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Inside Politics

Senate Border Deal Facing Opposition Before Its Release; Sources: DA Willis Will Not Step Down From Trump GA Election Case; Poll: Trump Holds Wide Lead Over Haley In South Carolina; Biden Campaign Enters 2024 With Cash Edge; Trump PACs Spent $50 Million On Legal Fees In 2023; Congressman Does Pull-ups At Top Of Capitol Dome; GOP Senators Pour Cold Water On Super Bowl Theories. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 12:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And some of the provisions that are in there. They're saying that is essentially dead on arrival. Donald Trump, before even reading the bill, has called it a betrayal and said that Republicans should kill it.

And Republicans and Democrats believe that he frankly wants to campaign on border chaos and wants to deny Joe Biden a bipartisan victory on a key issue that shows that poll show is a major vulnerability of his heading into November. But that is not enough of a reason for some Republicans to say, it is time to actually get a deal.

If there is progress, we should actually get behind a bipartisan proposal in the Senate because after all, that is what we campaigned on. That was a message coming from one Texas Congressman, Dan Crenshaw, earlier today.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R), TEXAS: The height of stupidity is having a strong opinion on something you know nothing about. I'm extremely disappointed in the very strange maneuvering by many on the right to torpedo potential border reform bill. If we have a bill that on net significantly decreases illegal immigration and we sabotage that, that is as inconsistent with what we told our voters we would do.

People will make up whatever reasons they want to. There's a number of them, I'm sure, but it would be a pretty unacceptable dereliction of your duty.


RAJU: And the question is, where does this go from here? The negotiators in the Senate are still hoping to put out text of this deal as soon as this week. That is what Senator James Lankford told reporters earlier today. And Chris Murphy, one of those three negotiators said it makes no sense in his view for Republicans to walk away from this deal after cutting -- after trying to strike one for months and months and months.

But that is exactly what they're weighing right now in the upper echelons of the Senate GOP, saying, what is the point of going forward with this deal if it's going to get killed in the House? Mitch McConnell, noncommittal about the way forward, even as he supports the underlying elements of this deal. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Manu, I think I want to put that Dan Crenshaw quote on a pillow, talking about being very exercised about people, even though they don't know anything about it. "The height of stupidity is being very opinionated about something you don't know anything about." That's the quote. Love it.

RAJU: Yes.

BASH: Thank you so much, Manu.

A CNN exclusive, we are learning Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis has no plans to step down from Georgia in the election subversion case there against Donald Trump. Sources tell CNN that Willis is worried if she leaves, it would effectively end the case.

CNN's Zachary Cohen brought us this exclusive reporting and joins us now. So much drama. What are you hearing from the people around Fani Willis about why she is standing firm?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY & JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, look, this is messy. There's no two ways about it. But look, Willis is digging in. That's what my sources say. She is not going to voluntarily take herself out of this case, which really does set up this sort of legal showdown especially over the next two weeks.

We know Willis hasn't really directly addressed these allegations that she was in this improper romantic relationship with her top prosecutor. She's really been quiet, but behind the scenes. I'm told that she's been intimately and directly involved in writing this written response that is -- she has a deadline tomorrow to turn that in and file that in court.

So we're going to see how she addresses this for the first time, potentially as early as tomorrow. She has -- you know, my sources are saying that she will focus on the merits, the legal merits and the legal arguments rather than address the allegations directly. She's going to basically say that the lawyers were accusing her of these allegations and jumping to this idea that she should be disqualified.

They don't know what they're talking about. So, it remains to be seen. She's also going to be potentially testifying in an open hearing on February 15th. So a really big two weeks for Fani Willis coming up.

BASH: Yes, a really big two weeks. And this is of course what Donald Trump wants us to be talking about her and not the case, so that's going to be a consideration, I'm sure.

Thank you so much for that great reporting, Zach. Nikki Haley is back on the campaign trail in her home state, and brand new polling shows just how much support she actually has from her fellow South Carolinians. Have they got her back? We'll tell you next.



BASH: A new poll paints a bleak picture for Nikki Haley in her home state. Nearly six in 10 potential South Carolina Republican primary voters say they will vote for Donald Trump over Haley in the state's upcoming presidential primary. That's according to a Monmouth University-Washington Post poll.

The result comes as Haley kicks off a multi-day swing around that state. That's where CNN is Kylie Atwood is and beautiful Hilton Head. What are you hearing from the campaign about what she is going to try to do to turn that around?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, listen, the campaign isn't saying much unsurprisingly about that poll today because obviously it is an accurate marker of this moment in time. It demonstrates it. Nikki Haley has quite a bit of ground to make up here in South Carolina trailing former President Trump in that Washington Post poll by 26 points.

And of course, it's important that they point out that she's going to get in front of voters. She's going to be doing a lot of events here in South Carolina. I also want to note that it comes after a few days that she has been focused on fundraising, Dana.

