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Inside Politics

Biden: If Border Deal Passes, "I'd Shut Down The Border"; Three U.S. Troops Killed In Drone Attack In Jordan; Jury Finds Trump Must Pay $83.3 Million To E. Jean Carroll; Trump's Rocky Relationships With Top GOP Senators In Question; Top Republican Senators Split On Endorsing Trump; Three U.S. Troops Killed In Drone Attack In Jordan; Biden Tries To Win Back Black Voters In South Carolina; Fetterman Pushes To Bar Menendez From Classified Briefing. Aired 11a-12p ET

Aired January 28, 2024 - 11:00   ET




MANU RAJU, CNN HOST: Dead on arrival. New details of a delicate border deal.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That bill with the law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.

RAJU: as Trump tries to kill it.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America.

RAJU: A new reporting, Trump's freight alliances with top Senate Republicans.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Don't have any announcement to make on the presidential election. If I change my mind about that, I'll let you know.

RAJU: Plus, two-front fight.

TRUMP: Nikki Haley. Did anybody ever hear of her?

RAJU: As Trump tries to turn to Biden, Haley turns up the heat.

NIKKI HALEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: he's not fighting for the American people.

RAJU: And our Trump's legal troubles finally catching up with them.

And on the attack.

BIDEN: The only loser I see is Donald Trump.

RAJU: The president heads south, as he tries to ease progressive protests.

Inside politics, best reporting from inside the corridors of power starts now.

Good morning, and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

Former president Donald Trump has not even seen the text of a major deal just secured between President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of senators aimed at securing the southern border with Mexico. In fact, it hasn't even been released to the public yet. It's supposed to later this week.

Yet, that has not stopped Trump from ratcheting up his demands that Republicans kill the measure in Congress as he makes immigration and the border front and center in his campaign and wants to deny Biden a legislative accomplishment on an issue polls say is one of the president's biggest vulnerabilities.

Now after privately calling Republicans and urging them to reject the plan, the former president has been increasingly vocal in public, railing against the deal on social media and demanding that Republicans only accept a quote perfect plan that gives them, quote, everything they want.


TRUMP: As the leader of our party, there is zero chance I will support this horrible open borders betrayal of America.

A lot of the senators are trying to say respectfully they're blaming it in me. I said, that's okay. Please blame it on me. Please, because they were getting ready to pass a very bad bill.

And I'll tell you what a bad bill is, I'd rather have no bill than a bad bill.


RAJU: Again, the bill has not been released.

Now, for Biden, the soon-to-be unveiled bill represents a major shift. He's embracing it despite progressive backlash.

BIDEN: That bill with the law today, I'd shut down the border right now and fix it quickly and Congress needs to get it done.


RAJU: Now, the details was I first reported on Friday would require the federal government to temporary block almost all migrants from entering the U.S. when daily crossings reach an average of 5,000 per day in any given week.

The border would be closed to most migrants until the U.S. sees fewer than 2,000 approach, the border per day over two weeks span.

Now, this comes after crossings reach a record of 300,000 last month. And crucially for Ukraine, the bill would be paired with billions of dollars to help in its war against Russia. Now, let's break down all this with our great panel this morning. Laura Barron-Lopez of PBS NewsHour. Politico's Burgess Everett. And Molly Ball from the Wall Street Journal. Good morning.


RAJU: Another busy eventful weekend and also critical week ahead. Burgess, you're in the Capitol walking those halls every day with me, talking to Republicans about all of this. Trump's opposition coming out so strongly to it.

How much does that sway Republicans in the Senate? We know it already has in the House. And House Republican leaders are very making very clear, they are on the same page as Trump.

Is that the same in the Senate GOP? And are there 11 or more Republican senators would vote for this to advance the measure?

BURGESS EVERETT, CONGRESSIONAL BUREAU CHIEF, POLITICO: Yes. I mean, we could see this coming for several weeks as he sort of attacked even the idea of negotiating and saying, we need a perfect bill, even before we had some of these details.

Trump's influence is not as strong in the Senate Republican Conference, but it is still quite strong. We know he talks to plenty of these conservatives people like J.D. Vance, and even people like Lindsey Graham who are likely to support this deal.

So I think it's going to turn into a real big whipping operation and a grudge match between him and Senator McConnell, the Republican leader. They are going to have to fight it out and see who can get more Republicans on board to their position.


