Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Trump Rallies On Jersey Shore After Bombshell Week In Court; Progressives Mixed On Reaction To Biden's Move On Rafah; Senate Primary Gets Nasty in Final Days. Trump Campaign Sees RFK Jr. as Political Problem; Corruption Case of Senator Bob Menendez Set to Kick Off. Aired 8:30-9a ET. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 12, 2024 - 08:00   ET





MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): On the beach --

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to win the state of New Jersey.

RAJU: The testimony and delays shaping the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a redeemed man, and he's a really good president.

RAJU: As Biden crisscrossing the country --

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My predecessor made promises which he broke. On my watch, we make promises and we keep promises.

RAJU: And RFK sends alarm bells ringing.

Plus, isolate. Biden pleases no one. New reporting as Democrats fret up and down the ballot?

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): I regret that, there are members who are in effect reflecting the views of Hamas.

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): They don't like us being critical of Israel.

RAJU: While the race for the Senate in Maryland gets vicious.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): I'm very anxious to get the primary over.

RAJU: With control of the chamber at stake.

Plus on trial, the other big court case kicking off tomorrow.

Senator, your trial starts next week. If you're convicted, will you resign?

INSIDE POLITICS, the best reporting from inside the corridors of power, starts now.


RAJU (on camera): Good morning and welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. I'm Manu Raju.

It was a week of intense personal and even graphic testimony in his New York hush money case. And now, Donald Trump is back in campaign, lashing out at the prosecutor and judge Saturday in a beachside New Jersey rally.

He hit the trail for the first time since adult film star Stormy Daniels testified in court about her alleged sexual encounter with the former president, which he denies. And as soon as tomorrow, the former president may come face-to-face with the prosecutions star witness, his ex-lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen.

Now, in n the last few weeks as this trial has unfolded, Trump has held very few campaign events even on his days off from the courthouse. Meanwhile, President Biden has been trying to shore up his support and rebuilt his fraying coalition as he crisscrosses key battleground states. And speaking to donors at a Washington state fundraiser, you just yesterday, Biden called Trump, quote, clearly unhinged and said, quote, something snapped in him after he lost in 2020.

Now, CNN's Alayna Treene is live in Atlantic City just of the Jersey Shore for where Trump held his rally yesterday afternoon.

So what did Trump after say about all of his court challenges and that came in the past week?

ALAYNA TREENE, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, it's really interesting, Manu, because I think it was a big question going into Saturday, whether Donald Trump would be tempted to potentially violate his gag order and attack Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen. Of course, he's not allowed to do that. He's not allowed to go after witnesses, but his lawyers had actually tried to alter that that gag order last week because they argued that it's not fair that someone the witnesses are able to attack Donald Trump and that he can't defend himself.

But instead of doing that, he talked about the cases more generally, he also baselessly claimed that President Joe Biden and Democrats were the ones behind his charges. Of course, something we know is not true.

Take listen to how we put it in Wildwood yesterday.


TRUMP: And as you know, I've come here from New York where I'm being forced to endure a Biden show trial, all done by Biden. Carried out by -- that's right, all being done by him, carried out by radical Democrat district attorney, you know who he is? Fat Alvin, corrupt guy.

And then we have a highly conflicted judge. He's corrupted, highly conflicted, so conflicted. There's never been a judge that's more conflicted.


TREENE: So, Manu, clearly, just going very hard after the judge. And again, Democrats, although we know that Democrats are not involved in that trial, but I also want to bring your attention to some other things. I think it's really interesting that Donald Trump chose to hold one of his days outside of the courtroom in New Jersey estate that we know is not a critical battleground. No hate on New Jersey. I am from here.

But his team acknowledges that this isn't really a state that they thinking can win. However, Donald Trump claimed yesterday that he actually thinks he could, could be competitive in New Jersey and argue that he's going to make a play for it.


He also praised Doug Burgum, the North Dakota governor, also on his VP contender list. He brought Burgum up to the stage as well and praised him during that. And he said to watch for something big that's coming. It's unclear if that's a tease to him being on his shortlist, but we know from our reporting that Burgum is someone who's very high on his list as a contender for vice president -- Manu.

RAJU: All right. New Jersey's very own, Alana Treene, in Atlantic City -- thanks for that.

All right. I'm joined now here on set with CNN's Sara Murray, "Semafor's" David Weigel, and CNN's Jeff Zeleny.

Good morning to you all. Happy Mother's Day, especially to the new mother at the table. Thanks for joining us.