We know she was in New York. She was in Florida. And that is critical as well to her campaign to try and continue filling up their bank account. She came into the year with about $14 million in her bank account. That's a substantial amount but it's about half the amount that Trump's campaign had in the bank account earlier this year.


So they are focused on that in addition to getting in front of voters. And there are two messages here in South Carolina to voters from the campaign. First, they're casting Trump and Biden in the same vein as what they're saying our Grumpy Old Men. They're going to call them stumbling seniors, basement buddies, so they're trying to draw that elderly comparison with those two.

And then the other thing they're trying to do here is remind voters what Nikki Haley did in the state when she was governor here. And listen to a digital ad that they put out just today on that.


NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Because it's a great day in South Carolina. You know that.

When we get to South Carolina, Donald Trump's going to have a harder time fault flee attacking me. The great people of South Carolina know I cut their taxes.


ATWOOD: Now, she went on to talk about what she did for immigration reform here in the state, ethics reform, welfare reform. But we should also note that Trump has dispatched South Carolinian lawmakers who have endorsed him here in South Carolina today to go after Nikki Haley.

And we have of course seen some of those attacks make an impact, given the fact that her favorability numbers and those Washington Post poll have gone down substantially since September. Dana?

BASH: Somebody in that campaign is a movie buff. And I liked that the movies are from like, an era that I remember. "Mean Girls" grew up, you know Amanda is even older, though, but we can talk about that later.

Great hit. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Our panel is back here. Let's just dig in a little bit further to the numbers that Kylie was just talking about and explain how they stand versus where they were just a few months ago. 58 percent right now for Donald Trump in South Carolina, 32 percent for Nikki Haley. In September 46 for Trump, 18 for Haley.

So Nikki Haley has gone up 14 percentage points, but Donald Trump has also gone up 12 percent. So there is still a very big gap there. Because she mentioned the favorability rating, I just want to show that as well, Trump has a high favorability rating, much higher than the former governor who he's running against. And so that's another big challenge that she has to make up.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: That's because Donald Trump is more popular with Republicans, that is Nikki Haley, and Republicans dominate the South Carolina Republican Party primary. So this is a similar pattern to what we saw in New Hampshire, right? Donald Trump inside this poll is dominating with conservatives, with Republicans.

Yes, Nikki Haley wins moderates, and liberals. There just aren't that many of them inside a Republican primary electorate in South Carolina. That's why she's 26 points behind the former president.

BASH: What are you hearing from Trump world?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN REPORTER: They, I mean, exactly what David is saying is what they also tell me that, you know, they look at New Hampshire, they see how well she did with independents and Democrats, and like, that is not the game that we're going to be playing in South Carolina.

And a lot of them, I mean, they're still holding out hope the Trump campaign that she'll end up dropping out before South Carolina. They think that, you know, they can continue to embarrass her by parading lawmakers and surrogates around South Carolina, people in her own backyard to try and say, you know, we like Trump more than Nikki Haley. And that's going to continue to be their plan in the lead up to the primary. But oh, yes.

BASH: Well, I was going to say one of the reasons, not the only, one of the reasons she is not dropping out is because she's got money.

TREENE: Yes. She doesn't have as much money as her competitor. But she has money and she's still raising money, as Kylie was talking about. But on that, let's just look at the cash on hand numbers since the start of 2024.

Joe Biden, the incumbent president, $46 million, Donald Trump, $33 million, Nikki Haley, $14.6 million. I just want to focus for a second on the Biden versus Trump number, because he's an incumbent president, he's not really playing in the primary space. And he doesn't have that much more money in the bank than Donald Trump, who has been playing in the primary space ish.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Yes, I mean, I think the cash on hand is an interesting indicator, because Biden is doing pretty well with fundraising, but not as well as other incumbents who have, you know, gone for a second term as well.

But at the end of the day, it's still he's able to boast that he has more money to spend. I think it also is worth noting that because he doesn't have a competitive primary, really, that I think he can say that I'm continuing to raise money, but I don't have to have so much money right this moment. Things are going to heat up for me this summer.

CHALIAN: And we should just make clear, but we don't know, right? We don't know the breakdown of how much of that is primary dollars that can be spent in the primary season versus general election dollars. We don't know that for Biden. We don't know that for Trump.


And I would just also note, this is a month ago. It's now February 1st.

BASH: Yes.

CHALIAN: So there were two very hotly heavy contested contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, where Haley spent a lot of money. Certainly Trump spent money, too. So this is where they started the year. We don't know what it is right now.

BASH: Yes, that's a very important point. This is something I've been wanting to talk about. And just the news has gotten away from us. $15 million, Trump PACs have spent $50 million on his legal fees. So these are -- and this is to cover in 2023, I should say, to cover his legal bills and expenses related to multiple ongoing investigate -- I mean, just look at that number.