There's 49 of them. The goal has always been to get 25 of the 49 to support this. There's a bunch of probably a dozen that will definitely support it, a dozen who definitely won't. And so everything's going to be fought there right in the middle between McConnell and Trump. The two old rival.

RAJU: Yes, two old rivals, which we'll talk about later in the show. Nice tease for that segment later in the show.

But look, the challenge is going to be for a lot of these on the fence Republicans side with Trump or side with Biden. And that's exactly the choice Donald Trump is trying to make as he rails against it.


TRUMP: I didn't have the border to run on because I did such a good job with the border that the border wasn't an issue.

And now I'm saying the border is in play like it's never been in play before. Now, we can talk about the border because it's never ever been worse than it is now.


RAJU: I mean, in that sound, but he's essentially admitting that they want the -- he wants a campaign on the border. He wants a campaign on the border and perhaps a deal here could take that away. He's sort of saying the quiet part out loud.

MOLLY BALL, WALL STREET JOURNAL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean, that's always sort of his style. And this has been his signature issue for all eight years that he's been on the political stage. He launched his candidacy with a broadside against immigration and immigrants.

And so this -- there's a feeling, I think, that the way events are unfolding in this campaign has really played into Trump's hands politically and that the worst things look on the border, the better he looks given that most voters in polls believe that he's stronger on this issue than President Biden.

So he clearly -- he's saying it out loud. He doesn't see any upside in giving Biden a big win on this very, very difficult issue.

But then again, that does give a political talking point to Biden and the Democrats to just say when and if Trump does become the nominee, you know, he doesn't want to actually fix things. There was an opportunity here to fix things and he'd rather just let things.

RAJU: Yes. And that's the thing, right? Republicans have been railing on the border for three years saying Biden has not done enough. They've been going down the border, having press conference there.

Now, there's a chance to do something. Yes, maybe not go as far as you want, but potentially do something. And that is the argument that a lot of the Republican senators have been making who've been supporting this, including Senator James Lankford, who is on the Sunday shows this morning, pushing back on the GOP criticism.


SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Now it's interesting a few months later, when we're finally going to the end, they're like, oh, just kidding. I actually don't want to change in law because of presidential election year.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): There are a number of us who won't be looking to third parties in assessing the propriety of passing this bipartisan proposal.

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER (R-ND): I just reject the idea that we should reserve a crisis for a better time to solve it. I don't see how we have a better story to tell when we miss the one opportunity we have to fix it.


RAJU: I mean, Republicans were united over the border. Now, they're divided over it.

BARRON-LOPEZ: They are. And I mean, to Molly's point, I think that this could very well end up playing well for Biden. Because even if a Senate deal is reached, once it reaches the House, House Republicans appear ready to just kill it as everyone has reported.

And if they kill it, which maybe will make progressives happy, it allows President Biden to say on the campaign trail, I was willing to concede a lot because he was willing to concede so much in this border deal that the left flank is really angry at him.

You know, they essentially feel as though he's totally changing, potentially in this deal, asylum law, which, you know, is a right, right now under U.S. law for migrants, whether they're entering at a port of entry or entering between ports of entry. It's a right that they have to claim.

And this law, this bipartisan deal would potentially totally change that. So it's big concessions on Biden's part. And it allows him to essentially make that argument against Trump.

One thing I find striking about the clip you played from president -- former president Trump was that, he said that he didn't campaign on it after 2016. That's not true. He campaigned on it 2018 --

RAJU: Yes.

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- he campaigned on it --

RAJU: Because the caravans are coming across the border --


RAJU: -- right?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Also, when Republicans had the majority in the House and the Senate under Trump, they essentially killed their own --

RAJU: -- Mm-hmm.

BARRON-LOPEZ: -- deal on immigration. So when they have tried to do this in previous times, they've also not actually got it.

RAJU: Yes. And don't discount the progressive black class, which you suggested there, which we're going to talk also about later in the show, Biden, how he's going to deal with the left. That's a -- that's a big issue here.

And that this could certainly raise it because the concessions he has made so much about the criticism about these negotiations. They've been going on for months -- for months at the center. Four months or so behind closed doors. There's been very little information that has come out of it. And that has essentially allowed the right Trump, others to say they characterize it in a certain way because they've been certain leaks and they have decided to seize on some of those leaks and suggest one way or the other this bill should be killed.


And that has been a problem if you listen to Republican senators in particular who say they needed more information about these talks.


SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): The lack of negotiating skills is profound from leadership.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): It's a total shambles. It's a total disaster. I mean, it's just a totally disastrous embarrassment. You know, he's repeatedly asked Republican -- asked us to support a bill that nobody's seen. I mean, it's just -- you know, it's a terrible way to do business.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): One of the gentlemen under the interstate living under refrigerator box knows more about it than I did.

RAJU: What do you say to folks who criticize the lack of information so far that's been provided about this negotiations?

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (R-AZ): Yes, I haven't heard that criticism.


RAJU: She hasn't heard that criticism. But that has been the criticism in the Senate and that's been a challenge, because people have already built in their decision to kill it because of, you know, the pressure they've been building, given the lack of information out there.

EVERETT: Yes. And I mean, most of those folks that you just played are -- they have two things in common except for Senator Kennedy. They voted against Senator McConnell as leader and they don't really support more aid for Ukraine.

RAJU: Yes.

EVERETT: So they were automatic no votes and they have been allowed and characterizing this negotiation from the beginning. That's allowed them to do things like say this will allow 150,000 border crossings a month.

Well, actually, it would probably shut down the border and not reopen it until they were well below that.

RAJU: Yes.

EVERETT: So there's already sort of an information war that's being fought before this bill is even out. RAJU: And before we go to break, the House GOP is moving forward in impeaching Alejandro Mayorkas there. Mike Johnson said it's going to come to the floor very soon. Just this morning, there were two articles of impeachment that they announced that they would go out for.

And the question is, you know, for House Republicans is they're moving to impeach Mayorkas. He's the one who helped negotiate this deal with the Senate.

So how can they possibly go along with someone they're trying to charge with a high crime in misdemeanor who had his imprudence?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. Mayorkas has been responding a lot to the pressure in terms of trying to find ways to make sure that border crossings are down, being involved heavily in the Senate negotiations.

But also in December, he went down to Mexico to try to find ways for Mexico to step up and make sure that border crossings -- that less migrants were coming to the border and was actually somewhat successful in that because, yes, in December, crossings were up, this month, crossings have gone down.

RAJU: And it seems Republicans in the House, they seem to be confident. They have the votes to impeach. That would be historic. Only one other time in American history as a cabinet secretary being impeached. We'll see if it happens here.

OK. Coming up, a jury deciding whether Trump must pay the writer, E. Jean Carroll $83.3 million for defamation. So what is his primary rival, Nikki Haley, saying about it?



RAJU: Now, we have some breaking news just into CNN. Three American service members were killed, and at least two dozen were injured in a drone attack overnight in Jordan.

I want to get straight to CNN's Natasha Bertrand for this story. Natasha, what are you learning?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Manu, this is a significant escalation in the attacks that we have seen by these groups against U.S. and coalition personnel in Iraq and Syria. We are learning that three American service members were killed, at least two dozen were injured in a drone attack overnight on a small U.S. outpost in Jordan.

And this is the first time that Westerns have been killed by enemy fire in the Middle East since the beginning of the battle war.

Attacks took place at a small outpost called Tower 22 in Jordan. That's right near the border with Syria. Obviously, this is a significant escalation of already very -- situations in the Middle East. And it's raising a lot of questions about how the U.S. is going to respond.

Previously, in these kinds of attacks, the U.S. service members have not experienced significant injuries. There have not been significant casualties in the more than 150 attacks. Either one that groups have won on these bases in the Middle East since October 7th.

But this, of course, marks the first time that three -- that service members actually been killed in such an attack. So this is really a huge moment, a huge escalation in this moment. And how the U.S. response is going to be something that we'll have to see to very closely.

RAJU: It's terrible news. Thank you for bringing us. Three U.S. service members killed in that drone attack in Jordan. Natasha Bertrand, thank you for that. And then we'll be back with you, Natasha, if and when you hear more information about it and have the question of the U.S. response, something will be tracking very closely as well.

OK. Shifting gears back here to the United States and on the campaign trail. It's been a busy week. President Trump was in Nevada where he's favored in Haley's home state of South Carolina. But her attacks on his mental acuity have clearly gone under his skin. He continued his scorch earth attacks against her just yesterday.


TRUMP: Nikki Haley, did anybody ever hear of her? Birdbrain. Nikki.

I believe she's unelectable. Nikki is a continuing -- she's got a continuing plan in a shameless radical left craziness because she's basically a Democrat. She's almost a radical left Democrat, which is hard to win elections like that.


