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Inside Politics

Speaker Johnson To Invite Netanyahu To Address Congress; Where The GOP's Never Trump Movement Goes From Here; Biden Reveals His March Madness Picks. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired March 21, 2024 - 12:30   ET



DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: House Speaker Mike Johnson says he will invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): I, would love to have him come in and address a Joint Session of Congress. Will certainly extend that invitation. He invited me and I've been invited to speak at the Knesset there. I would think I would be the third U.S. speaker in history to do that. It'd be a great honor of mine.


BASH: This comes less than a week after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a longtime advocate for Israel, blasted Netanyahu in a Senate floor speech and called for new elections in Israel when the war there winds down.

I want to bring my panel back on this one.

You know, it is noteworthy for several reasons. One of those is what Prime Minister Netanyahu said to me on Sunday, which is two American politicians notably Chuck Schumer stay out of it. Let's listen.


BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I think what he said is totally inappropriate. It's inappropriate for him to go to a sister democracy and try to replace the elected leadership there. That's something that Israel, the Israeli public does on its own. And we're not a banana republic.

This is a wake-up call to Senator Schumer. The majority of Israelis support the policies of my government. It's not a fringe government and represents the policies supported by the majority of the people. If Senator Schumer opposes these policies, he's not opposing me, he's opposing the people of Israel.


BASH: Jeff, Senator Schumer is not opposing the people of Israel. He makes that very clear. And also not to totally conflate these two things, Prime Minister Netanyahu, it's hard to imagine he's going to come here and call for some election change in U.S. politics. Having said that, you have a brand-new statement from Senator Schumer about the possibility of Netanyahu coming here.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, he leaves the door open through a spokesperson, our whole team is reporting that they said I will always welcome the opportunity for the prime minister of Israel to speak to Congress in a bipartisan way. Those are the key points there, a bipartisan way. So Speaker Mike Johnson controls half of the Capitol. The other half, of course is controlled by the Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

So for any joint address, there has to be a joint invitation of course. They could go and just have him speak to the House. That's possible. That would create an interesting situation. Would Senate Republicans go? So we will see if this actually ever happens. I mean, the prime minister is very well aware of the politics here.

BASH: Yes.

ZELENY: But this is just the beginning of him sort of trying to put the thumb on the scale of politics here as he sort of criticized Schumer in your interview.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If I were Netanyahu, I would say show me the money. I mean, you know, he wants money and he hasn't gotten it yet.


And it would be a little awkward to address the Congress if he hasn't gotten the money that he's asking for to fight the war.

BASH: Yes. And I'm just getting a text from a progressive lawmaker who says Netanyahu should not be undermining his strongest ally in the world by entertaining a visit to Congress right now.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And all of this spills into the private conversations that the president is having with the Israeli prime minister. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters this week or suggested that this came up because he was asked about the Senate majority leader's comments when the prime minister mentioned it to President Biden.

And it comes at a critical time. The state of play right now is a ceasefire deal and also this looming invasion of Rafah. And so while that's being worked out in the White House, there's also -- and the growing rift between the two leaders aside, all of these politics are also spilling into those moments.

BASH: And the burning desire to get the hostages who are still after almost five months being held in Gaza, including six Americans.

Thanks, everybody.

Coming up, the never Trump movement blocked in the GOP primary. Where does it go now, as the presumptive nominee sets his sights on reclaiming the White House? Stay with us.



BASH: Never Trumpers tried and failed to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the Republican Party's presumptive nominee. But the movement is still very much alive.

I'm joined now by one of the never Trump leading voices, Republican strategist Sarah Longwell. She is the publisher of "The Bulwark," host of the "Focus Group" podcast, and the executive director of the Republican Accountability Projects.

Sarah, you have a lot of jobs. Thank you so much for being here. I want to talk about your new campaign. Republican Voters Against Trump. You told Politico, quote, "Unlike other never Trumpers you are all in on Biden." So what are you going to do with this movement? How are you going to organize?

