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Eight Days To Go: 2024 Hopefuls Compete For Undecided Iowans; Biden Wasn't Aware For Days Defense Secretary Was Hospitalized; Trump Praises Jan. 6 Rioters, Promoters Conspiracy Theory; House Republicans Gear Up To Impeach Secretary Mayorkas; Trump's Political, Legal Calendars Collide; Trump immunity, Ballot Cases To Play Out In Supreme Court. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired January 07, 2024 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Closing in, candidates make their final pitches and sparks fly.
NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump has been throwing temper tantrums about me.
RON DESANTIS, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald Trump is running for his issues. Nikki Haley is running for her donors' issues.
RAJU: One week before Iowa decides, do they have any hope?
And urgent warning.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we begin this election year, we must be clear, democracy is on the ballot.
RAJU: Three years after the Capitol attack, the president tries to reframe the race, as Trump defends the rioters.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nobody's been treated ever in history so badly as those people.
RAJU: Plus, deal or no deal?
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): What we see here is absolute mayhem.
RAJU: Some Republicans threaten a shutdown over the border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will not vote for the funding of the government.
RAJU: And exclusive new details on GOP plans to impeach Secretary Mayorkas.
Inside politics, the best reporting from inside the cores of power starts now.
Good morning. Welcome INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju. It is almost time for Iowans to have their say on who should be president. In just eight days, Iowa Republicans will caucus and set the course for the 2024 GOP nomination.
And the final chance for the candidates to prove themselves in the first of the nation caucus state. Even former president, Donald Trump, has been crisscrossing Iowa this weekend to make sure his supporters have his back.
But his appearances have once again put the spotlight on his rhetoric and viability as a general election candidate.
CNN's Alayna Treene has been following Trump on the campaign trail. She joins us from Des Moines. Alayna, what has Trump's tone been throughout this weekend?
ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: Yes. Well, Manu, the former president has really spent this weekend delivering his closing arguments to Iowa voters in the final week before the January 15th caucuses.
And a key part of that message has been warning voters not to get complacent and to assume that Trump has Iowa in the bag just because he is up so high in the polls.
And I can tell you, Manu, from my conversations with Trump's advisers that this is a bit of a concern from them. A key part of their ground game strategy here in the state has really been focusing on turning out as many caucus goers as they can. And so we've seen that really issue a lot of presentations trying to teach Iowa's -- Iowans how to caucus.
But I also want to point your attention to something I found really interesting. And it came up during his remarks in Newton, Iowa yesterday.
He vowed to find an alternative to Obamacare, if elected in 2024. And as part of those remarks, he criticized the late Senator John McCain and blamed him for Republicans' failure to repeal and replace the law in 2017.
And part of that delivery, Trump mocked McCain's injuries. Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We're going to fight for much better health care than Obamacare. Obamacare is a catastrophe. Nobody talks about it. You know, without John McCain, we would have had it done.
John McCain, for some reason, couldn't get his arm up that day. Remember? He goes that like that. That was the end of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TREENE: Now, Manu, we, of course, need to point out that McCain sustained a series of injuries while serving in the Vietnam War. And many of those stemmed from his time as a prisoner of war for five years.
But, look, I think the broader context of these remarks is really interesting to note. Trump has really revived talk of trying to find an alternative to Obamacare in recent months. And it's something that has alarmed a lot of Republicans.
People in the party are still scarred by their failure to dismantle the law while Trump was in office. And they view this issue as a political loser. But, of course, Trump is not heeding that advice and still talking about it on the campaign trail.
RAJU: Yes. And mocking the late John McCain.
And, of course, voted against repealing Obamacare because they didn't have a replacement for Obamacare at the time. Some facts there for the former president.
TREENE: That's right.
RAJU: Alayna Treene from Des Moines. Thank you.
And let's break this all down with my great panel this morning. Seung Min Kim from the Associated Press, Jackie Kucinich from the Boston Globe, and Isaac Arnsdorf from the Washington Post, who's the author of the upcoming book, "Finish What We Started: The MAGA Movement's Ground War to End Democracy."
I look forward to reading that.
ISAAC ARNSDORF, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Thank you.
RAJU: Thank you guys for joining us. It's a -- it's a busy consequential morning. And Donald Trump has been busy as well, as we heard from Alayna, going all across the state.
And as Trump does, when he appears before audiences, he says, controversial eyebrow raising claims. And one of the things was about the Civil War from this week.
