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Haley Tries To Capitalize On Moment As Trump Leads; Trump Says He'll Only Be A Dictator "On Day One"; McCarthy Set To Retire At The End Of This Year; Johnson Gears Up For House Impeachment Inquiry Vote; Biden Balances Appealing To Progressives, Moderates; Burchett On UFO Secrets: "I Think It's A Cover-Up". Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired December 10, 2023 - 11:00   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Riding high, Nikki Haley seizes of fresh momentum.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You join with me in these caucuses. We will finish this.

RAJU: While Republicans dismiss Trump's pledge to be a dictator on day one.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I mean, it's entertainment.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): I think it was a joke.

RAJU: And impeachment fever, anger, boils over in Congress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was personal. This doesn't have anything to do with policy, merit, anything else. As the House barrels towards a Biden impeachment, can they get anything done?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have meaningful policy making, and then you have the utter depths of stupidity.

RAJU: Plus, balancing act. The president struggles to hold his coalition together.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Trump just talks to talk, we walk the walk.

RAJU: Biden tries to convince skeptics the alternative is worse.

And out of this world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not talking about little green man or flying saucers. I just want disclosure.

RAJU: The push to shed light on government secrets about UFOs. Inside politics, the best reporting from inside the quarters of power starts now.

Good morning and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, I'm Manu Raju. Nikki Haley now emerging as a Republican presidential candidate with the clear momentum in the race, but for second place. And, of course, the second place is not good enough.

And with the Iowa caucuses just 36 days away, does she have the time and the strategy in place to overcome the clear front runner, Donald Trump?

Haley and the other candidates descending on Iowa this weekend, ahead of next month's caucuses. Haley and Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, are neck and neck there, but again, for second place.

So what is Haley's strategy at this crucial moment in the race? CNN's Eva McKend is in Waukee, Iowa, ahead of Haley's event today.

So, Eva, tell us what you're hearing from the Haley team and campaign officials about what exactly their game plan is going forward.

EVA MCKEND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Manu, her game plan is largely to talk about her time as governor of South Carolina, suggesting that that same executive leadership, that's what she would bring to Washington. She also really leans into her foreign policy experience, talking her -- about her time at the U.N. as preparing her to deal with these conflicts that we have in Israel and Ukraine.

But largely in these closing weeks here, in these last six weeks as we get to the Iowa caucus, she seems to be leaning into this electability argument, looking at polling and making the case to these Iowans that in a general match up, she would be better suited to go up against President Biden than former president Donald Trump.

Some of her supporters, though they like her, are skeptical of that argument. Others believe that she can pull off a political upset. Let's listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My belief is she's the only one that can probably reach that independent vote and truly secure the presidency.

I tend to be more moderate than strictly to the far, far right. And so I think she speaks to that a lot better than anyone else.

I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe that she had a very good chance of winning it. I think Donald Trump's very beatable, to be honest with you.


MCKEND: So to give you a sense of Nathan Schmidt (PH), who you just heard from there, we spoke with him in Silver Lake, Iowa yesterday. He voted for Trump in 2016. Then in 2020, he voted for President Biden.

He tells me he has no appetite to vote for either of them next year. So that gives you a sense of the type of voters that Haley is attracting. Moderate voters, voters who are principally concerned about winning. Though to be clear, Manu, her policy positions are firmly conservative.

RAJU: Eva McKend in Waukee, Iowa. We'll see if enough voters there agree with that one you spoke with. Thank you for that. So let's discuss this all with this and more with my great panel this morning, CNN's Alayna Treene, Margaret Talev from Axios, and the Washington Post, Marianna Sotomayor. Good morning to you all. Thank you for joining us. A lot to discuss to break down in this really consequential time as we head into this key moment in the race.


And Nikki Haley clearly has the momentum here, the polls show it, the money shows it, the endorsements show it. She is though sort of setting the bar a little bit low about Iowa. Of course, the first of the nation, the caucus state kicks off in mid-January. This is how she described what she needs to do in Iowa.


HALEY: The way I look at it is we just need to have a good showing in Iowa. I don't think that means we have to win necessarily. But I think that means we have to have a good showing.


RAJU: So, what does good showing mean for her to actually have any realistic path to overcome Donald Trump?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Right. Well, I think she's recognizing and lowering the expectations that she hasn't really spent -- I mean in the last several weeks, she spent more time in Iowa, but that hasn't been her strategy.