RAJU: Now, this as Trump wraps up another week where he spent more time in the courtroom than on the campaign trail.

A federal jury deciding Trump must pay writer, E. Jean Carroll, $83.3 million for defamation when he denied her allegations of sexual assault. A jury found him previously found him liable for that abuse.

Our panel is back with us.

Now, what is interesting on this is how Nikki Haley has responded to all of these -- about the $83.3 million. The fact that Donald Trump was found liable by a jury for sexual abuse and she says she has not really paid much attention to it. In fact, listen to what she said this morning and on the campaign trail.


HALEY: Donald Trump was totally unhinged, unhinged. He was a bit sensitive and I think that it -- and I think his feelings were hurt, but he threw a temper tantrum out on stage seriously. Threw a total temper tantrum.



RAJU: OK. So she was talking there about her general criticism about Donald Trump being unhinged. She has not really made an issue about whether or not, you know, about this, the fact that Donald Trump was found liable of sexual abuse. She said that, you know, she hasn't really been paying attention.

How do you as a presidential candidate going against the frontrunner who has been accused and found liable of something so serious, not make this an issue on the campaign trail?

BALL: That's right. I believe she called it a distraction. And it really illustrates the extent to which Trump and all of his Republican rivals have metabolized all of his legal difficulties as an advantage for him. He has made that the case, they have made that the case, they have continued to defend him every time he's indicted, every time there's a new civil verdict like this.

We could be getting another one this week in the -- in the civil fraud trial in New York, and of course, many, many court dates coming up on the calendar. But ever since last March when the first indictment came down and they all defended him, that has been the way Republican base voters have processed this. They have processed the idea that the legal system is rigged against Trump, and he's a victim here.

And, you know, I was in Iowa and New Hampshire these last few weeks attending Trump's events, attending other candidates' events, and it's a pretty unanimous sentiment that they feel like none of this -- they're not persuaded that any of this, either makes him less electable or is his fault in any way.

So you hear Haley continuing with that trend and trying to focus her attacks in other ways and trying to make -- she is making much more of a characterological critique of him than she has previously. She's really sharpened her rhetoric, but she's still not going after these verdicts.

RAJU: Yes. And just so our viewers see exactly what she was saying, this is what she said this morning.


HALEY: Really, I don't know what all the court cases are. I haven't paid attention to what he's won, what he's lost, what he's fighting for, any of that.

He's not talking about what the American people want.

I know there's 91 charges, but I truly have been focused on running for president and not these other things.

All that time that he's spending in a courtroom defending himself. He's not fighting for the American people.


RAJU: So she may be stepping aside, stepping to add, but as Molly said, she's making -- she's making these increasingly sharp character attacks against him. And that is getting under Trump's skin. I mean, his -- if you just get a sense of Trump's mindset when you look at his Truth Social page, he's going after her, calling her names, birdbrain, et cetera, et cetera.

But this is what Republicans are concerned about the longer she stays in, the more he gets pulled into a back and forth of Haley. He could choose to ignore her because he's on his way to the nomination, but he's chosen not to.

BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes. When has Trump ever ignored someone that has gone after him, especially since she's attacking him on his acuity? And that is her main line of attack right now, because she isn't willing to say what -- anything about his character, about the substance of those 91 felony counts.

I find it really remarkable that she says that she hasn't paid attention to them even when, you know, the search of Mar-a-Lago occurred. She was out there tweeting a defense of him, saying that, you know, the Justice Department was being weaponized against him.

But also, the other person who loves this in the back and forth between Haley and Trump is Joe Biden, because President Biden, even though he is trying to say that the race is very much between him and Trump, he likes that Trump is getting dragged into these side fights with Haley and thinks that it's potentially helping him as he starts to solidify this contrast with the former president.

RAJU: And the big question is, how long can Haley hang on here? Will she make it to her home city of South Carolina, which is the end of February?

The question is money, of course. She's -- her campaign team, Trump's campaign team are meeting with GOP mega donors in Florida later this week.

And then you just get a sense of the calendar. If you look at the calendar, there are lots of states that she's not playing in yet. You know, we'll see if she's able to hang on to any of those Super Tuesday states, and she has the money to do so.

Burgess, what do you make of her campaign, the way she has tried to, you know, increase these character attacks now, this late in the campaign season?