So just to remind viewers about just the intense week that happened in court last week, Stormy Daniels testified about her alleged sexual encounter with Donald Trump, described it in detail. She talked about the hush money that came after the access Hollywood tape, of course, was least that was right before the 2016 campaign. She's excused by Trump's attorneys for lying, for profit.

Look, Trump is clearly distracted by all this. So as you can see from attacking Alvin Bragg, the prosecutor, calling him, quote Fat Alvin in this, but also not hitting the campaign trail. Biden has been crisscrossing the country. This is a rare rally for Donald Trump in a blue state, is clearly having an impact in him in this key moment in the campaign.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think it's interesting that one of Donald Trump's chief complaints about these trials is, oh, its going to take me off of the campaign trail. You know, he's a criminal defendant. He has to be in that courtroom every day that court is in session, but he hasn't really been using his downtime and away you might say, is most effective.

He has, though, been able to sort of take over the news cycle. That's the upside, I guess of being the criminal defendant is that we're watching everything he does, including whether he is or is not snoozing in the courtroom. He comes out at the end of the day. He makes remarks when he's leaving court.

So, you know, there is in a weird way. Some benefit he gets from being in court, from being in front of cameras every day, even if he's not out there holding rallies.

RAJU: Yeah. And, look, the big -- the interested obviously, were trying to assess and the reason why of course, is so significant is how does this impact what happens in November? That's verdict that's going to eventually come. What will that verdict be? Of course, there's no way of predicting how this could play out.

But is this the only case that could actually reach a verdict come November Trump has had success in delaying several of the cases as he's done, the classified documents case, there's essentially postponed indefinitely because of an order from the judge past week.

The Georgia election subversion case, it says August 5th, but it's unclear if that actually is going to happen before November. It's tied up and other court issues and as well as the presidential election interference case, a federal case that's paused over the Supreme Court decision about whether he has immunity as he claims that he does.

But has he been successful in convincing the American public that -- you know, that he says he's unfairly being prosecuted.

Look at the way that this "PBS NewsHour" poll breaks this down. I mean, the between Democrats and Republicans, obviously majors play about what another believe it was fair to see what their thoughts on the investigation and fair or unfair, but independents is split right down the middle, 49-49 about whether they believe Trump is being treated fairly.

DAVID WEIGEL, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, SEFAMOR: That's why Democrats aren't necessarily happy that this has dominated the news as you were talking about. They would love if they could control the news is I think that they might do, they would love it if the focus this week was on, what did he say to donors and mid Mar-a-Lago about how he'd get rid of regulation if they gave him more money, what are his tax policy? There are classic Democratic issues that they beat Mitt Romney with that they think Donald Trump is vulnerable on, and they talk about them. Joe Biden talks about them, and they cant they can't get covered.

I'm not saying that they helpless person in the media. Trump has also in public talking more about these trials. One thing he does in New Jersey, he said this about Henry Cuellar when he got indicted last week, too, in Texas, is that he has a mono method, every thing happening, every political corruption case is the Biden administration trying to take out its enemies. And it's very simple to understand, that's very direct, that put positions him as the guy who's fighting corruption and Democrats are struggling to say -- well, look at the record. He might bring into the White House.

RAJU: Yeah. And, look, there is no concern among Democrats. Some of them that I talked about the fact that there may not be a verdict reached in several of these cases, including the decision by the judge in the Florida classified documents case to essentially postpone indefinitely.


RAJU: Do you think that Judge Cannon is out of her element here?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): I think there are increasing well- justified doubts about the ability the experience that this judge should have to deal with this kind of challenging case.

RAJU: Are you worried that Trump me now face -- he may not be convicted felon come November?

BLUMENTHAL: I'm deeply concerned about a possible delay, which may deny justice to the American people.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I'm sure they're going to have an impact on voters in some respect.


RAJU: So, he said -- Blumenthal said, I'm deeply concerned about a possible delay which may deny justice to the American people.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, it looks like the trials are going to be delayed. So the reality here is that the campaign trail has merged with a courtroom, but there -- this is going to be a decision of the voters. This is not going to be decided by a judge or a court.

And as you said earlier, Monday, I think it's important to keep pointing out, we have no idea the political fallout of a verdict in New York. We just don't -- I mean conviction might amplify him. It also might cause deep questions among those independent voters.