SARAH LONGWELL, PUBLISHER, THE BULWARK: Yes. So Republican Voters Against Trump is a campaign that we ran in 2020. In 2022, we ran a version of it. We Republican Voters Against Kari Lake and Republican Voters Against Herschel Walker. And our theory of the case is that the most persuasive tool for peeling off these sort of disaffected Republican voters, right-leaning independents, soft GOP voters, is to use real Republicans, real voters.

And in 2024 everybody that's part of our campaign, Republican Voters Against Trump, has actually voted for Trump at least once. And they explained why they're not going to do it again and the reasons vary. I mean, for a lot of them this time around, it's about January 6th. It's about Trump's lies about the election. It's about how dangerous they think he's going to be in 2024. The fact that, you know, he's something of a lunatic who will be surrounded by other lunatics.

And the fact that he's in it for himself, that he's not in it for people, that it's about grievance, it's about staying out of jail, it's about raising money. And so, you know, the messengers, as people who voted for Trump in the past, they are more credible to swing voters than let's say just about anybody else. Certainly than Democrats. And a big piece of it psychologically is these are not people who are Democrats. And so its uncomfortable for them to vote for Joe Biden.

And so you're not building really a pro-Joe Biden coalition like the Democrats might. You're trying to become part of the broader anti- Trump coalition, and so that's what we're trying to do here.

BASH: So, Sarah, I just want to give the exact quote that you gave to Politico. You said a new never Trump is born every minute, and on that note, this week, we saw about 108,000 Republicans in Arizona, Republicans, vote for Nikki Haley, who of course is not even in the race. There is a prominent school of thought, though, that Republicans who aren't fans of Trump are going to put on their GOP jerseys in November and pull the lever for Trump. So how -- you mentioned part of your strategy to have Republicans like

yourself, maybe even more different kinds of Republicans, those who served with him in the White House perhaps, is that going to be enough in such a tribal country right now?

LONGWELL: I think so. Look, the fact is you're talking about a very small margin of voters across six very important states. And these voters are the margin makers, the ones who -- they're constitutionally still Republicans, but they do not want to vote for Donald Trump so much so -- I mean, I was really struck by the nearly 20 percent of Republicans in Arizona, which is a swing state, that went out to register their support for Nikki Haley.

BASH: Yes.

LONGWELL: And against Donald Trump when it didn't matter. She's not even on the ballot. And so to me that demonstrates a sense of urgency from these voters about saying that they don't want Trump. And look, some of them are going to go home to the party. They always do. Some of them are already people who are voting for Democrats and who voted for Joe Biden before. But a key group of them are what we call the double doubters or the double haters or they a pox on both their houses. Right?

They don't like either of these people. But ultimately you've got to get them to a place where they hold their nose and they vote for Joe Biden, and that's where our testimonials and our stories come in because you got to give him a new tribe to belong to where they can maintain their Republican identity but they don't have to support Trump. And that's what Republican Voters Against Trump is all about.


BASH: I mentioned John Kelly, who was the former president's chief of staff, Defense secretary James Mattis, they've been very forceful in speaking out against Donald Trump. John Kelly told Jim Sciutto even that Trump has something positive to say about Hitler he said we -- well, but Hitler did some good things. I said, well, what, and he said, well, Hitler rebuilt the economy, but what did he do with that rebuilt economy? He turned it against his own people and against the world. I said, sir, you can never say anything good about the guy. Nothing.

Is someone like him, John Kelly, a person who you can get into your new tribe as you call it?

LONGWELL: Yes, I think so. Look, I think it is critically important that the country hear from the former Trump officials who are sounding the alarm about how unfit Donald Trump is to serve. And I think there's some people -- so John Kelly has made some striking comments and it's incredibly notable that Donald Trump's own vice president, who served with him, is not going to endorse him this time. But we need to hear from Jim Mattis.

We need to hear from so many of the cabinet officials that they have maybe said something off the record, or maybe they've a quote here and there. They need to sound the alarm and explain to the country what they saw, why Donald Trump cannot return to office, and because we might think it doesn't matter to voters, but to this critical slice of voters who will make the margin, the decision in 2024, they can make a difference. I promise.

BASH: Sarah, we're almost out of time. I just want to ask you quickly about Chris Christie who of course was in this race. I think you would count him as a never Trumper at this point. He told David Axelrod when asked whether Christie would potentially serve as a candidate for president on the No Labels ticket, he left the door open. He said he's looking at it, though he doesn't want that country to go through what I think will be the misery of a second term.