You know, this whole hour, we'll go through different parts of his comments. But one of the things we're going to talk about right now is the Civil War, because this has become an issue suddenly in the Republican primary, after Nikki Haley failed to say slavery was the reason for the Civil War. She tried to clean it up in the CNN town hall last week.
She stepped in and some more. Donald Trump yesterday, too, was talking about the Civil War and made some curious comments that may have historians scratching their heads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I was reading something and I said, this is something that could have been negotiated, you know? It was just for all those people to die and they died viciously. That was a vicious, vicious war.
And in many ways, look, they're all this, nothing nice about it, but boy, that was a -- that was a tough one for our country. But I think it's, you know, Abraham Lincoln, of course, if you negotiated it, you probably wouldn't even know who Abraham Lincoln was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: OK. So if you negotiate the Civil War, we don't have to get into the history of the Civil War and the Missouri Compromise and the fact that the Civil War ultimately happened because of the fact that slavery was still happening in southern states.
But, look, the larger point is about Trump's comments and voters are now starting to tune in. Perhaps this may not matter in a primary, but when we get into the general election, how much are Trump's words going to matter? Or are voters just -- are these kind of things just baked in among the electorate?
JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the thing that's striking is just how backward looking, I mean, so backward that we're talking about the Civil War, but how backward looking this campaign has been so far, re-litigating January 6th, re-litigating Obamacare, re-litirating his feud with John McCain years after John McCain had passed away.
I mean, it is just -- it's just constantly looking to what happened rather than looking forward. And elections tend to be about what's next, not what just happened.
RAJU: Yes. And like that's one of the points that DeSantis himself has been trying to make. This is the issue and others too, that this -- Trump has focused on the past, this is about the future.
Let's talk about just like the nature of this race and the significance of what's going to happen a week from Monday is about the margin of victory here that if Trump polls are correct, Trump is headed to a likely victory in Iowa.
We'll see. Voters, of course, will have their ultimate say. Polls don't cast votes, but the margin of victory is significant here because if Trump does win by a significant amount, what does that mean for a Haley or DeSantis, in particular DeSantis, who has put all of his eggs essentially in the Iowa basket?
SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. And especially after in the last several weeks, you've heard a lot of stories about his campaign and his related super PAC being in shambles.
He really does have to show that in Iowa that he comes in a strong second and try to really blunt, particularly Nikki Haley's momentum as they headed to New Hampshire, which is a state where Nikki Haley has put a lot of focus in terms of providing that momentum for the campaign.
And I do think the recent tactics from Ron DeSantis have been really interesting if you're talking about in the last maybe five days or so. He really actually has been going hard after Trump in a way that we haven't seen before.
I think it really started with the CNN Town Halls on Wednesday night and you're -- here where he said, of course, Trump is a pro -- or Trump isn't pro-life, trying to get at that segment of the Republican on the floor.
RAJU: And, of course not -- he's not pro-life.
KIM: Right, right. And he was -- you know, when he was campaigning in Iowa over the weekend, he talked about how while in 2016 he may have campaigned on America first, but now this is Trump first. That's actually pretty personal for a guy who has been so unwilling to go after the former president, probably because he doesn't want to anger supporters.
And it shows you, he's kind of trying everything to really grab that strong second place position ahead of the 15th Congress.
RAJU: Yes. You are seeing them more direct attacks. We'll see if there's any difference here. You wrote about Trump's campaign, Isaac, for the Washington Post about just everything that he's been doing. This is the headline on the screen from your piece from a couple of days ago, "How Trump reignited his base and took control of the Republican primary."
He has been very active in Iowa, despite what the polls are saying that he is the strong frontrunner. Just in the last couple of days, you can see he's crisscrossed this day across Iowa, four cities in two days.
You -- how different is this campaign effort from the past two efforts?
ARNSDORF: Well, he's really still not campaigning in Iowa that month. I mean, he was there this weekend, he'll be there next weekend.
In between, he's going to sit in on the oral arguments here in Washington for the appeal of his claim of presidential immunity. So this is not like 2016 where it was multiple rallies every day. He's not putting in that kind of time.
And, arguably, it's because he doesn't need to, if you look at the polls. It's also -- you know, it's harder when you're the former president and you have a much larger secret service footprint. But the campaign has really found that they -- the traditional Trump rally is kind of more and more a throwback. And --
RAJU: I mean, do you think of the voters -- our voters, you know, they like that retail politics -- politicking which Trump doesn't do. He doesn't do the town halls.