EVERETT: I mean, I go back to the 2016 campaign, which you and I covered when some of these senators were running against Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. I feel like she's having a similar moment. Marco Rubio, he had this brief moment where he was really focusing on Trump's character. Ted Cruz had a longer moment, but it was never sort of the one-on-one contest that Nikki Haley has with Trump now. So the question to me is, Rubio and Cruz never really were able to sustain those attacks, even though they also got under Trump's skin. Haley has an opportunity to do that because it's just her and him in the race now.

And so I wonder, can she keep this up for a whole month in --

RAJU: Yes.

EVERETT: -- South Carolina? If she can, it's going to be a really interesting race, but other Republicans have generally folded when they've been in this situation.

RAJU: Yes. That's such a good point. And also the -- what I've been finding interesting in some of these exit polls in the early states, in Iowa's entrance poll and New Hampshire's an exit poll, but it was -- the story was the same. Trump supporters are just so much more committed than Haley supporters. They made decisions a long time ago to went to vote for Donald Trump.


The 58 percent and 59 percent in Iowa and New Hampshire made their decisions before, just a few days before the polls closed.

Essentially, these are not late -- these people have decided a long time ago that they're going to support Donald Trump, which makes her path even narrower.

BALL: That's right. But I think the other important piece of data out of those exit entrance polls is the -- that passionate support that Trump has from his supporters. He doesn't have a lot of non- passionate, he doesn't have a lot of soft support.

And in fact, in both of those states, we saw nearly 20 percent of Republican voters saying they could not support Trump in a general election. Not to mention the independence who we saw come out overwhelmingly --

RAJU: Mm-hmm.

BALL: -- for Haley in New Hampshire and power her to within 11 points of Trump. So, you know, I was with Trump on primary night in Nashua, New Hampshire on Tuesday, when he got up and made that very grumpy, growling sort of diet time.

RAJU: Not a victory speech.

BALL: It was supposed to be a victory speech and all he could do was complain about the fact that Haley didn't concede and didn't, you know, bow down and kiss the ring, as --

RAJU: Yes.

BALL: -- I think many people expected she might.

RAJU: Yes. And --

BALL: And so while she still has a very difficult path ahead, that speech was the greatest gift he could have given her.

RAJU: Yeah.

BALL: And we have really seen a new spring in her step on the campaign trail. She was flagging --

RAJU: Yeah.

BALL: -- a little bit. Wasn't super high energy.

RAJU: And finally gave her something to seize on her (INAUDIBLE)

BALL: And now you really see, yes, she's gone all in.

RAJU: Yes. Right.

BALL: She's made the decision to go for broke. And I think we're seeing a newly energetic campaign now.

RAJU: Yes. Will it make a difference? That's another question.

All right. Coming up, House Republican leaders are all on the Trump train. So what are top GOP senators saying about Trump's march to the nomination? My new reporting, next.




RAJU: Just to follow up, do you feel you need to mend your relationship with the former president if he wins the nomination?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: I don't have any news to make today. We're all watching New Hampshire with great interest.


RAJU: It's been three -- more than three years since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump last spoke. In fact, McConnell tries to avoid even uttering Trump's name in public at all, a feud stemming from the aftermath of the January 6th attack and Trump's role in provoking it.

Now, McConnell is facing the reality that Trump is likely to be back at the top of the ticket and the two may be forced to work together if he wins the White House. My new reporting today with Melanie Zanona outlines what Republicans are saying about McConnell and Trump and also how his potential successors are handling Trump's rise.

Now the GOP frontrunner has the full support of the House Republican leadership, but McConnell and Minority Whip John Thune have not endorsed Trump yet and Senator John Cornyn waited until last week in New Hampshire to fall in line. Only John Barrasso endorsed Trump and that was just days ahead of his Iowa win.

Our panel is back. So obviously this all stemmed from just to remind viewers about the back and forth. We're not just making this up. This is a real bad blood between Trump and McConnell and it's all about January 6th.


MCCONNELL: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people. There's no question. None. President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because Mitch McConnell is a loser.

Mitch McConnell is a disgrace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want to see a new Republican leader in the U.S. Senate? Do you want to see McConnell's step aside?

TRUMP: No, we have to have that.


RAJU: And not to forget, he also has gone after Elaine Chao, McConnell's wife, who served in his cabinet. And rather racist posts, calling her, say, she's a Taiwanese immigrant. He says that she, you know, he says, calls her China-loving Cocoa Chao. He said that multiple times.