I mean, DeSantis, on the other hand, has been kind of running this all eggs in the Iowa basket strategy himself. And so I think she's trying to set expectations, which is, OK, a good showing, have a lot of people still come out and support her. She is doing well in the polls there. She thinks she's tied with DeSantis in Iowa, even though he's been spending more time there.

And so I think that's what she's trying to say, that she doesn't need to win Iowa in order to still come out of the caucus very strong and head into New Hampshire with a lot of, you know, momentum still at her back.

RAJU: Yes. And look, the momentum is there, according to the polls, as well as the money, just that you mentioned New Hampshire. They are -- Haley's super PAC has spent more in New Hampshire than any other campaign. Super PAC, 12.9 million, almost 13 million in New Hampshire and Iowa.

They're third overall 14.7 million. That's just the super PAC, not the campaign spending here. And the polls that are also show a story that obviously Haley is going to seize upon, the new Wall Street Journal poll out just this weekend, 2024 hypothetical matchup, Trump up by four against Biden. That's outside the margin of error, 2.5 percent. And then look at Haley, 17 points above Biden. Now, is that an outlier or is that reality? But regardless, that will give her something to talk about in the campaign trail.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: For sure. Look, it's sort of, it's a general election argument trying to be retrofitted into a primary campaign strategy. But it's -- but it's her best play, I think. And that is not a total outlier. There's other polling. I think it's Marquette that showed some similar sort of matchup runs.

And what that survey showed is the idea that in a general election setting where you could capture independent voters or swing voters, the kind of people who went Obama to Trump and then Trump to Biden, that those people would swing back for Nikki Haley, hypothetically, much more so than they were for Donald Trump men, as well as women. That this is not just a play for center right women, but it's a play for men as well.

And Axios does monthly surveys with swing voters. We're in North Carolina next week. One of the questions we'll be asking is about Nikki Haley. It's precisely this question. If she can take that argument into Iowa successfully and surpass, let's say hypothetically surpass Ron DeSantis, it could give her the kind of momentum.

She needs something really exceptional if any of the national, if all of the national surveys are correct. She needs something really exceptional to be able to truly compete with Donald Trump.

And I think although she sort of soft selling the impact of Iowa, she's got a lot of a lot riding.

RAJU: But, look, any of these candidates will just say Biden is beatable, right? The poll, every poll after poll says that Biden is beatable. Yes, Haley may be winning a little bit by more, but Trump himself is winning outside the margin of error.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, WASHINGTON POST CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER : Absolutely. And you're exactly right. Republican is going to keep pointing that out. Look, like me and I can probably beat Biden because Biden is really just not doing so well right now. Of course, the Biden campaign is trying to make the argument, look, as Biden has said many times, don't compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative, trying to play up. Look, what Trump is saying about being a dictator, maybe for day one, but, you know, raising those questions about could that happen afterwards?

And, you know, the interesting thing is that Haley's trying to lean in a little bit more now on Trump. She's not, you know, going for the jugular. But she has been saying, look, we can't replace chaos, speaking about Biden administration with more chaos in terms of Trump.

So she's trying to show that difference and really make the argument that Biden did when he was running in 2020, which was who can actually beat Trump? Who can actually beat that person? RAJU: And it's interesting because Trump clearly recognizes that this attack about him, you know, being a threat to democracy is an issue for him. He started to say it more increasingly. This, of course, is one of the main Biden campaign lines that Donald Trump risks democracy.

And just last night in New York, he tried to take this again head on.


TRUMP: In the past few weeks, the radical left Democrats and their fake news allies have unveiled their newest hoax that Donald J. Trump and the Republican Party are a threat to democracy. Do you believe this? It's what it is. It's a hoax. It's a new -- we call it now the threat to democracy hoax. That's what it is.



RAJU: I mean, he clearly recognizes this is an issue, especially given all of his legal troubles. He was charged with trying to overturn the 2020 election. That could -- that trial could happen during the election year.

He's on the trial tomorrow in a civil fraud case in New York, but all these issues, Donald Trump clearly recognizes a problem for him.

TREENE: Oh, definitely. And as is his campaign, and I think that's why you're continuing to hear him talk about this and what he's doing. I mean, it's classic Donald Trump. He's trying to flip the script. We saw him when he was speaking at that town hall, or this week with Sean Hannity, try to put it on Biden and say, oh, as what they're doing to me, they're the ones abusing power. Biden's the one who's going after me, a political enemy, and using the government, of course, you know, many Democrats and people disagree with that.

