknowledged that -- not -- my income on the forms.

RAJU: Yes.

SANTOS: I have acknowledged that.

RAJU: How did it happen?

SANTOS: Manu, I did -- I didn't understand the forms. That's just plain and simple.

RAJU: But you filled out those forms?

SANTOS: With some help, but, most of them, yes.

RAJU: I'm wondering just, running a campaign, you're putting this a lot on the treasurer. You're the chief of the campaign.

SANTOS: That's not true.

RAJU: You're not -- but you're in charge, right?


SANTOS: No, that's not true.

RAJU: Should the buck stop with you, is my question.

SANTOS: Well, the buck should stop at the candidate. That's true.

RAJU: I want to take you back to the scene on the House floor this week. It was so intense. You know, you heard from your colleagues going after you in very, very personal terms. Before we get into the details of it, what was that moment like for you? SANTOS: Oh, you know, that moment for me was -- at that point, I understood politics. It doesn't matter what side you're on. It's about political expedience. And I understood that wholeheartedly at that point.

RAJU: So, the New York freshman Republicans are doing this for --

SANTOS: Yes, I -- it's all political. They wanted to go on the record that they so much so reject me that they did this on the House floor, so they can save face locally back home.

I'm not going to sit here and continuously debate my entire life. Look, as a human being, have I made mistakes? Have I -- and have I owned up to them? Yes, I have. But it feels like everybody wants to obsess over that.

I wish you --


RAJU: But it's kind of important, right, like what you said about your past.

SANTOS: Well, it is important. No, look, it's important, Manu. It would be also important if every single person in this building with a glass house stopped throwing stones at other people and started looking at themselves, right? Because I'm pretty sure there's a lot of things that these guys don't talk about themselves that they would hate for me to come here and sit and talk to you about.

RAJU: Sure.

SANTOS: There's so many more questions that can be asked, but you all insist on going down the same path.

RAJU: Look, it's important because your voters --

SANTOS: It's important.

RAJU: Your voters thought they were electing one person.

SANTOS: Manu, nobody elected me --

RAJU: And that wasn't true.

SANTOS: Nobody elected me because I played volleyball or not. Nobody elected me because I graduated college or not. People elected me because I said I'd come here to fight the swamp, I'd come here to lower inflation, create more jobs, make life more affordable, and the Commitment to America. That's why people voted for anybody. To say that they voted based on anybody's biography, I can beg you this. Nobody knew my biography. Nobody opened my biography who voted for me in the campaign.

[11:40:05] RAJU: But you -- but you acknowledge, though, fabricating large portions of your life. So, why did that -- I'm just wondering. People want to know why. Why did he do it?

SANTOS: Manu, Manu, we have gone through this. I have gone through this on "Piers Morgan."

RAJU: Sure.

SANTOS: I have gone through this on "Erin Burnett."

RAJU: Sure. But it's still a question. It's still a question.

SANTOS: Like, I get it. How about we talk -- look, we all -- we know all the --


RAJU: But can you just answer me, but why? But why?

SANTOS: I have already told you this. It's insecurity, stupidity. I don't know. Look, I'm human. We make mistakes. I have apologized, and I will continue to apologize profusely for this, and with remorse. I -- look, I am the first one to jump and say, I messed up. I made a mistake. Let me fix this.

RAJU: Tell me what this year has been like for you.


RAJU: Hell?

SANTOS: Hell. Hell in the most profound way.


RAJU: And he also said he did not regret running for office.

OK up next, the new House Speaker sets the stage for a huge battle with the White House. But can Republicans get on the same page?



RAJU: New House Speaker Mike Johnson has started to detail how he plans to govern after weeks of turmoil by keeping the House GOP united even if their bills have no chance of becoming law. He pushed through an Israel aid package with cuts to the IRS and without money for Ukraine, setting the stage for a huge showdown with the Senate and the White House. And oh, yes, a government shutdown looms at the end of next week. And both chambers are nowhere near a plan to avert it. Of course, Johnson is facing anger also from hard right members, who were calling for a much more aggressive approach with the White House and with Democrats.


REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R) GEORGIA: Republican voters across the country are sick and tired of Republicans because they never do anything to hold -- hold this government accountable.

Republicans go out on the campaign trail and go on TV and do their five-minute hearing videos and post up on social media and say all this garbage about how they're going to fight it and stop it. Well, I feel like many of the American people that think that Republicans in Congress completely failed them. I feel the same way. And I'm a Republican member of Congress.


RAJU: Now Greene also warned Johnson that he agrees to a deal for billions in aid to Ukraine. The MAGA bass, she said will be, quote, "absolutely furious." Seung Min and Melanie are back with me.

I mean, the big question for Johnson, he got that first bill done, but he has to compromise in order to get a deal with the Senate and with the White House, to keep the government open, open potentially aid to Ukraine. How do we think he's going to deal with that more complicated issues of compromise, consensus and deal cutting?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. Well, Speaker Jonhson has made clear that at least out the gate, his priority is passing bills that can pass the House GOP. He doesn't want to rely on Democratic support. And he's not even taking into account what Senate Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell are saying. He could have had a massive blow-up bipartisan vote if he just had a standalone Israel bait aid package. Instead, he conditioned it upon IRS spending cuts, and made it a partisan exercise.

