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Inside Politics

Any Moment: Biden To Speak On Ukraine Funding Right; Biden To Speak As Prospects For New Ukraine Running Look Grim; Kevin McCarthy To Leave Congress At The End Of This Year; CNN poll: Approval Falls Within Key Groups In Biden Coalition; CNN Poll: 2/3 Disapprove Of Biden Handling Of Economy; Tonight: DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy & Christie To Debate; Trump To Fox: I Won't Be A Dictator "Except For Day One"; Trump Avoids Questions About Abusing Power, Won't Rule It Out. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 06, 2023 - 12:00   ET



DANA BASH, CNN HOST: Welcome to Inside Politics. We are in the middle of a very busy day here in Washington. We're standing by for President Biden to speak on the dire situation in Congress. It fails to approve more money for Ukraine and agreement on Capitol Hill is looking quite grim right now. As the White House is already been warning about the dangerous stakes for the U.S. now the president is going to weigh in. And lawmakers, it's very -- up in the air whether or not they're going to act.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is at the White House, Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Priscilla, I want to start with you. What are you hearing about what the president will say?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president is going to take an urgent tone on passing this supplemental request recall, Danna, that when they introduced this request in October, the president addressed the nation. He's also gone to the pages of The Washington Post to express how important it is that this has passed.

And the resounding message from the president has been that this supplemental request in aid to Ukraine and to Israel is not just about helping these countries abroad, but it goes directly to the national security of the United States. And that is likely what he is going to say today.

Now, just to remind viewers, this is a $105 billion supplemental request. It includes $61 billion in aid to Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, and $14 billion for border security, among other asks. But it is the part about border security and border policy, where this has hit a snag. Republicans have wanted robust policy changes to pass this supplemental.

Now this of course, comes at a delicate time for the White House, which is seeing high encounters on the U.S.-Mexico border. And what the White House has said is that this supplemental request includes funds to assist with that and that they have also tried to pass policies to stem the flow. But of course, all of this just taking on added urgency by the end of this month.

BASH: Thank you so much Priscilla, for that reporting. Let's pick this story up on Capitol Hill where the action or maybe inaction is right now. Manu, what are you hearing today from your sources, from lawmakers about whether there's been any movement at all?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Prospects, Dana, for passage of this massive aid package aren't as grim as ever. Many fear that Ukraine aid simply will not pass in this Congress and that there could lead to the collapse of that country in its war against Russia, and with it, Israel funding as well.

Amid this dispute over border security, border policies and demands by Republicans to change the laws to deal with the migrant crisis at the border. Those proposed changes are bridge too far for Senate Democrats. And they are saying that they will not accept it.

Now the concern is going to be what will happen after the Senate Republicans later this afternoon plan to block a measure to actually fund Ukraine, fund Israel, provide money for border security but does not institute those changes -- the policy changes that they have been demanding. But Republicans I talked to even the ones who are staunch supporters of Ukraine say that blocking this measure will send a message to the administration that is time to cut a deal to their liking on the border.


SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): We have to be concerned with our safety at home and our way are not safe and sound and it's getting worse. This is a chronic situation that we have to fix.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): We've told the Democrats in the very beginning. Ukraine aid needs to be paired with a provision to stop the flood at the border. The vote will just indicate, yeah, we're serious. We met what we said. We said what we met.


RAJU: But even if there was a deal on immigration, which is far, far away. Getting a bill through Congress would still be enormously challenging because of the divisions between the House and the Senate on how to proceed. The Senate -- the House Speaker Mike Johnson has made clear he wants to move Israel aid first and not Ukraine aid.

Democrats and the White House want to move it all together. The speaker wants to cut funding to offset the spending in that emergency aid package. And then you just talk about the policy over immigration where the two parties have been unable to find any accord on this interactable issue for decades, which is leading many to raise concerns about the inability of Congress to find a solution at this key moment.


As the White House warns the inability of Congress to pass this could lead to Ukraine being kneecapped at the worst possible time. And its war against Russia, not to mention Israel aid is falling by the wayside as well, many conservatives a moment with no way out of this impasse at this key moment. Dana?

BASH: All right. And again, just to remind our viewers, we are waiting for President Biden to speak any moment on this very issue that Manu -- that was talking about Priscilla as well. We said there's a lot of breaking news this hour. This now Kevin McCarthy is resigning. The ousted speaker announced today that he will leave Congress by the end of this year. He did so in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

I want to get to Melanie Zanona on Capitol Hill. Melanie, this is obviously big news because he is the former House Speaker. But it also -- is about the very, very narrow majority that the House Republicans already have. It will at least for a short time be even smaller.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yeah, that's exactly right. This is only going to complicate the GOP's already difficult math problem in the House. After they expelled George Santos last week. Republicans right now can only afford to lose three Republicans on any party line votes.