But that's what Donald Trump is trying to do. And he's continuing to talk about it because it is something that could be -- it is a vulnerability for him, I should say.

I think that they recognize that the fears of authoritarianism and what him abusing potential essentially, the government putting the Justice Department under presidential control, those are all things that concern a lot of Americans.

RAJU: And he's not doing much to dispel the concerns about authoritarianism. Listen to just how he was -- Sean Hannity tried to get him to take it off the table last week in this interview that happened in Fox News. He wouldn't take it off the table about being a dictator, even Fox saying that he would be a dictator on day one.


TRUMP: He says, you're not going to be a dictator, are you? I said, no, no, no, other than day one. We're closing the border and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator.


RAJU: And that exchange went on for much longer than that, he wouldn't exactly take it off the table.

I guess a lot of Republicans, people are not necessarily Trump fans about that. Whether they had any concerns about this potential -- this talk about dictatorship is what they said.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): It's entertainment. And, you know, we've been around that have long enough. It's entertaining.

GRAHAM: I think it was a joke.

SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): I think that's probably just fairly kind of typical Trump rhetoric.

SEN. JAMES COMER (R-KY): We all know Trump uses unique expressions when he explains things.

SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Sometimes a little baby will spout off all sorts of words that, you know, take him either literally or seriously. And that's a bit of what we're seeing, I think, from President Trump and his campaign right now.


RAJU: I mean -- I mean, even Romney, who's no Trump fan, says that, you know, this is -- don't take him literally or seriously. A little bit of a repeat of what we saw at his time in office.

TALEV: Yes. If you're basing your -- all of your judgment about what kind of President Trump will be on one comment that he made with Sean Hannity, that's probably not the way I'd go as a voter trying to inform myself. You can look at his four-year record and then his conduct leading up to it during and after January 6 and help make those decisions.

I mean, look at that --

RAJU: He said that he would suspend the Constitution. I mean, he would call for suspending the Constitution. So this would be in line with some of the things. But as you said there, Republicans not too concerned.

Okay. There's going to be a lot more of that to discuss. And be sure to tune in Tuesday and Wednesday night for CNN's town halls with Governor DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. The candidates will take questions live in Iowa.

Coming up, House Republicans find their narrow majority getting even narrower amid the resignation of Kevin McCarthy. How that is reopening old books. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Your question is, just give up and quit. I'm the wrong guy to ask that question to. I never quit.


RAJU: What a difference a few months makes. Kevin McCarthy was the most powerful Republican in Washington less than three months ago. Now, in just a matter of a couple weeks, he will no longer be a member of Congress, resigning his seat after 17 years in the House. A rapid rise to the GOP leadership, and then a tumultuous year as Speaker, leading a razor-thin majority in a badly divided conference.

Now, as Speaker and Republican leader, he was very chatty with the press, and sometimes quite combative as I witnessed firsthand.


RAJU: The votes just aren't there. Why has it been so hard for you?

MCCARTHY: Have you spent any time with my conference? But I mean, you know what's amazing to me? Here we are with the biggest things going on, on the spending. And I can always count on you for the most inappropriate questions.

Why don't you ask the other questions? Why don't you ask (INAUDIBLE) why you change your position.

RAJU: I never changed my position. You don't -- you don't want?

MCCARTHY: (inaudible)

RAJU: You know what's interesting to me?

You supported Texas Law Institute? Did you regret supporting that law?

MCCARTHY: No. No. No, I don't. You know why? Because it's going to the court --

RAJU: So it's a number of battleground states.

MCCARTHY: All right. Tell me when you're done with your questions and when I can answer.

RAJU: What does it do to the 18 members from Biden districts?

MCCARTHY: Well, that all the Democrats voted to try to bring chaos. I think it'll --

RAJU: NO. I mean, that your -- that you guys are -- you can't govern. That you can't govern. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: And, of course, that was after he was ousted as Speaker. And they were struggling to get someone, eventually Mike Johnson, to become Speaker. Wow. That was just -- it's amazing this has all happened in the last couple of months.

Just, Marianna, you walk the halls with me on the Hill, you know, on the House side talking to a lot of the members. What impact does his departure have on the House? And how are members dealing with this aftermath?

SOTOMAYOR: Yes. You know, I think it's -- his impact will be felt so much more outside of the halls of the House rather than inside. And the reason why is because everyone says his one thing that he has been excellent at. And there is proof, even though, you know, he won the majority. It was way, way, way more narrow than even he expected.

