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Trump Pressures Republicans To Block Border Deal; Peter Navarro Sentenced To 4 Months For Defying Jan. 6 Subpoena; Why The "Blue Wall" States Are Key To Biden Reelection; Biden Hoping Economy Can Boost Reelection Hopes. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired January 25, 2024 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: I'd rather have the issue.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, I mean, it's pure raw politics is what it is. A lot of Republicans. Probably you're saying this privately, don't want to say it out loud. Now it's coming out in public that this is how Trump feels about it, and they are following his orders, because he is likely going to be the nominee. They are very reluctant to do anything that is seen as undermining him or crossing him.

A lot of cases they're driven more by fear than wanting to please him. And, you know, to be honest, Dana, this is a really familiar dynamic for Republicans who served while Trump was in office. He had the power to completely blow up or derail legislation with the, you know, simple click of a tweet or a phone call, and we saw that continually every single day. And now, as it looks increasingly likely that his nomination is inevitable, this is the reality that Republicans are dealing with.

BASH: It's so true, but I just think that, just to emphasize once again, this is the issue that Republican voters in pretty much every state that we've seen, I think is the number one issue. And I'm not Pollyanna, like I've seen this before. I covered many immigration negotiations on Capitol Hill that failed because of politics.

But there is, they are on the cusp of doing something in a bipartisan way that could actually make the border better. And he doesn't want it.

JOSH DAWSEY, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, he wants his campaign this fall to be almost not solely about immigration, but it will be the number one issue that he talks about in his campaign. And he wants the scenes of, you know, things being totally out of control of the border.

And he has a lot of data right now that help us this campaign. You know, the record number of crossings --

BASH: Yes. DAWSEY: -- that are coming into America, even some Democrats, I think, privately are fretting over what's happening in New York and all of these other cities. And I think Trump wants it to be as bad as possible going into the fall for his campaign. And we've seen him do this repeatedly with senators. So I mean, they try to get bipartisan deals. They often attacks these deals, just as as Melanie said.

The other thing to me that's super interesting about this is for a long time in the House, you have a lot of these members who are actually like Trump. In the Senate, most of these members --

BASH: Yes.

DAWSEY: -- are not fans of Trump, right? They really did not want him to be the nominee again. They sort of are begrudgingly having to deal with him again. And you can almost hear the palpable frustration --

BASH: Yes.

DAWSEY: -- of the voice realize that all of a sudden this guy that they don't really like much. There's a few of them that do, but a lot of them really don't.

BASH: Especially the top Republican in the Senate --

DAWSEY: Right. Mitch McConnell.

BASH: -- Mitch McConnell, who -- go ahead.

RAMESH PONNURU, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes, their strategy of not doing anything about Trump turns out remarkably not to have worked. And so now they are left with the consequences of it. But I think, you know, Trump may have killed this deal, but it was already in the sickbed. You know, we shouldn't forget that there are a lot of substantive concerns where a lot of -- the Republicans most concerned about immigration on the Hill or the ones who are saying this is inadequate.

And more than that, they think the president already has the authority that he needs. He just doesn't have the will. And if that's your view, you're probably less concerned about the law changing the law than changing the president.

BASH: Just to play devil's advocate isn't any compromise legislation inadequate. By definition, you have to come together and you're not going to make the hardliners on the right happy. You're not going to make --


BASH: -- the hardliners on the left happy.

PONNURU: If the goal is perfection from your point of view, which is --

BASH: Yes. PONNURU: -- apparently what Trump has been saying --

BASH: Yes.

PONNURU: -- then no.

BASH: Yes.

PONNURU: No compromise by definition will work.

BASH: OK. So let's just quickly talk about the Mitch McConnell of it all because your reporting and others is that he is seems to be understandably because of what you said about them not being the biggest fan of Donald Trump in the Senate sort of pained about the reality setting in of Donald Trump likely being his party's nominee.

And let's just give an example, a couple of examples of why, about what Donald Trump has said about Mitch McConnell.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mitch McConnell's a disaster. The guy's a disaster. The old crow.

They were put in and he had to give to the old crow.

The old crow, the old broken down crow. Mitch McConnell is the least popular politician.

Then you had the old crow come out and say, oh, we don't have good candidates. We don't have --


TRUMP: -- that a while ago. That's Mitch McConnell, who is the worst thing we have in the Republican Party. He's absolutely the worst.


BASH: This is the guy who is, seems to be headed for the Republican nomination and the top Republican in the United States --

ZANONA: Right.

BASH: -- Senate and has been for some time. You watch this dynamic report and this dynamic every day.

ZANONA: Yes, and also Donald Trump has attacked Mitch McConnell's wife. We should also point out --

BASH: Who used to work for him.

ZANONA: -- who used to work for him, correct.