Do they care about it as the former president just doing the rallies out there?
ARNSDORF: They have been trying to put him into smaller settings and these unplanned stops where he'll, you know, drop in at a diner or something like that. And he has been doing more of working the rope line. And that's actually something that the campaign has been playing up because he's a lot stronger in those settings to be frank about it than DeSantis is the contrast that they're trying to draw.
RAJU: Interesting. And look, as DeSantis and Haley have been trying to draw the contrast to Trump in the recent days, as you're just mentioning, some of the criticism has blown back on Nikki Haley herself. She has had a couple of unfortunate episodes if you're in the Nikki Haley camp, one about slavery.
What about talking about how Iowa -- she said that Iowa starts the caucus and New Hampshire fixes it. Then she tried to clean it up. And there's been questions about some cleanup, her comments, but this is how she tried to walk those back.
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HALEY: Saying that I had black friends is a source of pride. Saying that I had white friends is a source of pride. Iowa starts it. You change personalities, you go into New Hampshire and they continue it on.
And by the time it gets to South Carolina, it gets bigger going into Super Tuesday. There's something very cool about the process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: You're an Iowa native. How do they feel about that?
KIM: Well, do you change personalities? Are you supposed to? I mean, that's kind of -- if you're talking about authenticity, I mean, that's been kind of one of Nikki Haley's, what her critics have said about the lack thereof of that.
But no, I mean, not -- as an Iowan, you should never insult Iowans.
Also, while they --
RAJU: Perhaps not the best way to get their votes.
KIM: Right, right. And just you can't -- just you are actively campaigning in Iowa the last I checked when it comes to Nikki Haley. So you really -- she is still trying to get Iowans support in the caucuses.
If you look at her initial comments, it didn't seem like it was a gap or an unforeseen. She really was trying to get a laugh or some reaction out of that New Hampshire audience. But it's just -- it's got -- a lot of these little errors or mistakes have kind of mounted for her in recent days.
Now, how that stacks up. And whether that ultimately matters at the end of the day because Donald Trump has such a commanding lead, if you look at polling in the early states, we'll see. But it really has punctured that image of this really disciplined campaign --
KIM: -- that we've seen from Nikki Haley over the last several months.
RAJU: And they've tried to use the candidate and that is questioning her viability as a general election candidate. We'll see, if that works. We'll see if it matters.
But look, you don't want the focus to be on something else other than your message in the closing days. So we'll see.
And just a reminder for viewers, the CNN Republican presidential debate is set for Wednesday. Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis will face off at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, starting at 9:00 P.M. Eastern.
My colleagues, Dana Bash and Jake Tapper will moderate. Please check it out.
And coming up, why did it take days for the Defense Secretary to tell President Biden he was in the hospital?
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MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The handling of this by the Secretary of Defense is totally unacceptable.
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RAJU: That was the former vice president, Mike Pence, with Jake Tapper this morning. After Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin took three days to tell President Biden he was hospitalized this past week. Pence called it a dereliction of duty.
Joining me now is CNN's Priscilla Alvarez. Priscilla, what are you learning this morning about what happened and why the Defense Secretary did not disclose this hospitalization to the public?
PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Manu, there's still a lot of open-ended questions here, but a White House official tells me that yesterday evening, President Biden and the Defense Secretary spoke by phone and what the official called a warm conversation.
But, of course, this follows a source telling CNN that President Biden was not aware that his Defense Secretary was hospitalized for days.
It wasn't until National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan learned that the Defense Secretary was admitted to the hospital late Thursday afternoon that he then notified the president. Now this has come as a shock to senior administration officials, not only because the Defense Secretary is in the hospital, but also because of the delay in telling the White House. We know that the Secretary was hospitalized because of complications following an elected medical procedure on New Year's Day.
That same day, according to sources, the Secretary participated in a call with top national security officials, including President Biden, among -- about a host of issues, including rising tensions in the Red Sea.
Now, we don't know if that conversation happened before or after he was in the hospital, but it underscores the unusual set of circumstances here and how critical a member he is in this administration as there are escalating tensions in the Middle East.
Now the Secretary, in a statement yesterday, conceded that he should have been more transparent, saying, quote, I also understand the media concerns about transparency. And I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better.
But this is important to say. This was my medical procedure and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.
Manu, we still don't know what the procedure was, what the complications were, but the president is remaining confident in his Secretary, according to the White House.
RAJU: And still a lot of questions and anger, including from Capitol Hill about why they weren't informed as well.