The poll that you showed is really interesting there because there are independents who are watching this. I was in Wisconsin this week talking to voters and people are not paying attention to the blow by blow of the trial, but people who want to move on beyond the chaos, it's not good for them. Donald Trump's supporters think he is under attack here, and I think this is all ridiculous. So we'll have to see what the followed is of this.

But I think interestingly, this week because we head into Michael Cohen. How does this affect Donald Trump personally? It's getting to him. There's no doubt. And for all the idea of campaigning will find out if campaigning actually matters.

But fundraising does matter. Donald Trump is way behind on that. That's what President Biden has been doing, as he's been traveling across the country. I was on the west coast, so that's one of Trump's shortcomings.

RAJU: One of the shortcomings too, is being able to consolidate the Republican Party. We've seen weaknesses with Haley voters, Nikki Haley voters in particular, after she dropped out of the primary. Look at this several states, she's still getting a sizable amount of votes, including an Indiana at this past Tuesday Republican primary, 22 percent.

Of course, that's not going to be a battle ground, but there are battleground states on that list.

And I talked to Republicans senators about this, Donald Trump supporters about Nikki Haley. The impact that they are having, and some non-Donald Trump's supporters in this, in this clip. Listen.


RAJU: What do you say about Trump's weakness amongst suburban voters in swing states?

SEN. THOM TILLIS (R-NC): I think it's pretty clear that in polls, we've lost some ground in that area. We've got to gain it back.

SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): I think it's notable to have someone who's exited the race still receiving 20 percent of the vote, though. So --

RAJU: What does that say, his weakness as a candidate?

YOUNG: It says there are a lot of Republicans out there who are attracted to someone like Nikki Haley, even if she's no longer in the race.

SEN. J.D. VANCE (R-OH): Well, look, I certainly think would be helpful for Ambassador Haley to endorse the precedent. If you don't think Joe Biden has been a good president, and I would hope Nikki Haley and I agree on that, then why not endorse the Republican nominee for president?


RAJU: You know, That's J.D. Vance. Of course, he's on the VP shortlist. He's calling on Nikki Haley to endorse.

But she is meeting with her donors this weekend, and no plans to endorse.

Does it have an impact?

MURRAY: You know, it's hard to know. I think, if this 20 percent of folks who are backing Nikki Haley are ever going to be for Trump. You know, this may be a bloc of voters that don't necessarily care what Nikki Haley has to say about where they should go instead. I think it's very clear that there is a base of not just Republicans but Americans who want an alternative to Donald Trump certainly, but also want an alternative to Joe Biden.

ZELENY: I was talking to a supporter and a longtime friend of Nikki Haley's and said she doesn't control these voters. It's not something that an endorsement is going to change, as Sara said, some of these are -- these voters are looking for someone else, but also talking to that friend says he knows how to reach her if he wants to make amends let's start winning over voters.

So the Haley support, they're like Donald Trump needs to call her.

RAJU: Yeah.


RAJU: In the meantime, over the weekend, he said she's not on his VP list, I'm not sure --

MURRAY: But he wishes her the best, wishes her the best.

RAJU: Exactly.

ZELENY: I think that's probably true that she's not. It's hard to imagine her passing the loyalty test.

RAJU: Yes. I don't think that she would.

All right. Up next, our new reporting on the pro-Israel group trying to take down the Squad. As Biden goes more isolated over the war, how will it impact his reelection?


SEN. RASHIDA TLAIB (D-MI): It seems like the president's line keeps changing. Where's your red line? Because I think the mass grave or 13,000 children should have been enough for us to say our country shouldn't be involved in this kind of genocide.

RAJU: Do you -- are you going to support him in November, have you decided yet?

TLAIB: I really got to get going.




RAJU: President Biden is walking the finest of lines on Israel, growing ever more isolated as he faces anger from the right over his increasing rift with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and blowback from the left for not doing enough, all the while, Israel continues to resist Biden's pressure, pressing deeper into southern Gaza, ordering tens of thousands more people to leave the city of Rafah on Saturday.

Now, the president continues to take flak for a report released late Friday sharply critical of Israel's use of American weapons in Gaza but that held back any repercussions.


SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): It's a massive diplomatic dodge. It is frustrating because it's so important at this moment that we use the leverage we have to persuade Israel to change its conduct.


RAJU: Yet as Biden's left wing continues to voice their frustration, some of the most progressive Democrats now -- now are vulnerable because of pro-Israel forces within the party, targeting them in their primaries.

My panel is back up.