That number is going to go down to two Republicans once Kevin McCarthy leads. And that is something that is not lost on members. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was a staunch ally of Kevin McCarthy summed it up best when she said, I hope no one dies.

A very succinct grim reference to the idea that the House Majority right now is so tenuous, especially when you have such a chaotic and rambunctious group of Republicans, the same Republicans that ultimately forced Kevin McCarthy out of this speakership last month or back in October, I should say. So, a huge political and practical implications here with this decision.

Now, it was highly anticipated and long expected. In fact, me and my colleague, Pamela Brown, reported in October that it was expected he was going to step down. McCarthy denied it at the time, said he was even going to seek reelection. Clearly, that is not the case. And he has found that adjusting from life as a speaker to a rank-and-file member has been difficult. There's been a lot of bad blood in the conference since then. So, it's unclear what Kevin McCarthy will do next.

But he did offer some clues in this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. I want to read you part of what he wrote. He said, I've decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways. I know my work is only getting started. I will continue to recruit our country's best and brightest to run for elected office. The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.

And he also made clear he has no regrets, including about that decision to put a stop gap funding bill on the floor with the support of Democrats which ultimately led to his ouster. So, we'll see what Kevin McCarthy decides to do next. But in the meantime, I'm told that House Republicans are planning to toast Kevin McCarthy at a party next week. This is something that was planned before his public announcement, of course, Republicans were expecting him to retire. And they said they just wanted to thank him according to sources involved in the planning. Dana.

BASH: Grand old party, as they say. Thank you so much, Melanie, appreciate it. And yes, there is a lot of breaking news. Right now, we have a brand-new CNN poll about President Biden and his approval rating, it is not very good. It's actually a new low. I want to talk about this in more from our new poll, with who else David Chalian. What does it tell us?

David Chalian: Well, as you noted, if you take a look at Biden's approval here, Dana, in our brand-new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. He's at 37 percent approval, 63 percent disapproval, as he's about to turn the corner into his reelection year. And look at this number over time. You know that it's a numeric low, but he's, hey, been hanging out down here for some time.

Look here, he starts going down after the Afghanistan withdrawal. That really took a hit in his numbers in 2021. There was this uptick here in his approval around the time of the 2022 midterms last year, where Democrats performed better, but basically this entire year has been a downward slide now to this new numeric low of 37 percent.

BASH: And how does this kind of compare to others who have served in the White House?

CHALIAN: Take a look at his modern Euro predecessors. This was their approval rating at this point in their presidency heading into their reelection year. And just note here, he's at the bottom of this list at 37 percent. Take a look here, Dana, these three that are at the bottom here. What do they all have in common? They didn't win their reelection race.

And so, this is a real warning sign for Joe Biden and take a look here at some of the demographic groups 72 percent approval among Democrats. If you're below 80 percent usually of your own party. That's a warning sign. 36 percent approval among independents does not have majority approval among African Americans, nor does he with Latinos -- 34 percent approval among young voters.


BASH: That's a big warning. This is all, but a particularly that number.

CHALIAN: This is all a warning sign for Joe Biden.

BASH: Yeah. And the issue that everybody says that they are going to vote on. We'll see if that happens because it wasn't maybe so much in the midterms. But it is a very important one, that, of course, is the economy.

CHALIAN: That's right. And we asked an open-ended question. What is the most important issue for Americans, and overwhelmingly, respondents in the poll say it's the economy 42 percent, 12 percent say immigration, 10 percent foreign policy, partisanship and divisions in the country. 6 percent say, guns and crime.

So, on issue number one of the economy. It's a pretty poor outlook from the American people, only 29 percent assess current economic conditions are good -- as good. 71 percent say they are poor. I'll note that's a slight uptick from what we've seen before. But still, it's in the cellar in terms of positive overall impression to the economy.

And his approval rating -- the president's approval rating on the economy, Dana, is even worse than his overall approval rating. It's only a 33 percent, 67 percent disapprove. You are right, we saw on issues like abortion rights or voting rights and election integrity, that Democrats have an advantage of those issues. And they did turn out on those issues last year. So that is a good note. But I would just note on what voters say right now is the most important issue, he's got real trouble as well.

BASH: And they're trying so hard with bidenomics, spending a lot of money on it, to press the point that the economy is getting better. And voters aren't buying it. It's like you have -- they're trying to tell people how to feel and it doesn't always work.