Priscilla Alvarez, thank you for that.
And now turning to three years have passed since violent protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol. And as some Republicans tried to rewrite history from that deadly day, President Biden visited the Valley Forge to warn of what he says are the dangers of a second Trump term.
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BIDEN: Choice is clear. Donald Trump's campaign is about him, not America, not you. Donald Trump's campaign is obsessed with the past, not the future. He's willing to sacrifice our democracy, put himself in power.
Our campaign is different. For me and Kamala, our campaign is about Americans, about you, it's about every age and background that occupy this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: In Iowa, Trump praised the rioters, calling Biden's speech pathetic, fear mongering, and even mocked Biden's lifelong struggle with stuttering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Did you see him? He was stuttering through the whole thing. He's going, I'm going to. He's a threat to democracy. I'm a threat.
They've weaponized government. He's saying, I'm a threat to democracy. He's a threat to the, the democracy. Wow. OK. Couldn't read the word.
Yesterday, he tried to play tough guy, you know. I'm a threat to democracy. He's a threat to democracy because he's incompetent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Biden didn't actually stutter in the speech, just for the record. He does have a lifelong problem with that issue, which he's been open about.
But put that aside, the Biden campaign clearly has a new strategy here. It's been an uptick. It's been trying to sharpen its messaging. Biden is also heading to Charleston tomorrow to speak at Mother Emanuel AME Church. Of course, it's the site of that deadly 2015 shooting.
The Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to a group of AME Churchgoers in Myrtle Beach just yesterday.
But, Seung Min, you cover the White House for the Associated Press. What do you make of just this strategy? The efforts to try to reframe the race about January 6th and about democracy? And is that what we can expect in the next 10 months here?
KIM: It's certainly a consistent message that you're going to be hearing from the Biden -- from the White House, from President Biden himself, certainly from the campaign.
And it goes towards -- it certainly is a strategy, but it also is, if you talk to anybody close to Biden, it is who Biden is at the core. He truly believes this is a country that is at risk. If, you know -- if Trump takes over again, these values of -- these values of democracy, something that he truly believes in, which is why he has chosen to give other very -- other speeches and other remarks focused on this issue at a time when other Democrats didn't think it was -- it was a politically good idea to do so.
So certainly you're going to hear this message, this issue, resonate throughout the campaign. And it's really significant. President Biden is someone who likes symbolism. So the fact that he went to Valley Forge, a critical site in the Revolutionary War, he has delivered speech, democracy speeches from Independence Hall, went to the John McCain Institute.
This is a core value for him. And his team says it's not only who he is, but it's also good politics for them as well.
RAJU: Yes. And we saw a new campaign ad that came out this week where Trump talked -- Biden talks about how the world is watching and so the grandchildren will hold us responsible, it says in the ad, talking about democracy and the likes.
So, clearly, you know, it's interesting because the Biden team had been resistant from really going after Trump early because they were worried about essentially this -- you know, people not really engaging, sort of tweeting this out as noise. But now they decided to dig in now.
What do you make of their decision that now is the time to really go after Trump?
KUCINICH: Well, I think that they know that, you know, knowing what we know now, it looks like he's going to be the Republican nominee.
RAJU: And a lot of voters don't actually realize that.
RAJU: It's a surprise. People who watch INSIDE POLITICS, great viewers, knowledgeable viewers, of course, know that it very likely looks like Trump is on the way to become the nominee. But there are a lot of voters who don't quite believe that yet, which is part of the calculation.
KUCINICH: Exactly. So we're seeing a transition into election year Biden because you're right. In the early parts of the administration, he wouldn't even utter Trump's names during speeches or when he was asked about him. He would say the other guy. He would use all these other things.
And, increasingly, and certainly in that speech last week, Trump was very much front and center and he's reacting to some of the things the former president has said and to reports about what he has said he will do in a potential second term.
So they want to elevate what's being said on the other side as much as what Biden is saying he's going to do, particularly among independents because we should say, I mean, look no further than the midterm elections where a lot of the election denial candidates lost to Democrats and they're looking at that as well.
RAJU: Yes. It's interesting. If you just look at the polls about how people view January 6th. There was a question that the Washington Post, your paper, Isaac, put out in a poll about whether or not they believe that FBI operators organized or encouraged the January 6th attack.
Quarter of Americans actually believe that's probably true. It's not true. We don't have no evidence that that's true.
Twenty-five percent say there's 34 percent of Republicans. It's surprising about 30 percent of independents say it's definitely probably true. Twenty-two percent are not sure.