Look, Biden has been, you know, first he came out, he was resolutely in support of what was happening in Israel. He was 100 percent behind Netanyahu, Republicans applauded him. Now, he's moving closer to the position -- in growing position in his party, and he's getting flak from the left, even though some of them did applaud them, as you can see on your screen when he's -- when he made that warning to Erin Burnett, that he would not allow for military -- certain ammunition to go to bombs to be given to Israel if orders a full-scale invasion into Rafah.


But, look, he's getting hammered on both sides. It is incredibly difficult position.

What are you hearing inside the White House about how they're dealing with this?

WEIGEL: Well, started its very with the protest movement that he's dealing with them, the Democrats who were frustrated about where he's going -- yes, that was significant statement the White Houses had a position that he is not bending. He said, the president has said out loud, he has not been moved by the student protest, protesters took that statement as evidenced that they were they were getting some traction.

Young committed movements said, this is a good step forward, but we need him to end allow weapons for Israel's work, quote-unquote, which is not going to happen.

So the White House has been -- denial's a tough word.

RAJU: Yeah.

WEIGEL: They have -- they have sort of put this off to the side, everything from events where protesters are screened so that they're not coming in, smaller events and people can interrupt, disrupt the messaging. They have tried to continue this, this policy, while pleasing nobody.

This statement did, please, at a very small level, some student protests. But what's the impact of that going to be?

RAJU: Yeah.

WEIGEL: People who've been protesting we have been told, all right. We can make an impact even though he said we didn't if we keep being obstinate and we keep threatening Democrats with defeat.

RAJU: And if this is invasion continues to go on and there's no ceasefire, this is going to be obviously -- it continued issue that the president is going to have to grapple with, the November impact is something, of course, we assess here on INSIDE POLITICS.

One of the impacts that could happen is within the Democratic Party, down ticket members. Some of the more progressive members who have been critical of the Israeli government sharply critical of Israel.

We have new reporting this morning with my great colleague, Isaac Dovere, about how Jamaal Bowman, he was one of the more liberal members of the House Democratic Caucus, he is now facing a very difficult primary. In fact, he could lose. There's a belief among a lot of Democrats that he could very well be the one of the first members to lose in large part because of his view on Israel has a June primary.

I caught up with both him and Cori Bush, is another member on the left who is being targeted by those pro-Israel forces.


RAJU: AIPAC is coming after you, propping up your challenger. George Latimer. What do you think about the fact that you're being targeted by them?

REP. JAMAAL BOWMAN (D-NY): I mean, it is what it is. It's all good. You know, we -- we have a really strong record in a district. You know, they don't like us being critical of Israel. What they don't understand is us being critical of an ally makes our allies stronger and safer in the long term.

RAJU: Do you want equivocally condemn Hamas for October 7th?

REP. CORI BUSH (D-MO): Every time somebody asks me, will I condemn Hamas for October 7, I say how many times have you not looked at my statements? So, well, look at the statements.


RAJU: So we did look back at her statements. One of them said that -- from October 7, talked about Hamas condemning. She said she's heartbroken about the violence that happened there are falling attacks by Hamas militants on Israeli border towns and Israeli military bombardment. She condemned the targeting of civilians.

Jeff, how do you see the -- you cover progressive politics, Democratic politics very closely. How do you see this playing out?

ZELENY: Look, I mean, it's sort of different district by district, but there was a primary just a couple of weeks ago in the Pittsburgh area and Summer Lee, a Democratic member of Congress, was also under attack on this issue. And she won the primary just fine. So we'll see.

I think it depends how strong the member is in their district. Overall, writ large, what Dave said was very interesting. The statement from the uncommitted movement, that movement that brought the uncommitted vote in Michigan and some other states was the most positive statement toward the Biden administration that we've seen in months, saying it was a step forward.

So if you take a look back at this, President Biden has moved dramatically from that hug with Netanyahu when he flew to Israel in the days after the attack, but look, it's not enough for some, but this is still dividing the Democratic Party, dividing the progressive wing, but someone like Jamaal Bowman is, you know, I mean, he may have severe issues, but his district is much different than Cori Bush's district, for example, in St. Louis.

So I think its district by district will see. But one thing this will play out as we know now in the Chicago Democratic Convention.

RAJU: Absolutely, and, look, in there's also the people. Of course, there's a big pro-Israel part of the Democratic Party as well, including Congressman Steny Hoyer, the former House majority leader.


RAJU: What do you think just in general, their positions on Israel? Does it concern you, your colleagues?