PONNURU: Engranged in racist terms. ZANONA: Yes. So with Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, obviously their relationship has completely soured since January 6th. It is hard to imagine that if Donald Trump becomes president, that Mitch McConnell can remain, or would even want to remain, as GOP leader.

Now, there are other key Republicans who do have a good working relationship with Trump, including the head of the Senate GOP campaign arm. So there are people that can work with Trump, but it's not Mitch McConnell.


And there are a lot of questions swirling around the Capitol right now about, can we keep Mitch McConnell as our leader if he has zero relationship, in fact, an animosity with each other in the future? And that is the question that I think is really underlining this idea that Trump is coming back into the fold.

BASH: So interesting.

OK, everybody stand by because coming up, talk of the economy's demise has been greatly exaggerated. That, of course, is the message coming loud and clear from the Biden campaign. We do have evidence of that with the new blockbuster GDP report sending stocks to record highs. The question, are Americans finally beginning to feel it? We'll talk about that next.



BASH: Breaking news, former top Trump White House aide Peter Navarro was just sentenced to four months in prison for defying a congressional subpoena. CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins me now. Katelyn, what happened at that sentencing?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, this was a long sentencing hearing for Peter Navarro, that former White House aide, who had worked on the coronavirus response, but then also was publicly talking about contesting the election results after the 2020 election for Donald Trump.

Peter Navarro, today in D.C.'s federal court, he received a four-month sentence for jail time from Judge Amit Mehta. He also was fined $9,500. And Mehta boiled it down to the fact that Navarro was more than happy to talk publicly about what he was doing after the 2020 election. He wrote a book about it, he did media appearances, but he would not talk to the House.

And this prosecution was about contempt of Congress that he didn't show up for testimony or even make any meaningful attempt to negotiate testimony, and they never turned over any documents when the House Select Committee had subpoenaed him. Here's some quotes from Judge Mehta speaking directly to Peter Navarro at the end of this sentencing right before he gave him that amount of time. "They had a job to do Congress and you made it harder. It's really that simple. It wasn't a kangaroo court. The public could see that. You are not a victim. You are not the object of a political prosecution. These are the circumstances of your own making."

Now, Peter Navarro did speak in court to the judge. He said he was torn on what to do because he had talked to Donald Trump, thought maybe there would be executive privilege. He's going to be appealing now, just like Steve Bannon, another person who was prosecuted for the very same thing related to the January 6th investigations.

BASH: Thank you so much for that reporting, Katelyn.

And now we go to Wisconsin. President Biden is getting out of Washington today. He's going there to pitch Americans on Bidenomics. There are even more signs that his economic policies may be working. We learned that the economy grew by 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter, and that is far higher than expected.

Arlette Saenz is already in Wisconsin. Arlette, what are we likely to hear from the president today?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, President Biden will be bringing his economic pitch here to Wisconsin as he is eyeing a general election matchup with former President Donald Trump. And here in Superior, the president will have a chance to talk about something and potentially needle Trump on something that he wasn't able to accomplish in his four years in office, and that is passing an infrastructure bill.

Biden will be here just a few miles away from Blatnik Bridge saying that he will be promising to deliver these $1 billion in federal funding to repair that bridge that's aging. It currently connects Wisconsin and Minnesota. It's one of those examples that the president is trying to show to voters of his policies actually in action.

Of course, as you mentioned, the Biden team is watching some of these bright spots in the economy and hoping that they will start to move in their favor. They're looking at dropping gas prices. The fact that stock markets is going up and also that consumer sentiments are improving.

In the end, they are hoping that some of those more upbeat moods about the economy will eventually also translate into better feelings about the president's handling of economic issues. But so far, he has been unable to break through with voters who have a negative perception of his handling of the economy.

A recent poll found that less than a third of voters approved of the way that the president has been handling economic issues. Now, the Biden team is also eager to try to draw some further contrast with Trump as they are eyeing that general election matchup. And that will be key in a state like Wisconsin.

It's part of that so-called blue wall that helped Biden get into the White House back in 2020. He will need states like this Michigan and Pennsylvania in order to secure a second term. And part of that will be trying to make this economic argument especially to working class voters, which both Biden and Trump are vying for.

BASH: Thanks, Arlette. That sets us up perfectly for our next segment, which is about President Biden spending a lot of time in Wisconsin this year, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania. Keeping those states in his column forms the backbone of his campaign's electoral strategy.

CNN Political Director David Chalian is here at the Magic Wall. Show us on the map what we're talking about.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Dana, you know, I'm not big on predictions. One prediction I'm going to make is that the residents of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are going to get more Joe Biden visits this year than any other states in the union. That's a prediction I will make.

This is that blue wall. This is the blue wall that Donald Trump busted through to win the White House and defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. And it's the blue wall that Joe Biden restored in 2020 that delivered him to the White House.