But still, he has -- he has such a grasp politically on the campaign trail. Who should I recruit? Who makes sense in a district? Who can actually get there? And even tried to play this last year, trying to out some of these more extreme Republicans who just didn't want to govern.

So that is going to be the big impact, not to mention the fact fundraising.

RAJU: Yes.

SOTOMAYOR: My God. That is the first thing that House Republicans would say was, now what do we do?

RAJU: Yes. And, look, Mike Johnson is trying to fill that void. The challenge is -- do that, but you're right. He really knew how to, he got the Republicans back to the majority to his credit. Not as big a majority as he wanted, which is why he ultimately got pushed out by the people who didn't want him there.


And there's still this anger about all this. Yes, it happened a couple of months ago. And, yes, there's a new speaker of the House, but I spent the last week talking to a lot of those Republicans who were allied with Kevin McCarthy. They're not happy about the aftermath.


RAJU: What do you say to the eight Republicans who voted them out?

REP. JOHN DUARTE (R-CA): Big screw up. Just completely named behavior.

REP. CARLOS GIMENEZ (R-FL): It's a great loss to the Republican Party and to the House in general and a personal loss for me. And am I upset with the eight Republicans that join all the Democrats to remove him? Yeah, absolutely. I'm upset. REP. PATRICK MCHENRY (R-NC): We are worse off for eight Republicans voting with all the Democrats to ask the most effective Republican speaker we've had in a long time.


RAJU: There's also no regrets among those eight Republicans. I asked him Tim Burchett, one of the eight to vote him out. He said, yes, well, Kevin McCarthy will go make a lot of money. So, look, this is obviously going to be a problem as they head into the election year for the new speaker, managing these divisions and the motions that are still pretty raw here.

TREENE: Oh, totally. And I think it's -- and the other big thing is, of course, they're completely narrow majority. Now, they only have one seat and we saw them struggle when they had four. And so I think that's going to be a huge issue.

And I know from the people that I talked to, they recognize they're not going to be able to get anything done as particularly before the elections really, you know -- 2024 election cycle really ramps up.

And I agree with Marianna's point. I think that as we get closer to the elections, that's where you're going to see a lot of this impact felt. How will they be able to maintain the majority? Can they grow it? All of these things that people knew McCarthy did very well that it's unclear how Johnson will do.

TALEV: As I think some of the frustrations are because you're seeing the new speaker face with the same choices. Kevin McCarthy was faced with and really unable to do anything differently or better, but not having, you know, the sort of sword held over his head all the time.

So for those members that were McCarthy loyalists, they're like, hey, what do -- what difference --

RAJU: They suddenly are agreeing to higher spending levels that McCarthy agreed to, that agreed to had to back off that amidst these threats from the right. Now, they're OK with that. They've -- they're -- he had -- Johnson had to keep the government open for a short period of time. OK with that. Not pushing him out of office. We'll see if that ultimately happens.

McCarthy was on CBS this morning talking about Trump. He said that he would support Trump. He told me a couple of weeks ago something very similar. He said he would support Trump. I asked him as an official endorsement. He said we kind of hemmed and hawed about it. But he said he supports Trump. But he also had a bit of a warning for Trump.


MCCARTHY: What president Trump needs to do in this campaign, it needs to have to be about rebuilding, restoring, renewing America. It can't be about revenge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's talking about retribution, day in day out. MCCARTHY: He needs to stop that. He needs to stop that.


RAJU: Will Trump listen?

TREENE: No. Definitely not, especially not to Kevin McCarthy. It is interesting though. I mean, you can tell that Kevin McCarthy is far more candid now that he doesn't have the weight of the House conference -- GOP conference on his back.

But no, I mean, Donald Trump very much, he's already -- their relationship has become far more tense and strained over the past several months is not going to listen to McCarthy.

RAJU: You know, when we talked a little bit about the McCarthy impact down ticket, how that's going to happen in the House races, I had a chance to talk to actually the chairman of the House GOP campaign committee, Richard Hudson of North Carolina. He's trying to keep the Republican majority despite facing a very difficult map with redistricting and the like and the prospects of the fact that Donald -- Kevin McCarthy is no longer there to be that prolific fundraising presence that he was.

Hudson though sort of said, you've kind of brushed it off and said that they believe they'll be in a strong position because of Donald Trump.


RAJU: Do you guys feel the key to majority?

REP. RICHARD HUDSON (R-NC): Oh, yes, we're going to grow the majority. No question.