HOYER: I regret that there are members who are in effect I think reflecting the views of Hamas, which are to kill Jews and eliminate Israel.

And when you're talking about from the river to the sea, I think it's very unfortunate.


RAJU: Yeah. He says that -- he didn't name names, but he said some of the members in his party are reflecting the views of Hamas.

MURRAY: Yeah, I think that this is really laying bare the split within the Democratic Party and also just the complexity of this issue.


There are a lot of people who are coming to this issue, new, who are not familiar with the history in that region. Now that doesn't mean that they will never right to have an opinion on what they're seeing happening. But I also think, you know, this pressure that the Biden administration is feeling, this pressure of the Democratic Party is feeling is also because of what we have seen playing out on the ground. It's because of that crisis that we've seen that accumulated. It's because of civilian deaths that are mounting.

And so I think that there's no sign that any of this pressure is going to go away as you pointed out, its going to be a huge issue when we get to the DNC.

WEIGEL: But one thing you, Summer Lee did in Pittsburgh, and the rest of the Squad -- Squad plus is going to do, is take Biden statement and polarize this domestically and say whatever you think of Israel, who is getting involved in these races, it's Republican donors, it's people who donate to conservative candidates, AIPAC's PAC has been helping Republicans. Why is it against me?

RAJU: Yeah.

WEIGEL: You're going to hear that over the next few months. It was primary to refrain. That's not about the Israel position and it is about why are these donors so interested in beating me? Why are these Republicans so interested in beating me?

So Democrats trying to push the Israeli shadow side make it polarized and partisan.

RAJU: And how does this play in November? Of course, that's a big question. Will this impact Biden?

There was a poll that came out about Wisconsin voters, the Quinnipiac polls, international conflicts are ranked lowest on this list. Most, of course, the economy preserving democracy right underneath.

Jeff, you were just in Wisconsin and I want to -- I want our viewers to listen to what they said to you to about their issues.


TOM OBERHAUS, WISCONSIN VOTER: Your paycheck, and it looks good, but then when you pay the bills out, its like, wow, it's all gone already.

ZELENY: And who gets the blame for that you think?

OBERHAUS: Oh, I think the administration that's in power because that's -- that's when it happened.

MAUREEN GLYNN, WISCONSIN VOTER: I just think that people have forgotten how chaotic it was when Trump was president. I feel a lot better now that we've had almost four years of Biden. It's not great, but it's better.


RAJU: What was your takeaway? ZELENY: So the bottom line is inflation is still a much more central

concern to most voters. That's not saying that foreign affairs isn't, but it's sort of under the rubric of strong leader.

Is President Biden a strong leader? Does he look like he's in command of these issues? That is what is going to be front and center. But for all the tragedy and attention that foreign policy is taking up, it's not front of mind for voters.

RAJU: Yeah, interesting.

All right. Up next, a reliably blue state now up for grabs in November.

You may be stunned to learn just how much one Democrat is spinning out of his own personal fortune to win. Coming up, new reporting on how Donald Trump's team is going concern about Robert Kennedy Jr.

Stay tuned.



RAJU: The deeply blue state of Maryland was supposed to be a safe one for the Democrats to hold. That is, until the former Republican governor Larry Hogan, threw his hat in the ring meaning Maryland is now essential to the battle for the Senate majority as Democrats face a daunting map in their quest to hang on to power.

Now the Democratic primary has been smashing records for spending, and that's because Congressman David Trone is pouring his personal fortune into what has become an increasingly vicious race against Prince Georges county executive, Angela Alsobrooks for the party's nomination. It's become personal with racial issues and Trone's wealth, central to the attacks.

So ahead of this Tuesday's primary, I asked the two sitting Maryland Democratic senators about the personal attacks being leveled between the two Democrats.

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Angela Alsobrooks is the stronger candidate. She's the best candidate. I'm proud to have endorsed her.

She's the best candidates. She'll run against Larry Hogan in the general election and it's -- it's unfortunate that Trone campaign decided to go negative.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): We have two really good people running. I'm very anxious to get the primary over with so we can concentrate on the general.

This happens during campaigns. I would prefer to see it run with each candidate promoting themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: of course, it didn't quite happen that way.

David, you just did story for Semafor about this headline, "Democrats never expected this senate primary to have such high stakes."

And in there Trone tells you that he believes that his money, his vast fortune, will give him a lot more flexibility then as the Democrats spend money elsewhere. What was your takeaway?