CHALIAN: Right. Right now, in our poll, we should see a 10-point advantage for Republicans on the issue of the economy.

BASH: Can we put back the sort of downward trend?


BASH: This I just want to underscore one thing that you said when you presented this. This right here, 52 percent when it started going down. The withdrawal from Afghanistan, and he never recovered.

CHALIAN: Never fully recovered. You see, he came back up a bit, but never to that -- never to that level with the midterms last year with the Democrats overperformed. But you're right, this was the real end of his honeymoon.

BASH And it's such a dichotomy between what we're seeing right now, which is he is getting some applause from Republicans even for how he's trying to handle things on the world stage, both in Ukraine and on the Middle East. Speaking of both of those things, we're still waiting for the president to speak at the White House about the stalemate in Congress over money that the White House says -- Ukraine says is absolutely necessary for their fight against Russia.

Up next, we are going to talk about debate night. It is tonight what Republican candidates could try to prove their last time to face off before the end of the year. Of course, Donald Trump will not be there. Stay with us.



(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BASH: Welcome back. Let's go now to Alabama, where hours from now Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis Vivek Ramaswamy and Chris Christie will duke it out on the debate stage, just 40 days left now until the Iowa caucuses and candidates are desperate for a breakout moment. They want to try to chip away at Donald Trump's overwhelmingly. Donald Trump, of course, will not be on the debate stage.

You know who's already in Alabama, Jeff Zeleny. Jeff, I know you've been talking to reporters -- excuse me, to voters. You are a reporter. Trying to figure out what they're actually looking for from Republican candidates tonight. What are you hearing?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Dana. Even though this is the fourth Republican debate, there really have been some significant differences from the last debate. There have been some changes in the campaign. And that is what voters who are just beginning to tune into this campaign are looking for. We always think that we are near the end of this process.

But again, some voters are just beginning to take a closer look at some of the positions of the candidates. And look for Nikki Haley to try and continue her momentum, which is really build up debate by debate by debate. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, in recent weeks has been questioning her conservative credentials. He's been calling her part of the liberal establishment.

So, look for that to be a bit of a new storyline tonight if you will. And Chris Christie, of course, all of his hopes are based in New Hampshire with independent voters, with moderate voters. Of course, Donald Trump's words about a dictator, that certainly is also likely to be front and center. But as we spent time talking to voters, particularly the Iowa voters who will make their decisions in just 40 days.

Have a listen to what Anne Walford from Grinnell, Iowa, said where she's at right now.


ANNE WALFORD, IOWA VOTER: I'm looking at Nikki Haley and of course, DeSantis, and Vivek, and Trump if -- I mean, I will vote, well because if he's the nominee, I will vote for him. But you know, we need some different aspects to our country at this point. And where it's going now is not good.


ZELENY: And that's the sentiment you really hear a lot from talking to voters. Their minds are open to some degree for other candidates. So that is where the opportunity comes in for some of these hopefuls tonight. But Dana, once again, as in every other debate, the person driving this race is not going to be here at least on stage. But of course, his words and his presence will be looming incredibly large. Dana?

BASH: Especially words that he has uttered in the last 24 hours. Jeff, thank you so much. I'll see you tonight in Alabama. The four candidates, Jeff was talking about who will be on the stage tonight are getting ready as we speak. Here's what the Vivek Ramaswamy said about his prep, what he expects to do.



VIVEK RAMASWAMY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My strategy in this race is, I'd rather speak the truth and lose an election, than to win by playing some carefully threaded snakes and ladders. I don't intend to play with kid gloves, and you shouldn't want people prevented from running for U.S. president to sit across the table from Xi Jinping being trained to play with kid gloves either.


BASH: Let's talk about this with the political panel. We have here all stars CNN's Kasie Hunt, PBS NewsHour's Laura Barron-Lopez, and Leigh Ann Caldwell of The Washington Post. Did you guys think that the Vivek Ramaswamy had kid gloves on the last couple of debates? That was interesting. I want to start with the ad that Ron DeSantis has out right now going after Nikki Haley. And it's very interesting to me what the topic is that he chose.


BASH: I mean, preview of tonight.

KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Perhaps, I mean, I just -- I honestly, I look at that. And I see that it's easier to attack female candidates than sometimes it is to attack male candidates. There seems. I mean, otherwise, you know, drawing that distinction really takes the words that Haley was using when she was speaking, you know about the ways in which it is important for little girls to see women in positions of power, whatever their kind of beliefs are and uses it against her.