Burgess, does McConnell want to serve as Republican leader if Trump is president again? And do you think that he will serve as leader beyond this term? What is your reporting tell?

EVERETT: I mean, I think it's a real question mark. He's pointedly not said he's going to run for leader again after this term which ends at the end of the year. He said after those health scares last year that he would serve the remainder of his leadership term which is expires at the end --

RAJU: And decline to say whether or not he would continue?

EVERETT: Right, exactly. So that's what sparked all this succession talk. That's why you have John Cornyn's name up on the screen. He's not even in elected leadership yet, but he's part of this three-John group who could succeed Senator McConnell, along with John Thune and John Cornyn.

And you can get the real contrast of McConnell, who will not utter Trump's name. You have Barrasso endorsing Trump before the rest. Cornyn going from Trump, can't get elected to endorsing him, and Thune kind of taking McConnell's side. But more addressing, he'll address that Trump is gaining steam, but

still has not endorsed him. So you can see all this playing out right in front of you. And part of that is because of that indecision on whether McConnell would run again.

I have a hard time believing he would want to serve as leader with Trump as president.

RAJU: Yeah,

EVERETT: It would require him to essentially go back on many of the things that he said about Trump. And I think it would probably, in his view, tarnish his legacy. However, he hasn't said that. So at this point, it's a lot of speculation.

RAJU: It really is. And look, you talked about the three Johns, as they're known in the capital. I put the question to them about Donald Trump last week.


RAJU: Facing the prospect of Trump as your nominee, and potentially president, you have not had the most peachy relationship with him. Can you work with him?

SEN. JOHN THUNE, (R) SOUTH DAKOTA: We can work with everybody.

RAJU: Even if you're leader?

THUNE: Well, that's a hypothetical.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: After a primary there needs to be a broader appeal than just to primary voters. You can't win with just your own base. I think it's important be to unify behind the candidate and I respect the voters choice, I mean, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO, (R) WYOMING: We're going to all work together for the betterment of the country, and I am 100% convinced that the Republicans will work together and unify with President Trump for the betterment of the country.


RAJU: I mean, it's interesting just the difference in the way the leadership has handled it, especially between the House and the Senate. House completely on Trump's trade. Speaker Johnson has endorsed him and has touted his victories here. You're not hearing that on the Senate side?

BARRON-LOPEZ: No, that's right. And Elise Stefanik, a part of House leadership, may very well end up being Trump's vice president. I mean, he's a forceful supporter of his. But yeah, the Senate is a totally different picture as you and Burgess well know. And what's also striking is I think Senator Thune has told to both of

you at different points that, you know, he's really concerned about Trump's electability. And you heard a little about that also from Senator Cornyn right there, because Trump has not really demonstrated in any of the cycles previously that he's run in that he does pivot to a more general election strategy.

He very much focuses on turning out his base or turning out potentially new voters. And right now there is, as Molly referred to earlier, a segment of Republicans and a segment of independence, 20%, 30% or so that say that if Trump is convicted of any one of those crimes, that they are not going to support him.

RAJU: Yeah.

BARRON-LOPEZ: And that's who Joe Biden is going to be focusing on in these swings.

RAJU: And how will the leaders deal with that if that does in fact happen. What's interesting in we're talking to senators about Trump and GOP leaders and McConnell they're divided that about whether they actually have a relationship even matters.

One of McConnell's critics Josh Hawley who's trying to push him out of leadership. I asked him about the Trump McConnell feud.


RAJU: If when you look at the leadership elections in the fall, is that going to be essential for you that the person needs to have a close relationship or any relationship with Trump to support them?

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY, (R) MISSOURI: At that point, I mean if we've got a newly or a re-elected Donald Trump, you know, I think it'll be absolutely vital I mean for whoever it's got to work with them, right? So I think you can't have a Republican leader in the Senate who doesn't want to work with the president of his own party who's -- who's come to office.

RAJU: Can McConnell serve as leader with Trump as president?

HAWLEY: Well, I'm not going to support him.


RAJU: And I asked Senator Thom Tillis, who had a different view about it. He said, there are going to be people who are -- that are 100% aligned with Trump. Some are going to be 100%, maybe not aligned him, talking to about GOP senators.

He said the rest are vast majority in the middle. But he made the point, these are all transactional members. At the end of the day, they're pragmatists. Mitch McConnell could put aside these issues if he wanted to.