DAVID WEIGEL, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, SEMAFOR: Yes, he's very blatant, that's part of my takeaway. Trone, if you ask about his spending advantage, he founded Total Wine. He has a lot of money to play with. He spent more than $61 million on this primary with the expectation he wants to spend another $51 million. I asked him as part of your message here that the DSCC can spend in Montana and Ohio and that other Democrats are so worried about, he said yes.

And when Hogan got in the race that did transform things because Maryland's never elected a non-white, sorry, its elected a white female senator, it's most elected white men, it's never elected a black woman to the Senate.

And a lot of democrats publicly started saying, I'd love to make history, but I'm very nervous. Maybe this wealthy candidate can take the seat off the board and the reaction you saw from the senators is that Alsobrooks is turned that into my opponent is going needlessly negative. And if he had to spend $61 million to beat me, what's the -- why are you so confident he'll be able to beat Larry Hogan when he's quite well liked.

RAJU: It is really up for grabs. It's been a major split. Just look into the endorsements, how its gone between Alsobrooks and Trone, their senators -- one of them. I mean you heard from Chris Van Hollen Democratic senator not endorsing his member from the delegation and endorsing Angela Alsobrooks instead.


RAJU: But you mentioned the spending. This is just the ad spending $46 million he spent on ads, compared to $4 million, that's a 10 to 1 advantage and he still may not win.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I mean it looks very close, expensive market because a lot of those ads bleed over into Virginia and right here, into D.C.

But look, this is going to be a fascinating contest. I still have a little bit of a hard time thinking Larry Hogan has a strong shot in November. He is very popular --


RAJU: It's the difference between a governor's race and that was a Democrat trying to say control of the Senate is at stake for us.

ZELENY: Particularly with President Biden on the ballot so we shall see. But the money point is a fascinating one. I can't recall a time when someone has been so blatant about that and he's not apologetic.

RAJU: Yes. They're usually like they don't like to talk about how wealthy. He's fine.

ZELENY: It's actually kind of refreshing that he's not like running away from it, but it is a central issue.

RAJU: Yes, it is. And speaking of which the ads we've talked about, they've been very personal. Just take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get what you pay for. David Trone and his companies gave half $1 million to extreme and MAGA Republicans to win their elections.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Angela Alsobrooks' false attack ad against David Trone, claims --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You get what you paid for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe that's why Alsobrooks works is raking thousands from lobbyists.

ANGELA ALSOBROOKS, MARYLAND DEMOCRATIC SENATE CANDIDATE: When I hear my opponents say things about me, he knows they're false. I know it's just another way were different.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he's done in Congress is what he's going to do in the Senate.

EDWARDS BURROUGHS: The U.S. Senate is not a place for training wheels.


RAJU: The U.S. Senate is not a place for training wheels.

He's had to clean that up a bit, but --

SARA MURPHY, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: I mean politics is a dirty business. I know there's always all the frothing about the primaries and how negative the primaries are.

I think you know, Maryland democrats are going to be able to figure it out. Unite behind whoever wins.

Man, $60 million is a lot of money. Imagine putting that money in and not winning. I'm very curious to see what happens.

RAJU: When you were out there, did democrats, or is there a fear on the ground that they could cause some in November this back-and-forth?

WEIGEL: Yes. Yes. This week, a number of state Democratic Party chairs who are mostly supportive of Alsobrooks came out and the setting was kind of funny.

Trone's campaign had a press conference with Latino leaders from PG County, saying that Alsobrooks is not respectful of Latinos.

And then two hours later in the very same place, it was a polling site in Silver Spring, these former Democratic state chairs came out and said, this campaign is too negative. It's David Trone's fault. He's going to have trouble uniting the party if he wins.

I asked Susie Trumbull, former chair, would you have trouble winning black voters? She said, yes, it's a real problem. He's made mistakes. He's -- the training wheels comments stuck. He's made other gaffes.

And he's emphasized that he spent a lot of money on charity, on criminal justice reform, but Democrats are saying out loud, please, this is way uglier than we need a race in a very blue state to be. You're going to have if you're our nominee.

RAJU: And Steve Daines, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign told me -- I asked him about this. He said the Democratic Party -- the fight is not going to help. It's getting very personal, very expensive, it harms the cause.

And I asked him about, aren't you concerned about David Trone's money? He's got so much money and that kind of helped Democrats.

He said well, you're spending this much money, he can barely win a primary, right?