RAJU: That's a bullish assessment given the map.

HUDSON: Well, you look -- you look at the polling out there. The American people are fed up with Joe Biden and his policies. We won 15 seats. We beat 15 Democrats in 2020 with Trump at the top of the ticket. And I think he'll do better this time they did in 2020.


RAJU: I mean, is he right about that? I mean, there are 18 Biden district Democrats. Is Trump going to help them grow the majority?

SOTOMAYOR: I mean, if you ask them, they will say no, right? They want -- they don't want to run with Trump. They want to -- McCarthy actually, in that clip, was -- that's -- it showed his how tactful he is politically because we saw in the 22 midterms where a lot of those vulnerable members became members of Congress because they were sticking to -- this is what we want to build. This is what we want to do, this how we want to govern. That question of governance though really impacted many of those members in October when they literally didn't do anything, couldn't pick a speaker. That's when those members were also hearing, oh, my God. We're hearing from our constituents that we can't do anything. This is bad for us.

And, you know, bringing that Trump question, especially in places like New York, California, where Trump actually ignites the Democratic base, that's where you're seeing a lot of the both Democratic and Republican playbook going through those two states. And Trump, I don't think, is really going to help there.


RAJU: I mean, Mitch McConnell will tell you that it was Donald Trump in 2022 that essentially caused them their chance of the Senate Republican majority. He was on the campaign trail, late campaigning in some of these swing states.

He also propped up some candidates who were weak and sort of flamed out and peered out during the election. But it's a different calculation among the House Republicans, probably because of the fact of the districts that they represent, which are very Trump-heavy districts.

TALEV: I'm not, at all, surprised to hear the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee make that argument. I mean, what's the argument he's going to make, right? If he can't project confidence about it, who will?

You can -- it's an argument that some senators, I think, have a sort of better fact basis to make it on, because those voters are looking at statewide races. They may be swingable states or the states on the map may lean a little more red.

In those states, it can be a referendum against Joe Biden. I think in the swing congressional districts, the ones that are really in play, it is going to be a Trump versus Biden contest, just as much as it is a Biden versus Biden contest.

RAJU: Yes. I mean, absolutely. Well, look, that's the big thing about the House and the other places, top of the ticket will drive a lot. It'll drive a lot of turnout. It'll impact the House. It'll impact the Senate. We'll see.

Up next, House Republicans prepare to turn up the heat on President Biden as the sun stares down more at federal charges.



RAJU: Hunter Biden facing nine new federal charges with prosecutors alleging the President's son spent thousands of dollars on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, all while dodging his taxes. The charge is coming after Hunter was subpoenaed to testify behind closed doors before the House as part of the GOP's impeachment inquiry into his father, Joe Biden. Now, Hunter's lawyers say he would be happy to honor that request to

testify, but only as part of a public hearing. And even as Republicans have yet to prove that Joe Biden acted corruptly or profited from his son's business dealings, Speaker Johnson took to a very friendly audience this morning where he said this about the impeachment inquiry.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON, (R) HOUSE SPEAKER: Next to the declaration of war, I think impeachment is probably the heaviest power that the Congress has, the House, specifically under the Constitution. So we have to be very methodical and careful and follow the facts where they lead. The impeachment inquiry is the next necessary step because the White House is now stonewalling our investigation.


RAJU: So, look, they had announced an impeachment inquiry back in September under then Speaker McCarthy. They don't need a vote. They decided to have a vote this week to show forward momentum, show progress. Speaker Johnson says that they can make a better argument in court for documents. We'll see.

But the challenge here is that once you go down the road of an impeachment inquiry vote, you have to almost sort of impeach the guy. Otherwise, it'll look like you're letting him off the hook. And that's politically, that's not what Republicans want.

SOTOMAYOR: Exactly. They definitely, definitely do not want that. Especially we talked of the vulnerable Republicans who just don't even want to utter the word impeachment, right?

They -- what they really want right now, everyone seems, at least on the Republican side, to be OK with this kind of green lighting impeachment inquiry because as you point out and many Republicans have said, you know, if we want to subpoena someone, it is our right. We have that oversight capability. And also if we want to go to court, we need this to hold up in court. That's the Republican argument. And that's what some form --

RAJU: By the way, that court fight would take all next year, too --


RAJU: -- until the next Congress.


RAJU: And who knows? The President will be at that time, too, right?

