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Inside Politics

Trump Loudly Booed As He Asks For Libertarians' Votes; Legal Teams Gear Up For Crucial Final Hours In Trump Trial. Trump Courts Votes from Hostile Libertarian Crowd; Interview with Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX); Will Ohio Leave President Biden's Name Off Its Ballots. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 26, 2024 - 08:00   ET


ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: -- shift a little bit further eastward once we get into the holiday on Monday itself.


So, now, you're talking Washington, D.C., Raleigh, Charlotte, again, Atlanta, Montgomery, and then back through other areas. So this is going to be a concern not only for this morning, but also this afternoon and evening and also the potential for very heavy rainfall, which is why they also have flood watches in effect for the day-to- day.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Allison Chinchar watching it all for us. Thank you.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Be safe out, everyone. Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

BLACKWELL: Stay with this for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY starts with Manu Raju right now.



MANU RAJU, CNN HOST (voice-over): Wild card.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT & 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You should nominate me or at least your vote for me.


RAJU: Trump faces a hostile crowd as he and RFK Jr. vie for third party votes.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR., INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Neither of them upheld the Constitution when it really counted.

RAJU: While Biden ramps up his attacks on Trump.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Freedom is not free. Nothing is guaranteed about our democracy in America. RAJU: Plus, judgment day.

TRUMP: Then the last year, I've been indicted by the government on 91 different things.

RAJU: With the verdict in Donald Trump's trial as soon as this week, how will it play out in the courtroom and on the trail?

And Texas hold 'em.

REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): Are we going to be the party that has gestures that come up here and just try to burn the place down?

RAJU: Ahead of his runoff, we're one-on-one with Uvalde's Republican congressman as he fights the far right.

You called them scum bags. You still stand by that?

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


RAJU: Good morning. And welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY on this Memorial Day weekend. I'm Manu Raju.

Last night, just three days before closing arguments in his criminal hush money trial, Donald Trump faced a hostile crowd during an unusual speech he made to libertarians at their convention here in Washington. It was his last major speech before his case goes to a jury.

Now, after six weeks, 22 witnesses on the stand and no shortage of salacious testimony, this could be the week we find out if Donald Trump becomes a first former United States president to be convicted of a crime or acquitted on felony charges at a pivotal time in the campaign season. Now, it all comes as brand new CNN polling, new polling out this week shows the race between Trump and Biden still neck and neck with no clear leader.

And the big question, what impact, if any, will the verdict have on this hugely consequential race?

Now the verdict takes on heightened importance since this is likely to be the only Trump case to reach a jury before November. And Trump's been out campaigning since court went dark last Tuesday, albeit not in those battleground states, actually making a stop in the Bronx last week. And then last night in D.C., whereas reception before libertarians was anything but warm.


TRUMP: I will be a true friend to libertarians in the White House.

We want libertarian votes because you stand for what we stand for, and don't waste your vote. Now, I think you should nominate me, or at least vote for me, and we should win together. (END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: All right. A lot to unpack here. Let's break it all down with our great panel, CNN's Sara Murray, Mario Parker with "Bloomberg News", "Wall Street Journal's" Molly Ball, and David Weigel with "Semafor".

Good morning to you all.

It was a late night for you, Mr. Weigel. You are in the room last night. Trump did not seem irked by all this heckling. But what was -- how bad was that reception in there?

DAVID WEIGEL, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, SEMAFOR: It was captured on that audio. I should also add, there was an open bar not very far from where he was speaking. There was an open bar.

RAJU: Saturday night, open bar, not a good mix.

WEIGEL: Yes. This is the biggest news event that's happened to libertarians. And sometime, the chair of the party who invited Trump was celebrating. She said they moved the Overton window of debate and they move Trump on their issues, which was the goal.

Part of their goal, and I talked to delegates all weekend at the party was show up in boo and demand things from Trump. Don't make it look like he can just show up to a libertarian convention. And win people over.