ZELENY: But a general, obviously is a very different matter in a very blue state. So again, it's hard for me to, even though Larry Hogan very popular in a Senate race. I think a lot will have to happen for this to be massively competitive in the fall.

I could be wrong. We'll see, but Senate races generally in presidential years, it's hard to make them overtake the top of the ticket.

RAJU: Split ticketing and voting has been rare --

ZELENY: That's with Donald Trump on the ticket.

RAJU: And that just put with the fact that (INAUDIBLE) has not been as uncommon in recent cycles, actually could hurt Democrats in other states like Ohio --

ZELENY: For sure.

RAJU: -- in Montana when they're trying to keep their seats.

All right.

RFK Jr. has been getting a lot of attention for revealing he had a worm in his brain. Coming up, new reporting on who's worried he's a threat in November.

And Donald Trump won't be the only politician in New York courtroom tomorrow. I caught up with the lawmaker targeted in that other high- profile case. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: Senator, your trial starts next week? If you're convicted will you resign.




RAJU: This past week, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. made headlines for that parasitic worm that got into his brain. But that's not what's concerning the Trump campaign. It's the fact that RFK Jr. is getting on more ballots across the country.

New reporting from CNN this weekend shows how the Trump campaign views RFK as a real problem. And so Trump and Republicans have increasingly attacked RFK Jr. by trying to paint him as a left-wing liberal.

Now while polls are varied on the impact RFK would have on the race, the Trump campaign is worried about ones like this, which showed Trump leading Biden by 2 percent in a head-to-head race but losing to Biden by 2 percent when RFK entered the mix although that is within the margin of error.

Our panel is back.

Trump posted also so on social media, going after RFK Jr.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: RFK Jr. is a Democrat plant, a radical left liberal who's been put in place in order to help Crooked Joe Biden, the worst president in the history of the United States get re-elected.

A vote for Jr. would essentially be a wasted protest vote.


RAJU: What do you make of the uptick in the Trump campaigns targeting of RFK Jr.

WEIGEL: It surprised especially the second part of that where he emphasizes that RFK is a fake anti-vax candidate using the phrase anti-vax, which is this has been a defining issue of (INAUDIBLE) career for 18 years, criticism of vaccines.

RAJU: Yes, that is interesting.

WEIGEL: It's very frenzy, it's not -- it's not as detailed and dug-in as Democrats. Democrats have an entire opposition operation, multiple staff, working both publicly against him, putting out opposition research, trying to hurt him as he gets onto -- state ballots.


WEIGEL: Republicans are just putting out these comments. Trump's putting out these comments. And Trump -- Trump invited RFK Jr. to meet him after the 2016 election when he was discussing a possible role in the administration.

So he's not consistent on this. He's trying to throw up dust and say to voters who were likely (ph) paying attention, listening to conservative podcast and media. This guy who's doing a lot of conservative podcast media, very popular guest on shows most viewed by Trump voters that you can't basically trust them, but they're not doing a lot more than that.

RAJU: You know, you talked to the Biden campaign a lot of very regularly are they changing their approach to RFK Jr. anyway.

ZELENY: A little bit third, they're doing a lot behind the scenes to watch specific state ballot exit things potentially challenging signatures and things.

But it's been interesting to watch that not really increase. They are watching to see all this play out because there is a school of thought that it does help Biden in some respects.

I mean, the reality to all of this though, the reason that some people are looking at RFK Jr. is that there's not a lot of interest in Biden and Trump. There is a huge sense out there that people were looking for a different alternative.

So the Biden campaign is definitely watching it in battleground states, in Wisconsin for example, it only takes 2,000 signatures to get on the ballot.

RAJU: Yes.

ZELENY: You can get that Saturday morning at the farmers market and Madison as you know. I mean that is going to be pretty easy.

So in the battleground states, it is going to make a difference and the Biden campaign is worried about that.

RAJU: I appreciate the Madison reference.

And the question also is the debate stage. Will Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Make the debate stage? He put out a tweet after this whole worm issue came out saying, I offered to eat five more brain worms and still beat President Biden -- President Trump and President Biden in a debate.

Now, our colleague Harry Enten, reported about it this weekend that actually he might make the debate stage and because the threshold, the polling threshold, you agree to a certain polling threshold, It will be on the ballot, a number of states.

The map on your screen there it shows you that he has actually -- is making it on more and more ballots. But you know, third party, if he gets on the debate stage (INAUDIBLE) everything. I mean, third-party candidates obviously had a huge impact in past elections, 2016 being the most recent example of that. But if he's on the debate stage, who knows what where land.