So perhaps one reason why is what we're hearing from Donald Trump on the campaign trail. He was talking about these -- about January 6th. And he's gone from not talking about it to now almost fully embracing what happened there and clearly rewriting what happened as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They have to release the J6 hostages. They've suffered them out. They have to release them. I call them hostages. Some people call them prisoners. I call them hostages.
Release the J6 hostages, Joe. Release them, Joe.
Nobody's been treated ever in history so badly as those people. By the way, there was Antifa and there was FBI. There were a lot of other people there too, leading the charge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: There's no evidence of that, of course, but he says this again and again on the campaign trail. How were his voters -- do they -- do they -- obviously, they believe him, but does it matter to them when it comes to voting?
Republican voters, maybe even ones who are weighing Haley or DeSantis. How much does any of this matter to them?
ARNSDORF: Two really striking findings from that poll. One was that how Republican views have hardened, how they've gotten more extreme, how more Republicans believe that there was FBI involvement, that it wasn't mostly violent, that Trump wasn't responsible.
And then secondly, how those Republican views have split off from the rest of the country, from the Democrats and independents who really haven't changed that much.
And that's all happening at the same time that Trump has been having this political comeback to build up this dominant lead in the polls. And there's a connection there. And it wasn't primarily Trump actually who was the first driver of that, because if you remember back to the immediate months following January 6th, Trump kind of disappeared and went into hiding.
And it was actually the people returning from the mob themselves, their family members, their lawyers of people as they started getting arrested, activists who picked up that cause, and members of Congress and media figures who were responding to that pressure and amplifying it.
And eventually that creating this rewriting that Trump was able to grab onto and validate and amplify further to clear the path for him to be the nominee again.
RAJU: It's such a good point. I mean, and you mentioned those numbers. And I wanted to show what you're talking about, the viewers here. There's a question, a couple of questions in December 2021 and December 2023 about whether or not voters viewed protesters who entered the Capitol as mostly violent.
Back in 2021, 26 percent of Republican voters viewed it as mostly violent, now just 18 percent. But look at the independent and Democratic number, but the independent number in particular. It really hasn't changed. It really has not changed.
Voters perhaps have their views set on January 6th, regardless of what Trump is saying. So how much does this matter in say a general election context?
KIM: Well, I think that to the extent that the Biden campaign continues to hammer on democracy as a theme, I think those perspectives, particularly the numbers you pointed out with the independent voters will certainly matter if you're going to continue to hear this from President Biden, and then presumably president Trump as well if he's the general election nominee because that is the whole kind of Biden campaign ball game.
Of course, they're going to go out and tell President Biden's accomplishments in the first term, but they know that the really effective way for them would be to make that hard contrast with Donald Trump, whether it comes whether it's on policy or on issues of democracy.
So to the extent that they can really engage those swing voters who still have those views about January 6th, I think it will certainly be something that could be critical down the road.
RAJU: Yes. Let's say, I mean, obviously, we're going to hear a lot more about it come November.
All right. Coming up. The border crisis is holding up Congress, but could be a unifier for the GOP. My new reporting on the efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas.
RAJU: When Congress returns this week, House Republicans plan to tack another impeachment effort until they're already hefty to-do list, this time targeting Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for the crisis at the southern border.
Now that may be improved to be easier than their goal of impeaching President Biden. My new reporting this morning along with my colleagues Melanie Zanona and Annie Grayer outlines their game plan. Their plans, swift hearings in the Homeland Security Committee, bypassing the House Judiciary Committee, which typically deals with matters of impeachment, and going to the floor early this year. It would be historic and extremely controversial.
The Cabinet Secretary has not been impeached since 1876. But in this election year, even swing district Republicans are getting on board. Freshman Congressman Anthony D'Esposito, who was in a district that Biden won, told me, quote, "From the far right and the freedom caucus to those more moderate, we've all been a part of this. I believe that the American people agree with us that Mayorkas needs to be impeached and we need to find quality leadership to lead Homeland Security."
Now, Melanie Zanona, my colleague, talked to Mark Green, he's the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee just yesterday about what his plans are going forward.
He does plan a handful of hearings. Not a lot of hearings. He believes that they can move forward and have a vote relatively soon on this. He said he's been talking to Mike Johnson in near constant communications. And he said, it is more critical right now than anything. And I think the American people are very, very attuned to do that. So I think it will be a political issue in November. How is the White House preparing, Seung Min, to what looks like an increasingly likely impeachment effort?