SOTOMAYOR: Yeah. Exactly, exactly. But still, you are exactly right. If you are greenlighting this, that means you're going to have to answer the ultimate question at the end of the day, whenever that comes. That's absolutely not what vulnerable Republicans want to do, especially the closer you get to November. RAJU: Everything gets harder in an election year on Capitol Hill,

especially for those vulnerable Republicans. I caught up with those vulnerable Republicans and I asked them about moving forward on this impeachment inquiry. They, as Marianna said, they are signaling they are open to moving forward, to green lighting this, to voting for the inquiry, but actually charging the President with high crimes or misdemeanors, which is an incredibly high bar. It's only done a handful of times in the history of this country. That is a much different proposition, especially as a lot of Republicans are still saying, do we have the evidence yet to prove that he acted corruptly?


REP. JEN KIGGANS, (R) VIRGINIA: I have said before, and I'll say again, I think the American people deserve the right to know answers to questions. However, I really also believe that we need to continue to focus on the priorities that we had coming into this Congress.

REP. JOHN DUARTE, (R) FLORIDA: I'm very comfortable with the impeachment inquiry at this point.

RAJU: You think your constituents want you to be pursuing an impeachment inquiry?

DUARTE: I don't believe this is an issue of my constituents or the political effects.

REP. DON BACON, (R) NEBRASKA: An inquiry is so much different than an impeachment. I don't think so. This is just been -- we're trying to get the facts.


RAJU: You know, Jen Kiggans from Virginia was interesting there because she said that, yeah, I want -- we're going to answer those questions. But I also believe that we need to focus on the priorities we have coming into this Congress, not necessarily impeachment for some of those moderate members.

TALEV: Yeah. I mean, look, I think there is a strategy that says this is good for the base and it's good for Donald Trump, and maybe that's enough. I don't think this is a strategy that's aimed at helping the Republicans in vulnerable House seats who are on the bubble. It's clearly not. Their fate is not taking priority over kind of a national messaging campaign, which is that if this is a general election standoff, again between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you're looking at two presidents, you would be looking at two presidents who had faced impeachment, you know, rather than one.

And that's ultimately at the end of it, what this is all about. There's -- I don't know how it's going to end. And I understand why vulnerable Republicans are frustrated about it and again what swing voters have been telling us consistently for months is that they don't think there's any merit or any case for impeaching Joe Biden.

[11:35:10] But at the same time the polling pretty consistently shows in the sort of loose nebulous way that a majority of Americans think that President Biden probably had something to do with helping his son with foreign clients or something in Ukraine. They don't exactly know what. There's division about whether it was illegal but there's a general sense that something unethical probably happened and that's what republicans are leaning in.

RAJU: And sometimes they just want the cloud. Some of the Republicans saying or will frankly say, we can't go down the road to having a vote out of impeaching him actually, because we may not have the votes, but if the cloud is over there, that could be beneficial politically.

TREENE: Oh, 100% I think that's what a lot of this is about, which is the messaging around it. And you're totally right, Margaret, that -- I mean, time and time again, we have seen these investigations happening in the House not be able to find any direct connection between what Joe Biden is doing is being corrupt or being directly linked to some of the things that they're finding with these payments.

But the questions and having the discussion about Joe Biden, potentially, you know, they're being wrongdoing there. What Hunter is doing, all of the, you know, the women and the drugs and now this indictment, I mean, that is the message that they are pushing and they think it does help them because it also continues to taint the image of Joe Biden and his presidency in the mine --


TALEV: Whether or not the facts bear, yeah.

TREENE: Exactly, whether or not the facts are there.

RAJU: We're talking sheer politics right now.

TREENE: Exactly.

RAJU: Look, there are huge issues still looming in Congress. And this is a consequential week, not just because there's a vote to impeachment inquiry. It's a very serious issue. But also the issue about how -- what are they going to do about Ukraine? What are they going to do about Israel funding? There's a debate now in the Senate about tightening immigration laws. Republicans are saying that needs to be first. We need to deal with that first before they'll agree to green light more funding to Ukraine. Democrats say Israel needs to be tied to Ukraine. You can see the mess that is happening right now on the Hill.

One of the leaders of this effort, the Senator Murphy of -- Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he was a key negotiator here. He didn't sound too optimistic about where things stand in these talks.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY, (D) CONNECTICUT: Right now, Republican demands are unreasonable. They don't actually get Democratic votes. If I were a cynic, I would say that Republicans have decided to tie support for Ukraine to immigration reform because they want Ukraine aid to fail. We are not going to solve the entire problem of immigration between now and the end of the year, but we can make a down payment.