LONGWELL: Yes. If he doesn't want Donald Trump to be elected president again, he won't run as a third-party candidate because like I said, you're building an anti-Trump coalition, not a pro-Joe Biden coalition, and anything that's splits up the anti-Trump coalition and gives people kind of a third lane or an off-ramp, all that does is hurt Joe Biden and help Donald Trump. And I know Chris Christie does not want to be in the position of re-electing Donald Trump.

BASH: Sarah Longwell, thank you so much. Really appreciate it. Fascinating stuff.

LONGWELL: Thank you.

BASH: And the games are already underway. President Biden is getting all in on March Madness fun. We'll show you his brackets and break them down after a quick break.



BASH: President Biden has entered the March Madness chat. He's going with the pros and picking tournament favorite UConn to win the Men's NCAA tournament. And North Carolina, Tennessee and University of Houston rounding out the final four. The games kicked off about an hour ago, 64 teams are hoping for their one shining moment.

CNN's Coy Wire is here.

Coy, good to see you. What do you make of the president's bracket?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, Dana, it is safe or is it? He said he went with three one-seed and a two-seed to make to the final four. Of course March Madness is so magical and fun to watch because there are always upsets and Cinderella overlooked teams almost every year making a run. So going with UConn to repeat his champs might seem like a safe pick because they are the overall favorites to win it all.

But there have only been two repeat champs since 1974, Dana. I too have UConn repeating. I am doing it because Coach Hurley wears the same lucky underwear every game and washes them by hand. That's a mad scientist in my opinion. How can you not pick a coach and team like that?

BASH: I'm a superstitious person and I love that detail. That's fantastic.

So the INSIDE POLITICS team was huddled over computers this morning looking at the brackets that was put up by the president, and we just happened to notice that three teams in his Sweet 16 picks are from North Carolina. North Carolina, the Tar Heel State.

WIRE: Yes.

BASH: Happens to be, at least the White House hopes, a battleground state. Is that what's going on here, wishful thinking, or is it --

WIRE: Yes.

BASH: Is it also like North Carolina has some really good basketball?

WIRE: It could be. University of North Carolina, one seed. We also have NC State making the Sweet 16, who just upset UNC in the ACC Tournament. He also has Duke in there of course. Is he showing some love to the Tar Heel State to win over some voters for the election? Maybe. But they, as you mentioned, are also pretty darn good at basketball. If he weren't trying to win votes with his bracket, he'd want to focus on some of the swing states, no. So he has the University of Wisconsin.

BASH: Yes.

WIRE: Only winning one game, but Marquette making it to the elite eight. He has the University of Arizona, a two-seed making it all the way to the elite eight. He has Tennessee, Nevada, pulling off an upset in the first round, but then losing to Arizona. So Michigan State only has them winning one game. University of Pennsylvania not in it, but Duquesne representing Pittsburgh in it but he has them losing. And those schools in Georgia made the tournament so there is no influential presidential picking there. So two schools out of swing states, Marquette and Arizona making the elite eight, if that is what you're thinking, Dana.


BASH: Well, this is why we had you on because we were just focused on North Carolina and then you brought in all of these other key battleground states where the teams are playing. We of course have to talk about the women.

WIRE: Yes, girl.

BASH: And is it really striking -- it's striking to me that Caitlin Clark in the president's bracket is losing in the Sweet 16 in Iowa. Is that actually possible?

WIRE: See, I just got the goosebumps here because either this -- he hasn't been watching hoops, he got really bad advice or his auto pick button wasn't working correctly in the women's bracket. I'd love to hear a reason for this. Caitlin Clark is a megastar. She's the most well-known college basketball player in the country, women or men, one of the greatest of all time.

BASH: Yes.

WIRE: And her Hawkeyes made it to the title game last year. So he does have South Carolina winning it all over UCLA in the final, but they have to get through Stanford, my Cardinal, in the final four to make it there. So we'll see if he's right, hopefully not.

BASH: So good to see you, Coy. Thanks so much for breaking it down.

WIRE: You too. Thanks.

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