The question is, can't Trump? Everybody just blow up what they're planning to do when they try to put together a legislative package. Look, they're doing on immigration.

BALL: Well, look, I think there's two things going on here. Number one, Republicans can taste that Senate majority, right? They have a very favorable map. They thought they were going to win it last time. And what got in the way? Donald Trump. And the endorses who were just a little too far out there to win those key Senate races, Republicans are worried that that could happen again. And once again, those sort of reverse Trump coattails could deny them the Senate majority a second time.

RAJU: Yeah.

BALL: But I think the other thing that's happening is, you know, we're talking about the future, we're talking about next year. Right now in this moment, Mitch McConnell is losing his grip on the Senate caucus because of this fractured relationship with Trump.

He wants that Ukraine funding to be his final legacy. And he is not able to get it over the finish line. And part of the reason is that the caucus is split, and so many Republicans are more on the Trump side on some of these policies.

RAJU: It's really remarkable to see that. And I want to pause this conversation because we want to get more on our breaking news. There were three U.S. Army troops who were killed and at least a dozen injured overnight in Jordan, near the border with Syria.

CNN's White House Reporter Priscilla Alvarez is covering President Biden in Columbia, South Carolina. Priscilla, the deaths of these service members is a significant escalation, obviously a very tragic outcome. What are you hearing from the President?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Manu, we just got a statement from President Biden moments ago in which he says, quote, "America's heart is heavy." He goes on to say, "while we are still gathering the facts of this attack, we know it was carried out by radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq."

The statement goes on to call those three American service members patriots and it ends with this saying, "We will carry on their commitment to fight terrorism. And have no doubt -- we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing."

Choosing of course, Manu, this is a significant incident that comes amid concerns about escalating tensions in the Middle East. This is something that U.S. officials have tried to avoid and said that they want -- they did not want to see this conflict widen. How this incident changes that still remains to be seen, but it is significant.


And the President sang in this statement that he will hold those who carried out these attacks accountable. I should also note, Manu, that earlier this morning in a pre-recorded interview, Biden's top military advisor said that his advice to President Biden since October 7th has been centered around protecting U.S. forces and taking away Hamas' capability.

Now again, Manu, we're here in South Carolina where President Biden is on the trail. All of this, though, coming as he looks forward to 2024.

RAJU: Yeah, and obviously significant escalation was the President suggesting there may be a response. We'll check in more with you later. Priscilla Alvarez, thank you for that report.

Coming up, more Inside Politics, next.




JOE BIDEN (D), U.S. PRESIDENT: Imagine what would have happened if there had been no Black church, all this period of darkness.


RAJU: And that was President Joe Biden speaking to church cores in South Carolina less than an hour ago. He's trying to win back support from black voters there, while also taking aim at Donald Trump.

My panel is back here to break down the president's strategy. I mean, so much of the -- what the President is trying to do is build back his coalition, which is not just dealing with black voters, Hispanic voters, but also his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

He's seen a deterioration of support among young voters, among progressive voters. And just in general, just to give viewers a sense of how viewers are -- how voters are viewing his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, just 26% of proof of his handling of the war right now.

You're seeing also just protesters interrupting him in event after event. How is the Biden team dealing with the fact that there's so much dissatisfaction on the left from this issue?

BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, they're struggling with that a bit right now, because they really do want to make sure that another key part of their coalition, young voters, which helped Biden win in a number of the battleground states, that those young voters come back to him, you know, by November. And he's had trouble finding ways to engage with the Muslim and Arab community.

And some of the Muslim leaders I've spoken to said that they really want to see him get out there into these battleground states to address the Israel-Hamos war, but that right now, the way his policy is towards Israel and towards Gaza, is making that so a lot of these leaders don't want to meet with him. And a lot of young voters aren't necessarily listening to Biden because they feel as though his policy hasn't changed.

And so you're starting to see the administration at the White House level, not just the campaign level, but the White House, really wanting to try to find a way to get this conflict resolved as quickly as possible.

RAJU: I mean, do you think that those voters, like in Michigan, where there's a huge issue in Michigan, are those voters who are angry at him, the Muslim community in particular, are they gone for good for the Biden team or is there a chance for them to win them back?