So the big news from this was that you said he'd put a libertarian in the cabinet. He said he'd give clemency to Russ Ulbricht, the founder of Silk Roads, this online drug, dark web, I should say, drug kingpin, and Trump went in knowing he'd have to make some promises and knowing he get booed. Trump campaign was telling me this is part of a unity tour like Sneaker Con, like the Bronx rally where he's going to show up. He's going to get maybe some bad imagery and he's going to have to say some things that Joe Biden is not saying, but over time incrementally, that's going to maybe add some votes.

RAJU: Look, and we're going to dig into all those promises that he made later in the show.


RAJU: But, you know, Trump is used to these adoring crowds, right?


These people come in and they fill in these arenas. They cheered him. He doesn't really go before hostile audiences. He has been now before in a courtroom for the past couple of several weeks, he went to the Bronx, not exactly a battleground state. He was booed last night.

How do you think this is all weighing in on Trump at this critical time in the campaign? SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. I mean, I think his

rallies tend to be more love affairs to Donald Trump. They also used to be opened bar in the (INAUDIBLE), but that ended pretty quickly.

Look, I think that he --

RAJU: Not best for when you're trying to preserve campaign cash.

MURRAY: Yeah, probably not best practice, but look, I think he's obviously on this kind of earned media tour where he realizes he's going to be spending a lot of days in court, in some ways is good for him from the media landscape point of view, because he sucks up the oxygen if all we're doing is talking about Donald Trump and the jury instructions and on verdict watch.

And then again, there's this sort of earned media tour of going to the Bronx, of going to this libertarian convention.

What is interesting is that its all this kind of messaging tour, we're really not seeing sort of ground game and battleground states that reflects this kind of outreach were not seeing the work that you need to do on the ground to turn out the sort of low propensity voters. Now, there's still time to ramp up that infrastructure, but it seems like they're really doubling down on the notion of messaging, carrying them over the finish line rather than sort of the nuts and bolts of a ground.

RAJU: And how does what happens in this week possible verdict first ever criminal case facing a former president and a presidential nominee. How will that impact? Will that drive up voters? Will turn away voters? That is going to be a huge question, maybe one of the most consequential elections, maybe won't have a difference at all. We'll see.

This is what a recent poll from Quinnipiac said about whether or not people view this illegal. We looked at over time, it's been pretty consistent. I mean, this is just over the last month since coverage is dominated over the hush money trial.

About 46 percent of voters believe he did something illegal. That's from April to May, not much difference between April to May about who believed they did nothing wrong, just 21 percent.

Then there's the question about whether or not people find Trump did what he did was he is actually guilty of a crime here. Democrats, not surprisingly overwhelming believe he's guilty. Republicans, not surprisingly, believe overwhelmingly he's not guilty, but that independent number, 53 percent, a majority of independence.

Does that -- how do you -- it's impossible to obviously handicap how this is going to play out in November. But clearly, the independent number is something to watch.

MARIO PARKER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yeah, the independent number is something to watch. There is some polls vary, right? Some of the polls said he would lose 20 percent of the support for those who are leaning toward him, steady be convicted. Others show that is just a nominal impact at all. We know for sure it doesn't help him at all.

Now, here's the consternation on a part of Democrats that I've spoken to, it's the fact that this has been characterized as the hush money case, right, as opposed to an election interference case.

The fact that it's a hush money case, Donald Trump already has some negatives. People are like, oh, that's not great. People are like, I wouldn't want to be married to him in that sense. Yeah, he's rich, he paid someone off.

But the fact remains that it's not election interference that voters are hearing about. That's where Democrats field that the case had a missed opportunity, that he would be convicted of an election interference case or acquitted of that.

MOLLY BALL, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, the Trump campaign really believes that they have won the narrative in this case, right? They're handing out packets of polling playing at the fundraisers that he's speaking at, that show that not only has his fundraising skyrocketed while the trial has been going on with the poles have moved a little bit in his direction. And the way that people perceive the trial has moved in his direction.

I think you're right. They have framed the trial the way they would prefer that people see it as something that's old news that's about his personal conduct. That is not something that should affect the way voters view his fitness to serve. And there hasn't really been a countervailing narrative out there in the political realm because its the prosecutors in this its closed courtroom. Yeah, but are primarily making that case.