The question, of course is, when is he going to compromise? Will he compromise? And can he do that without sparking a right-wing revolt? That was the challenge that Kevin McCarthy face. And he'll have the same problem.

RAJU: Exactly, both on keeping the government open and potentially aid to Ukraine. He suggested you could compare aid to Ukraine with changes to make stricter border policies. Marjorie Taylor Greene, for instance, would not accept that.

This Republicans view support for Ukraine, according to a recent Gallup poll 62% in October of 2023, see, the U.S. is doing too much to support Ukraine. That is up 12 points in the past year. I mean, this is the real challenge for the White House, Seung Min, is about the Republican divisions on Ukraine. As they're saying, this is necessary now to support them in this war against Russia.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. It is strategically why the White House wanted and many Democrats and even some Republicans want to group all of that aid together, aid to Israel, aid to Ukraine, along with some changes to the border -- or changes to border money and also Taiwan as well. But you do see -- because they kind of see this as the last sort of

big package that could move before the 2024 elections. But we know that if this continues on, and if you try to have a vote on this in an election year, it would become much more toxic. But it's certainly causing a lot of tensions within the White House and against Speaker Johnson right now. I wrote about this and my story this morning, kind of detailing the White House's growing relationship to the extent that they have one with us, Speaker Johnson.

And the first big clash that Speaker Johnson had with White House officials was in that Situation Room briefing the day after he became speaker. He made it clear to them in this two-hour briefing that Israel had to get separated out from -- from Ukraine aid. And this got a lot of pushback from the administration officials, Dem lawmakers, and even some Republicans in the room. But Johnson is unapologetic at this point. And I think that's kind of how he's going to be governing for at least a little bit.

RAJU: Yeah, I mean, that's the big question, right? They still on an unknown quantity, how they can --

ZANONA: Yeah. And the relationship between him and Mitch McConnell is also interesting. They have not even met before Mike Johnson became Speaker, which is pretty remarkable. But Mitch McConnell for him, Ukraine aid is a legacy issue. And it is put him out of step with members of his own party, which is kind of unusual spot to see Mitch McConnell. The problem for Johnson is that without Republicans in the Senate unified behind him and his strategy, it makes it harder --

RAJU: Yeah.

ZANONA: -- for Johnson to pursue that approach. So we'll see what happens. But time is running out. And there's a sense that all of this might get wound up together with the government funding deadline, November 17. It could all become another big cliff for them.

RAJU: Yeah. The Senate Republican House Republican dynamic, we'll see how that plays out as they avoid a government shutdown. Can they avoid government shutdown? We'll see. Thank you both.

Coming up, more from my interview with Congressman George Santos as he tries to dispel doubts about one of his most controversial claims.



RAJU: Congressman Santos now admits that he's never graduated from college, wasn't a volleyball star and did not work at Goldman Sachs. But he told me he still plans to prove that one of his most seemingly outlandish claims is actually true, that, despite being raised Roman Catholic, his mother's family is Jewish and his grandparents did flee Ukraine during the Holocaust.

He made the claim about his heritage several times throughout his campaign, once referring to himself in a campaign document as a proud American Jew. But, last December, CNN and other outlets reviewed genealogy sites that showed his maternal grandparents were born in Brazil and found no evidence that they ever lived in or fled from Europe.

But here's what he told me on Friday.


SANTOS: It's true.

RAJU: It's true?

SANTOS: Oh, it's true. I took -- I spent the last 10 months, DNA, hiring genealogists to actually go --

RAJU: Because there's -- I don't think there's any -- is there -- is there documentation of this?

SANTOS: Oh, that's what I spent the last 10 months doing, putting together. But, unfortunately, Ukraine is in the middle of a fricking war. And my grandfather comes from Ukraine. So this is -- this is the biggest lift that I have had to do my entire life. But that's something I'm going to -- I'm going to die -- I'm going to prove before I die, because the reality is, I never said I was Jewish. I would always joke. For years, I'd say I'm Jew-ish.


I was raised Roman Catholic. I said that in the middle of RJC just last year, a year from today just last year, in Las Vegas. I joked on the mic, said, "I am, after all, Jew-ish," joking. Everybody thought it was funny. Everybody knew what I was talking about, where I was coming from.

And then for me to sit here and be like, wait, this is something I have always made very clear, I'm Catholic, come from a Jewish family, here's my Jewish family's history. Why is this now a problem?

RAJU: But you have -- just to make clear, you have documented proof that your grandparents fled the Holocaust?

SANTOS: I am working on finishing getting the last pieces of it, specifically the piece in Brazil, where they go to Brazil, and then have documents forged, so that they can blend in and all of that.

And once I have everything ready, I will allow the same company I hired to submit the report to the press, with glee, because that is going to be that one thing that I'm going to be able to say, I never intended to hurt anybody. I never wanted anybody to feel like I misrepresented myself or my family's heritage. That's -- I will not stop working until I have every single part of that put together.


RAJU: That's it for "Inside Politics Sunday." Up next, "State of the Union" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. And Happy Birthday to my twins, Sonya and Sanjay, early 8th birthday tomorrow. See you next time.