So people are giving to his political organizations or political organizations that support him is the correct way to say it. And they're paying for his legal fees. TREENE: Yes, this is donor money. This is --

BASH: Yes.

TREENE: He's using donor money to pay for his legal expenses.

BASH: And then a lot of these cases small dollar.


TREENE: Mostly, not -- it's majority small dollar donors.

BASH: Meaning, people who don't have --

TREENE: Right.

BASH: -- $3,000 to throw away.


CHALIAN: And the fundraising was smaller donors for this pot of money for a big chunk of it, began in the immediate after 2020 as he was sending out fundraising appeals telling a lie to them that the election was rigged when it wasn't and that money is coming in to now pay for the legal bills.

BASH: Yes.

TREENE: It's remarkable. I also just think the thing to keep in mind is that number is only likely to grow. I mean, he has four criminal trials, if any -- or criminal cases -- if any of those cases go to trial this year, that's going to grow exponentially. And I don't know how these facts are going to be to continue paying for this without potentially Donald Trump having to put up some of his own money.

BASH: OK, everybody standby because up next, we're going to talk about pull ups in the Capitol dome. Members spilling the tea on Taylor and Travis and their relationship legislating. Not so much. What is going on on Capitol Hill? We're going to tell you next.



BASH: Things are getting weird in Washington. Well, scratch that. Weirder than usual here in Washington. Yesterday, Republican Georgia Congressman Richard McCormick admitted to doing pull ups, pull ups at the top of the Capitol dome.


REP. RICHARD MCCORMICK (R), GEORGIA: It wasn't dangling over, you know, whatever. But you know, like I said, it's -- I'm a Marine. I know safety. I'm an ER doc. I know safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: And I'd like to tie too. The Taylor Swift conspiracy controversy that is continuing in an incredible way on Capitol Hill. Some Republicans and right-wing commentators are continuing to push the theory that the Super Bowl is going to be rigged.

Listen to what Seth Meyers did to illustrate the absurdity of all of this.


SETH MEYERS, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Joe Biden is the 46th president. He's running for a second term. 46 times two is 92. Travis Kelce's number is 87. 92 minus 87 is five. What has five sides? The Pentagon.


BASH: My panel is back with me now. OK, let's just quickly just finish off this McCormick pull up thing because I have been -- have you guys been on the Capitol tour? It's -- it is treacherous. OK, I'm not a Marine, I'm not an ER doctor, I may or may not have a huge fear of heights. But to be -- OK, you can see that from the outside. Just think of that, the tippy, tippy top there, and then you're on the inside and it's a balcony --

CHALIAN: Just below the statue, is what you're saying?

BASH: Yes. And it's very treacherous.

TREENE: Yes. I mean, and we were just discussing this, but it's dangerous. And I think that's -- he was saying that it's overblown. I saw he told CNN, you know, it's overblown. Everyone's making too much of a deal out of this. But for the people who work in the Capitol and the people who give these tours, that is their key concern that something not only is going to happen to a person on a tour, but a member of Congress on a tour. I mean, that's where a lot of this is coming from, and it is very weird.

BASH: So let's talk about the issue that David, as our political director wants us to lead every hour with which, of course, is the Taylor Swift story. I'm kidding. Let's listen to what some Republicans are saying on Capitol Hill.

They are saying, Tommy Tuberville, "Football is football." He should know. "Hopefully, we stay closer to that than we can all this social media." Eric Schmitt, "If they're both in love, good for them. I have a 13-year-old that's a huge Taylor Swift fan and our favorite." Roger Marshall, senator says, "Everyone should embrace the Travis and Tay- Tay story. I think it's a great story, an American love story, something that Walt Disney wrote."

TREENE: I mean, these are actual conversations being had. And it's because they're hearing in their conservative sort of echo chambers about concern -- I can't believe I'm saying this out loud again -- that Taylor Swift is going to use her fame and connect it to the NFL and get Democrats registered and push the election over to Joe Biden. CHALIAN: I mean, I think it's a fair concern of Republicans that Taylor Swift is very popular and has indicated her democratic leanings in the past and has proven the ability to get her fans to register and be politically active. I think all of that is a fair concern. But it seems pretty much on the level that out there.

I don't think there's some conspiracy about that. And now it's being married up with the most viewed events in American culture which are NFL football games.


So, again, I think that the conspiracy concern seems completely outlandish.

BASH: Also, she's like one of the most powerful women in the world. I don't think she needs Travis Kelce to help get people registered if she wants to have to play what he said about all this.


TRAVIS KELCE, NFL PLAYER: We're two people had a relationship, supporting each other and having fun with it, man. It's nothing more than that. And how much the world wants to paint the picture and make us the enemy, we just have fun with it.


BASH: I think that I was going to say I think my son is going to be very proud of me that I played Travis Kelce on this show, but maybe not so much as it relates to Taylor Swift. Thanks for having the fun conversation. Appreciate it.

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