KIM: Well, Secretary Mayorkas was actually asked about this when he was doing interviews earlier this week about the border and when the impeachment news came out. And he said he is willing to cooperate, but that he is focused on his job that he is doing right now, which ironically includes, as we were talking during the break, negotiating with congressional Republicans.
Now that's not, you know, House Republicans that are -- that Mayorkas is talking with right now. But it certainly creates a really odd, if you will, dynamic when you are trying to go after the guy that is really trying to reach a bipartisan border deal that will unlock a post of other things that are critical to the White House, critical to, you know, Democrats, and certainly several Republicans as well.
RAJU: And look, the question is going to be about the votes. This is a narrowly divided House. Right now it stands at starting January 2021, when Bill Johnson retires, a congressman from Ohio. He's in (inaudible) seat 219 to 213 will be the will be the break down between Republicans and Democrats and that majority slips down to just
one, just one because Steve Scalise, the House Majority Leader has been undergoing treatment for cancer, has been -- it's going to be out for about a month, he's getting better, which is good news, but it's growing even thinner.
But the interesting thing here that we're learning is that Republicans are more open now to impeaching Mayorkas, many of them, than they are Biden. There's been a shift in the thinking in the last several weeks. What do you make of that shift?
ARNSDORF: Well, it's related to those border deal negotiations because frankly, they aren't going that well. They're not getting very far. And the border and immigration is such an animating issue in Republican, in Republican case --
RAJU: Is dominating the campaign state right now. ARNSDORF: Right. So they're kind of clamoring for something and they
view this Mayorkas impeachment as sort of low hanging fruit. It's kind of surprising it's taken this long, actually, because it's something that a lot of Republicans campaigned on doing immediately if they took back the House in the midterms.
Now, as for the Biden impeachment, you know, Republicans have been pretty upfront that it's designed to weaken Biden in the presidential. And there's a little bit of a sense that maybe that's not that important anymore, given how weak he looks, or you don't want to weaken him too much, such that he actually doesn't run.
RAJU: And what's if you don't get the votes to impeach Biden, then you all of a sudden look like you're exonerating him. That is going to be a real complication as they deal with what to do here. Some Republicans simply say there's not evidence yet to impeach Joe Biden. And so we'll see.
There's also, as you're talking about the border negotiations that are happening in the Senate, the question is how can they get a deal this week? The reason why this is so critical is that they need to get a deal on border security, a bill that can actually pass Congress in order to move forward on aid to Ukraine and Israel.
Republicans said the border must be dealt with first. But there are Republicans who say whatever comes out of the Senate will not pass the House. So this is what the top Republican Senate negotiator James Lankford said about that this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JAMES LANKFORD, (R) OKLAHOMA: To make law, we've got to have a Democrat Senate, a Democrat White House, and a Republican House to be able to go through this. So this agreement has to work. Everyone's counting on this actually working, but it's going to have to be an agreement that a White House -- that it's a Democrat White House and a Democrat Senate can also line up with a Republican House, and we're working to thread that needle for things that actually work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: If they get a deal, is that a message that will actually sell with the House GOP?
KUCINICH: I mean --
RAJU: Compromise, they're saying compromise.
KUCINICH: Yeah, that's what worked really well this year, or last year in the House -- in the House GOP. Listen, they're going to need Democrats. I think it boils down to, that's how anything is going to get passed this year, no matter what it is.
The other concern is that, will conservatives really go to the math about government funding in the border, because there are those threats are very much out there. And Mike Johnson has downplayed them, I think we could say that.
However, it's very real, and that's very soon. That is, what, two weeks away?
RAJU: Yeah, January 19th and February 2nd, two deadlines.
KUCINICH: Yup, exactly. Two times that they could possibly exert this pressure. So buckle up everybody.
RAJU: I know it's a long laundry list of things. There's lots of things on the congressional agenda from just -- is growing, as you can see on your screen, they're January 19th, February 2nd, the first critical deadlines. And then there's a separate issue. We're talking about immigration, Ukraine, and the like. But on immigration, you just cannot ignore the politics of this. It is just driving so much as Isaac was saying, such an animating issue for Republicans on the campaign trail.
This is what Troy Nehls told us this past week. He's a congressman, a Republican from Texas, about a deal on immigration. He said, "I will not help the Democrats try to improve Biden's dismal approval ratings. I'm not going to do it. Why would I? Chuck Schumer has had HR 2 on his desk since July, and he did nothing with it." HR 2 being the House Republican bill that the Democrats say is a non-starter. But look, his point is that this could help Biden.