RAJU: And this is because Democrats have been quiet about it for the most part, and the Biden team has also been quiet about it. I put a question to Democrats about the possibility that Trump could be acquitted. Of course, we don't know what's going to happen. There's been a lot of speculation analysis among legal experts about the problems the prosecutions case.

So does that lead to an acquittal and what will that mean for November? That's one question I've put two Democrats last week.


RAJU: Couldn't just give him a boost if he is acquitted?

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): No, I don't really think so. I think Donald Trump's character is clear to the world.

REP. DEAN PHILLIPS (D-MN): I think the New York cases, if anything, may have backfired against those who thought that would be the salvation. But I don't think the New York cases are exactly what Democrats were hoping they would be.

REP. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): The broad, centrist, Middle American people I think understand what he did and why it is so abhorrent. I'm already deeply disturbed that Donald Trump has succeeded in slow- walking one or more of those cases.


RAJU: I mean, he said that he is deeply disturbed that Donald Trump has succeeded in slow-walking one or more of these cases, because it's the only one that reached a verdict, and it may not have an impact on voting.


Maybe they'll help Trump.

MURRAY: I mean, he has succeeded. Look, I think that it's very likely this is the only trial that we are going to get before Election Day. And this case is not a slam dunk, which means that Donald Trump may very well not be convicted.

Acquitted is the worst-case scenario for Democrats, because then its the only trial you have and Donald Trump gets to go out there and say, Joe Biden's prosecutors, which again not true, came after me, his Department of Justice came after me, and they still didn't convict me. I'm still innocent.

I also think you could end up somewhere in this sort of muddy middle where you end up with a hung jury, a jury that cannot reach a verdict. And then this truly does just get kicked to the voters to decide, look, we're not going to have any kind of convictions here or nothing else could potentially go to trial. It's up to you to decide if this is someone that you want to live with in the White House.

RAJU: How does Biden handled the ultimate outcome? "Politico" had some reporting about this just a couple of days ago saying that Biden attends to address this if there is a verdict according to people that they spoke to. If the jury convicts Trump, Biden is going to argue results show Trump is ill-suited for office and that the extremes that he would go to try to win again, they also says that they would prepare for a barrage of attacks from the GOP if he is acquitted.

What are you hearing from your sources about how he plans to address this?

PARKER: So what I hear that that lines up from what I'm hearing from my sources as well and in a sense that Biden is going to go on offense regardless of the outcome of this case, regardless so this case just put it in a separate bucket. He's going on offense. We saw some of that last week with some of the ads, the his campaign issued, the poll showed that one advantage that he does have over Donald Trump is the character component.

From what I understand talking to the Biden campaign, they said they're going to remind voters of the PTSD that they had under Trump, the depravity that they say that he exhibited and whether or not he's right to hold up the highest office in the layout.

RAJU: So interesting. All right. We're going to monitor all that in the days ahead. Coming

up, with a verdict potentially just days away. What does the prosecution need to do to actually deliver a conviction? And has the defense done enough to hold them off. Two legal experts are here to weigh in, next.



RAJU: It may be a relaxed holiday weekend for most Americans, but for New York prosecutors and Trump's defense attorneys, it is an intense weekend of preparation before Tuesday's crucial closing arguments where each side will attempt to shore up its case.

Now to help us unpack what to expect, I'm joined here by former federal prosecutor, Alyse Adamson, and CNN legal analyst, Elliot Williams.

Good morning. Thank you for joining me.

So, Alyse, you're -- let's say you're in the prosecution's shoes here and you're trying to clean up all the problems that emerged through cross-examination with Michael Cohen.

What is the main objective? What are they trying to do to fix their case as it heads to jury?

ALYSE ADAMSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I don't think prosecutors really need to fix their case, so to speak? I think prosecutors have a very strong case here because remember, they have a lot of documentary evidence that has not been attacked on cross. A lot has been made about all of the credibility issues of Michael Cohen, and it should be because that was certainly damaging to the prosecutions case.