RAJU: Look, but if there's a small agreement on immigration, House Republicans aren't going to go for that. They need to -- they don't want a watered-down deal on immigration. They really want what they passed in the House, which is not going to fly with Democrats.

SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely, it's just not going to happen. And that's something that you've -- we've heard for a while from Democrats and Republicans. It seems like this supplemental fight on Israel, especially after the State Department also greenlit, sending more tanks to Israel.

There's a little less incentive to act immediately on Israel right now. And on Ukraine, it just doesn't seem like it's going to happen. And listen, either everything can happen in one week left in D.C. on Capitol Hill or nothing at all.

RAJU: Yeah.

SOTOMAYOR: They are going to have to address Pentagon funding. It seems like that's going to happen. But the margins are very narrow in the House.

RAJU: Yeah.

SOTOMAYOR: And that's a decision for Johnson.

RAJU: All signs are pointing to punt into the New Year and the White House has warned that knee-cap Ukraine at this critical moment. We'll see what happens.

OK, coming up, Democrats are sounding the alarm over President Biden's fracturing support as he heads into 2024. Will he be able to rebuild his coalition?



RAJU: President Biden is heading into an election year walking a tightrope. His approval rating is standing at a dismal 37%, and he's working hard to convince voters to consider the alternative. He told big donors that high-priced fundraisers last night, you're the reason why Donald Trump is not only a former president, but a defeated former president, calling Trump a threat to democracy. And he said this on Friday.


JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: Trump just talks to talk. We walk the walk. Look, he likes to say America's a failing nation. Frankly he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. I see shelves on the ground, cranes in the sky, people hard at work rebuilding America together.


RAJU: But at the same time, the President's angering progresses with this handling of the Israel-Hamas War, immigration and a host of other issues. Yet, moving too far to the left would put off those moderates who he needs in those key battleground states. Our panel is back here.

Margaret, one of those crucial states is Michigan. I spoke to Democratic Congressman Debbie Dingle about Biden's coalition and how he needs to keep that together. She's frankly concerned about that.


RAJU: You worried, though, about Muslim voters in particular in Michigan?

REP. DEBBIE DINGLE, (D) MICHIGAN: Of course, I'm not only worried about them, I'm also worried about young people and energizing them. I'm worried about the Union Workers. What we have to do is do a good job of telling the story of what Joe Biden has delivered and drawing the contrast.

Michigan is going to be one at ground zero, it's going to be one of the most competitive states, but this time people believe me.


RAJU: Do you believe her?

TALEV: Actually, I agree, Michigan is going to be a hugely important state because of the Arab American vote, and the African American vote, and the young people vote, and the union vote, and Gretchen Whitmer, and abortion rights, and all the stuff on both sides isn't coming in.

If you're a Democratic leader, the great thing about sort of being the big tent party is that if people turn out to vote, you have the ability to put together huge wide coalitions, right? The problem with the big tent party is that what's really important to one person can really turn off another person and vice versa and this combination of geopolitics and the economy is going to be -- is proving to be really, really tough for Joe Biden right now.


RAJU: And you're talking about black voters, that is -- he did great with black voters in 2020, 87% of the vote he carried in according to Exit polls. Now, polling now shows his favorability among black voters at 47%. Obviously, that's a big problem for him. The Biden team recognizes that though clearly and they have some target ads going after this key voting bloc.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Joe Biden started passing laws like the Infrastructure Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, that was really huge for us. The policies and things that he puts in place are striving to make a difference for things that matter.

How to put food on the table for our kids and our families. How to get the next job. How to skill up. Joe Biden is actually doing stuff that helps everyday people. President Joe Biden's got our backs because he's not only thinking about our present, but also our future.


RAJU: That as running in Detroit, Philadelphia, the Milwaukee area is in black-owned TV and digital properties. Clearly they recognize that they need to rebuild that coalition that they took over the White House in 2020.

TREENE: Yeah, I think it's a big problem. And I agree with you. I think they recognize, and that's why you're seeing these ads. It's also something just from my conversations with former President Donald Trump's team that they also recognize.

And they are going very hard after these voter blocks as well, Hispanic voters, Black voters. One thing that they tell me that they see working very well for Trump's campaign is the indictments and the legal battles he's facing. That's actually something that they see as helping boost, particularly among these different types of voters.