RAJU: If they cut a deal on immigration, now Biden could take that issue off the table heading into November.
KIM: Democrats certainly jumped on that quote because they're like, well, this is who we're kind of trying to deal with here. They don't want to give President Biden one. Because the fact is the White House and the president desperately want to deal on the border to the point that they are infuriating who otherwise would be their allies, whether it's the progressive caucus in the House, immigration advocates who are all very furious about the direction of the way these border talks are going.
And they're -- you know, they're desperate for a deal obviously because it's tied to Ukraine, which is such a key pillar or key part of President Biden's foreign policy, but they want a deal on the border. They're seeing all the numbers that we are seeing. They know this is a bad, not -- this is the substantive problem that they have to manage, but it's a political problem for them as well.
RAJU: And they know that if they get a deal, Trump is going to come out and just rush --
RAJU: He's going to go after it. And that's going to make it harder for the House, Republicans and Senate Republicans to vote for it.
ARNSDORF: Well, and I'm thinking back to the clip about Trump talking about negotiating the Civil War at the beginning, because that came up because he was talking about how he could negotiate an end to the Ukraine conflict in one day.
And what -- I mean, what do you think that negotiated settlement would look like? I mean, it's the same thing that historians were pointed out, is like, well, how would you negotiate an end to the Civil War without dealing with slavery?
RAJU: Right. Well, very good question. I don't think you could. All right, well, thanks for that. All right, Donald Trump's stacked calendar hits a new extreme this week. We'll dive into the Trump's tangled web of legal woes. That's coming next.
RAJU: This week, Donald Trump's legal and political calendars were collide like never before. The former president plans to visit a federal court room in Washington just a few days before the Iowa caucuses to appeal a decision that he doesn't enjoy presidential immunity from criminal charges.
He'll also attend his closing arguments in his civil fraud trial in New York. He has defamation damages trial and oh yeah, that New Hampshire primary also just two weeks away. And that's just the next few weeks.
Joining me now to break this all down are CNN's Legal Analysts, Carrie Cordero and Elliot Williams. Good morning to you both. Thank you for joining me.
Elliott, the 14th Amendment, obviously going before the Supreme Court, the Colorado case. There are a whole bunch of states, as you can see on our map, that are probably looking at this right now, that could take a similar action. What do you make of their decision to take up this case and the implications it would have?
ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's very important that the Supreme Court took it up. And let's talk about why the Supreme Court even exists and takes matters up in the first place. They didn't have to, and that's important to note.
Now, the Supreme Court typically weighs in on a case if there's a big dispute as to a matter of constitutional law or difference between states or federal courts of appeals. You sort of have a number of those factors here. A number of states have weighed in on the issue, and there's open, ambiguous questions of constitutional law. Someone has to sort it out. The Supreme Court did.
Now, they may not touch some of these questions of who's an insurrectionist or not, because they have other ways to address the case. But it was very important, sort of for the good of the country's understanding of the Constitution. RAJU: But the view is that Trump is probably going to win this case.
Is that a fair assessment of this case?
CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, with respect to the disqualification case, I think it would be a really, I mean, obviously historic and probably unlikely outcome that the Supreme Court is actually going to go ahead with disqualification.
I think the question is what Elliot raises, which is whether the Supreme Court will actually get to the really meaty substantive constitutional issues that are at play. You know, whether or not the office of the presidency is an officer under the Constitution, which is something that in lay terms, we think, oh, well, of course. But really, there's like, you know, arcane constitutional debate over.
I don't think the Supreme Court is going to get to the question of whether or not former President Trump actually engaged in an insurrection. The question is whether or not they'll lay out some criteria by which that assessment can be made, whether or not they will give us some factors, give lower courts some guidance, give secretaries of state in the individual states guidance about how they make that decision under the 14th Amendment, as opposed to actually making that factual finding the counts.
WILLIAMS: Forgive me for being the lawyer at the garden party to sort of ruin everything. You know, when we think about winning and losing, we often think about there's one winner and there's one loser. And yes, the likely outcome is that Donald Trump ends up on the ballot, but that does not mean, and this is to Carrie's point, that the court will have addressed the core question of, did Donald Trump engage in insurrection? They have about five or six different ways they can resolve the matter in a way that brings a number of the justices in and gets them sort of close to unanimity, but also doesn't touch.