BALL: You know, a lot of them are saying that there's no way that they come back just based on the policy. And I think, you know, to Laura's point, there is really very little doubt in the Biden White House that he's correct on the policy. He is not -- no one inside the administration is second guessing the policies that Biden has pursued, although we have seen some internal discord on the staff level.

On the other hand, I talked to some Democrats who worry that the campaign and the administration are a little bit in denial about the problems, how deep the problems are with those young voters, with black and brown voters, with the voters that they were already having trouble getting enthusiasm with.

And there's a feeling, I think, that those voters just have to come home, right?

RAJU: Right.

BALL: That they're not going to vote for Trump that certainly if what you care about is how the administration treats, you know, the Middle East and Muslims at home and abroad, there's no way you could vote for a Donald Trump.

RAJU: But could they vote for a third party or sit out. That's a huge concern.

BALL: Sit out or do they vote a third party and there's a feeling like the campaign is maybe not taking that seriously enough.

RAJU: And the question too is, will this immigration deal that we've been reporting on all morning, we talked about the divisions on the right. There's going to be divisions on the left too. No question about it.

I want you to listen to Senator Padilla of California. What he said to me as they were anticipating this deal to be released.


RAJU: The President, of course, in the middle of a reelection campaign, how concerned should he be of angering progressives, angering Hispanics, angering his own party if he gives in too much on this negotiation?

SEN. ALEX PADILLA, (D) CALIFORNIA: Yeah, look all the more reason to be serious and thoughtful about solutions. Returning to Trump's playbook, you know, Trump's greatest hits when it comes to border security is not the answer to the problem. In fact, it'll make the problem worse.


RAJU: I mean that's the way, how much blowback can we expect from liberal senators on this deal?

EVERETT: I think you've heard the same process complaints from them, that's conservatives have, which is they haven't been included and they don't know what's going on. And so there's going to be a lot of hand-wringing about that, whether it turns into no votes, I'm not sure.

And back to your other point about the Hamas War, there's going to be a couple flash points there. Aid for Gaza is going to be debated in this package. As may, aid for Israel and whether it should be conditioned. So there's a couple of big pivot points coming up on this legislative.

RAJU: Yeah. That's such a good point. We keep focusing on the other issues, but that Israel aid is going to be huge division within the Democratic Party.

All right, coming up, Senator John Fetterman is not holding back on his indicted fellow Democrat, Bob Menendez. Menendez is now responding.


RAJU: He called you a schoolyard bully. What's your response?





SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: I've been calling for that sleaze ball has to go. And I don't know why we have to get rid of Santos, and we would keep somebody like him around.


RAJU: Senator John Fetterman has been by far the most outspoken critic of fellow Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, since Menendez was first indicted back in September on bribery and fraud charges. Menendez is accused of aiding the Egyptian and Qatari governments in exchange for gold bars and lavish gifts. He has pleaded not guilty.

Now, Fetterman was the first of his colleagues to call for Menendez to resign and wants him expelled from the Senate, even endorsing one of Menendez's primary opponents in New Jersey, Congressman Andy Kim.

Now, Fetterman, who hails from neighboring Pennsylvania, has also introduced a resolution to deny Menendez access to classified briefings. He told me he plans to try to force a vote this week if the matter isn't dealt with internally. And that would force a Senator, potentially Menendez himself, to object on the floor and block its consideration. If not, it would pass.


RAJU: Do you think that he should be barred by the leadership from attending these classified briefings?


FETTERMAN: Yeah, I think it should be like, hey, look, you know what? That's a minimum. I mean, obviously, I had hoped that they would have chucked him by now. But if that's not going to happen, something is going to happen, thankfully, that his trial is now in little over three months from now.

And then, like that'll handle it, the Director of the CIA are now being involved in negotiations with the two nations that Menendez is accused of being a foreign agent for. And he's getting that kind of classified briefings. I don't believe that should be allowed, and it certainly shouldn't be allowed to continue.


RAJU: Now, Menendez has attended at least two classified briefings since his indictment, and he's just defended his right to be there as a sitting senator. I caught up with Menendez this past week and asked him what he made of Fetterman's comments and attempt to block him from briefings. His answer, quote, "He's a schoolyard bully." Now, here's what Fetterman had to say in response.

RAJU: I asked Menendez about you today. He called you a schoolyard bully. What's your response.

FETTERMAN: And I call him, about to be a felon.


RAJU: This trial is set to begin May 6th. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY.

Up next, "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. That -- thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. We'll see you next time.