RAJU: That's why you heard the democracy argument. You mentioned immigration, that's a key issue as we head into the election year. This is also concerned about Hispanic voters as well. But you go too far. One side the anger. Another side, I talked to Senator Mark Kelly, who represents the border state of Arizona. He had a suggestion for the President to be a little bit more aggressive on the border, try to take it off the table of sorts, actually go to the border and see it for yourself.


RAJU: Do you think that the President should go down there again and may see from his own eyes what's going on?

SEN. MARK KELLY, (R) ARIZONA: Well, I think in general it's good to see things, you know, first hand. He does have a, you know, staff that's, you know, working on this issue, but this remains a crisis.

RAJU: Is it a vulnerability for him?

KELLY: Well, I mean, that's, you know, going to be up to his team to figure out. But I will say that this is a crisis, and it's been a hard problem to manage.


RAJU: I mean, how problematic for him politically is what's happening at the border for the president? SOTOMAYOR: I mean, anytime you have Democrats, and I believe the Arizona Governor actually sent a letter to Biden saying, please do something, she's one of many Democratic governors who are now saying this, that is a problem.

And, you know, the administration has been saying, "Oh, well, you know, we've told Congress they can give us more border security money," things like that. But to the Senator's point, Biden showing up, Biden actually being more proactive about this, not just surrogates, could maybe just change the conversation a little bit, because Republicans have such a hold on this.

RAJU: Yes, and look there seems to be concerned about the White House about elevating that too much, but even as it's clearly a vulnerability from. Another vulnerability as we mentioned, young voters, progressive voters in particular.

One of the progressive senators I asked them about this as well about why Biden is struggling with those key voters.


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY, (D) OREGON: Well, there are -- there are concerns and a lot of that is around climate change and the fact that the administration continues to greenlight a lot of fossil fuel projects.

RAJU: How worried are you that this could hurt his ability to win reelection?

MERKLEY: Well, I think it's a very significant concern. Yes.

RAJU: Both from climate and his handling of Israel?



TALEV: I don't think you're going to see young voters surprise us all by turning out and droves for Donald Trump. The concern is young voters staying home? Is the concern for Democrats? And I think with a lot of these groups we've been talking about young voters, African- American voters, Arab-American voters. What the Biden team is trying to do is turn the conversation to say this is not a referendum against what you hope that Biden would be versus what Biden is. This is going to be a test an option between Biden and Trump and whether you're voting for Trump or whether you stay home is still a vote for Trump. That is the argument they want to be making to these folks.

RAJU: Yeah.

TALEV: You don't like the way I've handled the Middle East. What do you think Donald Trump would do?

RAJU: And does that convince them to stay home -- to not stay home and to go to the polls? Huge question for the Biden team. All right, coming up, what does the government really know about UFOs?

Some members of Congress are trying to shed light on those tantalizing secrets. That's next.



RAJU: For years, UFO enthusiasts and others have accused the federal government of hiding what it knows about unexplained aerial phenomena in our sky. And now critics say Congress has poised its stifle efforts to actually answer that question.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has been calling for full disclosure of UFO sightings. One of them, Republican Congressman Tim Burchett, he had inserted an amendment in the annual Defense Policy Bill that would have required the Pentagon to, quote, "declassify any documents and records related to publicly known UFO sightings."

But that language ultimately did not make it into the final version. And Burchett isn't happy about it, telling me, quote, "they got screwed."


RAJU: Why are you pushing this?

REP. TIM BURCHETT, (R) TENNESSEE: I just want disclosure, since 1947 the federal government said they don't exist, but now we know they're spending millions upon millions of dollars researching something that they claim doesn't exist.

I'm not talking about little green men or flying saucers. I just want disclosure. And I think the American public deserves that if we're putting our hard-earned dollars in.

RAJU: Why do you think they're blocking you?

BURCHETT: I think it's a cover up, I think there's something else going on, I think there's technology there and other things that our industrial war complex is profiting from.



RAJU: Now, over in the Senate, the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Mike Rounds also pushing for more disclosure. But this year's defense bill does not go as far. While the bill would require the government to disclose the sightings to the National Archives, eventually some of those becoming public, it does give federal agencies and the president's significant latitude to keep such sightings classified.

Why? The Congressional source says it was House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner who resisted the push for greater disclosure. His office did not respond to our request for comment, and the Pentagon, meanwhile, declined to comment. So the mystery continues.

OK, that's it for Inside Politics Sunday. Up next, State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include Secretary of State Antony Blinken and former Vice President Al Gore. Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. See you next time.