RAJU: And that's John Roberts' style, right?
RAJU: To try to avoid some of those issues. Now, the question also about this immunity case, this is a very significant case. D.C. circuits are going to hear arguments this week. If Trump wins in this case, what does that mean for all? Look at all the other cases, 91 counts, four different criminal cases that he is facing. Just to remind our viewers, if he wins in this D.C. circuit case, what does that mean for the rest of these criminal charges?
CORDERO: Well, I actually think that this one, he has a much less likelihood of actually winning on this. I think he has brought up immunity as a claim, claimed something called absolute immunity, which isn't even really grounded in law, that he is immune from prosecution in these cases. And I think he's more unlikely to succeed on that particular case as opposed to the disqualification case. But obviously, the consequences, the consequences are not just about former President Donald Trump. The consequences are about a president, any future president, and whether or not they can be held accountable under the law. I mean, that's the basic idea of those cases. The significance can't be overstated.
RAJU: And it's probably going to go to the Supreme Court. If Trump does lose, as a lot of people do expect in the D.C. circuit, he'll take it to the court. But is Trump favored in the Supreme Court? I mean, 6-3 conservative, three conservative justice that he appointed, people like me, who are not lawyers, say, well, yes, conservatives, he's probably going to win these cases. Or is that too sophomoric of an analysis?
WILLIAMS: Yeah. What I would say is yes and no. I think if these were -- if we were talking about abortion or the death penalty or firearms or some of these social issues, cultural issues on which there's a clear ideological divide, then, of course, I think you have plenty of data to suggest that the Supreme Court is likely to rule a certain way.
The problem is that these are rule of law questions, government questions, questions of constitutional interpretation, of election law, or of immunities under the Constitution that just don't line up as cleanly. Now, look, he appointed three justices, and, you know, there's -- the six-three split on the court, so it's hard to say. But, yeah, I wouldn't be so quick.
RAJU: Look, there's so many questions, too, about the impact this will have on the election. Look at the trial dates that are happening here. There are four cases that will be heard in the moment before the election. Will any of those come to a verdict before November?
CORDERO: Well, a lot depends on how the Supreme Court proceeds in the next month or so, particularly as it relates to the federal January 6th case since that one is coming up with a spring trial date.
Another question about the documents case, whether that one could wrap up. I actually think that that is the case that is just on the merits. The strongest legal exposure that the former president has is on that documents case, the classified documents case. But just going back a second to the question about how the Supreme Court will take up these cases, generally, I generally disfavor looking at justices or judges all around the country from this is who appointed them and this is who done. We have to remember that the courts did reject all of the former president's claim when he was challenging the election itself.
RAJU: Yeah. And will they do that again? That's the big question. Thank you guys coming in, for joining us. A key player in the Senate border talks could also be key to the balance of power in 2024. So what is Kyrsten Sinema saying about her plans to run again? Next.
RAJU: Senator Kyrsten Sinema has been at the center of urgent negotiations in the Senate to strike an immigration deal. But her political future is now in the spotlight.
[11:55:02] Elected as a Democrat, she became an independent in late 2022. This progressive grew frustrated at her dealmaking and her refusal to gut the filibuster. And now she has not yet made clear if she will run for reelection in Arizona as an independent. She has until April to file.
If she does run, it will be a complicated race, as Democrats already face an uphill climb to hold on to the Senate. She will likely face Congressman Ruben Gallego, who is a progressive Democrat, and Republican Kari Lake, a staunchly conservative former gubernatorial candidate.
Now, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Daines told me, Sinema cannot win as an independent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. STEVE DAINES, (R) MONTANA: In a three-way race as an independent, it's a difficult path in the pulling that we have looked at. Everything we've seen shows there's not a real clear path for Sinema.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: And the Democrat Senate Campaign Chief, Gary Peters, has so far refused to endorse Gallego, waiting to see what Sinema does first. A big clue will come later this month when we learn how much money she raised in the last quarter.
But a person close to her says she has been focused on the border talks and that she could turn on her campaign apparatus if she does decide to run. But this past week, she made clear to me she has no interest in discussing her thinking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: Senator, you're filing deadlines coming up. When will you make your announcements known?
SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA, (I) ARIZONA: Absolutely ridiculous. OK, I'm actually --
RAJU: You go on there?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU: People want to know. That's it for Inside Politics Sunday. Up next, State of the Union with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Jake's guests include former Vice President Mike Pence and Congressman Jim Clyburn.
Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. We'll see you next time.