But yeah, I mean, we'll see. DeSantis has not been a terribly effective attack dog on the debate stage, I will say, at least not against Nikki Haley. So far. I mean, Vivek Ramaswamy, took more swipes at her in the previous debate. But I think she even got the better of him in that.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think that when I look at that ad, I see that Hillary Clinton has become this massive boogey woman on the right, largely because of former President Donald Trump. And it's someone that DeSantis clearly sees as it could be an effective attack to tether Haley to a former secretary of state.

The leading candidate for Democrats two cycles ago, who has been totally demonized on the right to the point where, you know, they chanted lock her up the last few cycles. And that he thinks that it's easier to tie her to someone like that, despite all the lies that were spread about Hillary Clinton in the 2016 cycle, because that's something that really gets the base going. BASH: Yeah. And you were alluding to this, but I think we should say it very clearly, which is when Nikki Haley talks about Hillary Clinton, she's talking about being inspired by the now secretary -- former secretary because she was telling women, get off the couch, get out of your chair, get out of your comfort zone and go run for office, no matter what your political persuasion is.

LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, EARLY 202 CO-AUTHOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yeah. It was about that glass ceiling. And that Hillary Clinton was close to breaking that glass ceiling.

BASH: A lot of cracks in it?

CALDWELL: She had many cracks in the ceiling. But what that out also it shows to me is that it screams desperation. Ron DeSantis is for so long, tried to ignore the other candidates in the race that he was the clear second runner behind Donald Trump, but that's not the case anymore. And so instead of running ads against Donald Trump, he is focusing on Nikki Haley who he is going head-to-head against tonight in Nikki Haley has repeatedly outperformed Ron DeSantis at these debates.

BASH: OK. Let's talk about Donald Trump and the counterprogramming that he started to do last night with the town hall on Fox. A lot of interesting moments, including this one.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: They often say Al Capone, he was one of the greatest of all time if you like criminals. He was a mob boss the likes of which Scarface they call him. And he got indicted once, I got indicted four times. I got to know them all. At the top of their game, some are bad people, some are decent people. They all have one thing in common. They want what's good for their country, whether it's President Xi of China or Kim Jong Un.


BASH: Again, he's continuing to praise dictators.

BARRON-LOPEZ: In criminals and criminals, when he was talking that Al Capone, right.


BARRON-LOPEZ: Praising Al Capone, yeah, and praising dictators and also, you know, said that he would be a dictator on day one and then not after day one. But I think that -- look, Trump is saying all this stuff out loud and has been for a very long time. Features of his campaign are that he tries to normalize violence and speaking in a violent way about his political enemies.


He says that he would go after his political enemies and that his entire campaign is about retribution for attacks on him for the fact that he still says that 2020 was stolen. He's already forecasting. That if he loses 2024, will then have been stolen.

So, he is very much -- all the historians that I've talked to you. And I think more and more reporters are diagnosing this as well adopting authoritarian language and is forecasting that he would totally overhaul if not dismantled Congressman (Ph).

HUNT: I was just going to say Sean Hannity in that extended version of that exchange was basically trying to get him to say, no, I will not be a dictator. He was basically, well, you're not going to -- this isn't going to be about revenge, right?

BASH: This is friendliest a forum.

HUNT: Right. I mean -- but you can see that clearly, Hannity realizes it's in the interest of the former president, to say, no, I'm not going to do that to not inflame the situation. And instead, here's Trump saying what, you know, it would be a mistake to not believe that Trump is going -- to not believe Trump when he says he is going to do something.

BASH: And then we should also note that we don't time to run the soundbite. The Kash Patel, who was one of his advisers, who could be if he -- if Trump wins, a very senior person and the Trump administration is saying explicitly, that they will go and find conspirators and not just in government, but also in the media.

CALDWELL: Yeah. And that's one thing that is much different this time around with Trump's request to the White House is he has an infrastructure around him and people around him who are all in on this vision. No longer do you have people around him who are trying to push back on the idea that perhaps dismantling the constitution is not the best idea.

BASH: OK. On that note, let's be sure to talk about tonight. We are going to have a very interesting discussion after tonight's debate. We're going to give critical context and analysis. What you need to see in here. Anderson Cooper and I will be hosting that post debate discussion live at 10 o'clock eastern right here on CNN.

Ahead, CNN's John King continues his all over the map series. This time he went to Las Vegas and talk to Latino voters who say 2024 is still up in the air.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, we're in Vegas, would you put your money on Trump-Biden, or we're going to be surprised?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we're going to be surprised. I think we'll be surprised.