MURPHY: No, I think that you would have to be unreasonable to not have some heartburn if you're either the Trump campaign or the Biden campaign, not just because of what happened with third-party candidate in 2016, but even just looking at the margins in 2020 and some of these battleground states, you have to be concerned about RFK's ability to get on the ballot, which frankly they've been doing a pretty good job of.

Them being very public about saying, we want the Biden people and we want the Trump people. We think that we can poll from both sides. And so I think that the two major party candidates have a lot of heartburn about it.

RAJU: Yes, and interesting how he's been dealing with some of his policy positions, RFK Jr. He was talking about abortion this past week and he sort of had to clean it up. This is what he said on Thursday.


ROBERT F. KENNEDY, JR., THIRD PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We should leave it to the woman, we shouldn't have government involved.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even if its full term.

KENNEDY: Even if it's full term.


RAJU: Pretty unequivocal there, right. Even if its full term, but Friday came out a post and put it on X saying abortion should be legal up until a certain number of weeks, and restricted thereafter.

Even in the redness of red states, he said voters reject total abortion bans. And he said that no one supports third dressed her the first trimester abortions.

What do you make of that.

WEIGEL: Practically this is the reason why a debate and 90 minutes on stage where you don't have a bunch of fact-checkers following up with things probably would be very good for RFK Jr. Because he's been very slippery on abortion, just sticking to this issue.

He's had multiple answers. He's talked about different weeks limits you to support based on who he's talking to, based on the pressure and the question based on the friendliness of the interviewer.

Again, he does these very long interesting interviews that the people here on the way to work, where he's taking different positions.

So he I think if you're if you're Joe Biden, you think back to Barack Obama, right? Mitt Romney, I think we kind of rumbled Barack Obama when they expected Mitt Romney to have to stick to this nun positions he'd taken. He didn't.

He evolved on stage. That's the worry they have and the Trump campaign has and Barack Obama -- sorry, and the Biden campaign has about Kennedy, is that he is very movable except in a couple of courses that he doesn't talk about at all. He can -- he can change his position. He might do that in real time and it national audience.

RAJU: And the question is Trump is attacking him, will Biden eventually start to come out and (INAUDIBLE). we haven't done that yet. Maybe we will in the coming weeks.

All right. Next we catch up with Senator Bob Menendez just before his corruption trial is due to begin in New York. And as his colleagues call for him to step down.


SEN. JOHN FETTERMAN (D-PA): Did anyone wish Menendez good luck for next week for that sleazeball?




RAJU: Starting tomorrow, just around the corner from Donald Trump's trial, another well-known politician will come before a judge as jury selection kicks off in the corruption case against Senator Bob Menendez.

Now the New Jersey Democrat and his wife stand accused of aiding the Qatari and Egyptian governments in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, gold bars, and luxury items. They both pleaded not guilty and are being tried separately in federal court.

So I caught up with Senator Menendez this past week as he faces pressure to step down.


RAJU: You're your trial starts next week. If you're convicted, will you resign?


RAJU: if you're convicted, will you resign?


RAJU: You have any thoughts about the trial as we head into next week.

MENENDEZ: I'm looking forward to proving my innocence. Thank you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) RAJU: Now Menendez had already stood trial in another corruption case in 2017, when he also insisted he was innocent. That ended in a mistrial with a jury deadlocked.


RAJU: Now, like then, Menendez has refused to step down, even as a slew of his fellow Democrats like John Fetterman want him gone ASAP.


FETTERMAN: Did anyone wish mid-end is good luck for next week for that sleazeball?

RAJU: What if he is acquitted and runs for reelection?

FETTERMAN: I guess -- I guess we'll see. But what's clearly happened, he got lucky the last trial.

Some people would say, I should be more careful or I should fly straight -- a straight. But now he, you know, thought I can get away with anything. And then he tripled down on all of that. He won't be around much longer. That would be my bet.

RAJU: This trial is expected to last several weeks.

That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY, you can follow me on X formerly known as Twitter mkraju Follow the show on INSIDE POLITICS.

And if you ever miss an episode, catch up where you get your podcast, just search for INSIDE POLITICS.

Up next "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER AND DANA BASH". Dana's guests include Senators J.D. Vance, and Chris Murphy.

And of course, Happy Mothers' Day to all the mothers watching, including my own and my wife Archana.

Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning with us. We'll see you next time.