And it is very, very difficult to find a viable path for Joe Biden to be reelected without keeping this blue wall intact. Let's take a look at the standing right now at where things are. In Michigan, this is Joe Biden's current weakest state. In our poll from December, he's down 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent against the president. So no easy thing to keep that blue wall blue.

A little bit better news for the president in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac University has him down within, you know, no clear leader. This is basically a dead heat race. 49 percent Biden, 46 percent Trump when you consider the margin of error there.

And in Wisconsin, you see a similar pattern where Arlette just was, 47 percent for Biden, 45 percent for Trump. No clear leader well within the margin of error in these critical battleground states.

Dana, look, this is the 2020 map with the new electoral counts after reapportionment. That means that given those new counts, Biden starts with 303 to Trump's 235 in the 2020 map. Here's what I mean about the most direct route, though.

Take a look at the Sunbelt states, two of three Biden flipped from red to blue last time around. What if they revert back to red? Georgia and Arizona. And we know the problems that Joe Biden's having with Latino voters big in Nevada and his poll numbers, they are not great.

If those go to Trump this time around, look at what happens to the electoral count. Biden wins barely at 270 to 268 for Donald Trump, and that's if he keeps that blue wall, which is no certain thing. I would just note if this is the scenario, Dana, that also means that this one congressional district in Nebraska, Omaha would need to still stay in Joe Biden's column. Otherwise, if it flips red, you're at a 269, 269 tie, the race goes to the House and likely Donald Trump would be president in that scenario.

BASH: I mean, this is the -- I'm so glad that you did all of that because that is not out of the realm of possibility of what you just showed and it's kind of mind boggling.

Thank you so much, David. We're going to probably be doing this over and over again in the next few months. And I look forward to every minute of it.

And my panel is back here. You know, when you look at the blue wall that David was just showing us, and you think about President Biden as a candidate versus other Democrats, that was his strength. The reason he rebuilt it is because of, like, what he got yesterday. He got the union, the UAW endorsement.

He has historically appealed to the working voters. The question is with the economy the way it is and the feeling about the economy now, whether that's going to stick.

PONNURU: I do think that perceptions of the economy are going to be the decisive issue here. I don't know that Biden or any president has the power to change those perceptions, but there are some signs, for example, the increased consumer sentiment that they might be changing sort of on their own. And he can change the perception of himself as being somebody who is, you know, laser focused on the economy.

And I think that that, as much as changing perceptions of the economy, is what this tour is actually accomplishing, or trying to accomplish.

DAWSEY: Yes, I mean, if you look at a lot of campaign operatives, they sort of track, right track, wrong track as one of the key messages, key metrics of whether they think their candidates going to do well as an incumbent. And I think a lot of what the economics going to matter is what mood are people in sort of when they're going to the polls, right?

Are they really looking for drastic change? Do they feel like they need drastic change or not? So we'll see if any of those sentiments seep in to make that change. One of the -- if the economic numbers moved where more people thought the country was on the right track, which right now a lot of them don't, then maybe that is -- that accrues big time favorably for Biden.

BASH: And I'm sure you're hearing this from Biden sources like I am. They argue that the right track, wrong track, which is really the whole ballgame when it comes to predictors is not only about the economy, it's about fear of another Trump campaign, another Trump presidency. Now, that might be a hopeful prediction, but it is something that they're considering.

ZANONA: Absolutely. And you're starting to see the Biden campaign turn up the heat and try to turn up the contrast with Donald Trump as it looks like he is going to be the nominee. I think that's part of the visit today. Like Arlette said, he's trying to needle Trump on an issue, infrastructure, which he was unable to achieve when he was president. And so, you're going to start seeing that a lot more, not just on the economy, but on a whole host of other issues. When it comes to abortion, reproductive rights, democracy, they really want to draw that contrast with Trump and remind voters what it was like to have Trump as president.

BASH: Great discussion. Thank you, .one and all.

Up next, women, politics, and the "Barbie" Oscar slight


BASH: A word about "Barbie" and the snubs ricocheting through "Barbie" land and the real world. Now, I know the Oscar nominations came out a few days ago, but we've been a bit busy here at INSIDE POLITICS in New Hampshire with the primary there and all. But a social media post from Hillary Clinton caught our attention and we wanted to share it.


Quote, "Greta and Margo, while it can sting to win at the box office but not take home the gold, your millions of fans love you. You're both so much more than kenough." Now, maybe the Academy voters should have listened harder to America Ferrera's monologue, which did earn her an Oscar nod.

Part of it applies here. Quote, "You have to be a career woman, but also always be looking out for the other people. You have to answer for men's bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you're accused of complaining." Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie are not complaining. Their class and grace and talent all speak for itself. We see you.

Thanks for joining INSIDE POLITICS. "CNN NEWS CENTRAL" starts after the break.