But I think what the prosecution is going to do here is refocused the jury on the actual charges in this case, and how the evidence that they elicited prove all the elements of those charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, with respect to Michael Cohen, I think we can expect to see them touching on it. Obviously, because the defense will and their summation, but they're going to have to minimize it.

And I think what they're going to do is they have a strategy will they'll say, yeah, Michael Cohen wasn't a perfect witness. However, everything he says can be corroborated by the evidence. Here are the receipts and then tick down like that, almost like a roadmap.

So, essentially, as the knowledge that there are some problems with Michael Cohen's testimony.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, absolutely. Now, they have, and part of in their questioning of Cohen multiple times, they elicited responses, having input on the record, his lies, his lies to his wife, his prior convictions and so on. So they should not and cannot really hide from it. Now, the issue with credibility in general, and to be clear, my all

witnesses of credibility issues, if I asked you, Mr. Raju, what color tie did you have on on Thursday, you'd probably go back and forth and you'd eventually get the answer right? It's a credibility issue because --

RAJU: No credibility, come on. A perfect witness.

WILLIAMS: Perfect witness, boys -- literal boy scouts.

But needless to say, they will go after his credibility. The problem, and this is a call for cameras in the courtroom. We are all at a great disadvantage by the fact that we, as a public, have not been able to see these witnesses credibility, right? And how they testified, and what words come out of their mouth and how the jury, respondent, and so on.

So, yes, on paper, it appeared that some of these cross-examinations of any of these witnesses were very, very tough, but it's hard to tell really how it played in the room. And we just don't know how the jury has judging any of this.

RAJU: And if you're the defense team, how is -- what is your -- have just enough doubt with one juror? Is that really the focus here on Tuesday?

ADAMSON: I mean, I think so. They couldn't really offer a compelling counter narrative which you see in some other cases, like maybe if it's a violent crime, its self-defense. We didn't see there.

Their entire defense seems to be premised on reasonable doubt. And I think we can expect them to say, you know, there's -- there's doubt in the witness testimony here. There's doubt in the former president's motivation for wanting to suppress this case. There was a lot brought out about maybe it was to protect Melania.


I mean, I don't know how credible that is, but that was definitely a theme we saw, doubt about his awareness of the falsification of the business records, even doubt about whether the records were wrong at all. I don't think that was a strong point, but remember on cross, the defense did a good job asking Michael Cohen about legal work that he did do in 2017.

And I think that was to just add the narrative thread. Maybe if this really was for legal services, again, I don't think that carries a lot of weight, but maybe for that one juror, its enough to make them say I don't know. I'm doubtful.

So the jury instructions were given out on Thursday. We have not been released to the public. How significant do you think that is? And what should we understand about what Judge Merchan might have actually told the jury to consider, not consider?

WILLIAMS: It -- people may not be aware of how critical jury instructions are. When we talk about jury instructions, it's in effect a speech, a long series of remarks delivered to the jury telling them everything from this is what reasonable doubt means to these are the crimes that the defendant is charged with, or this is what's evidenced and what isn't.

Now, much in the law, Manu, is very ambiguous, believe it or not. And judges can make big mistakes on jury instructions. And when they do, that can jeopardize down the road whether somebody gets convicted out.

Some of the things that were at issue here are literally how do we talk about the thing that the president is charged? So he's falsified records for some other crime, but what does the jury even have to know about that other crime? Does the prosecutor have to say the name of what the crime is? Does he have to describe it and that's not clear.

So those things will appear in the jury instructions. Very important.

RAJU: Meantime, on Friday night, there was what layman like me is called a gag order. I think you can clarify what it was, special counsel Jack Smith, in the federal case in the classified documents, mishandling case, and other federal criminal case that the former president is facing. There -- how do you see this playing out? Will the judge agree with the special counsel in that case? And if she doesn't, Aileen Cannon the judge in that case, will there be an effort to try to remove her from the case?

ADAMSON: Well, Manu, it's interesting. I have not read the actual filing, but my understanding is this wasn't really a gag order. This was a request to modify the conditions of release and what that means is the requirements of the former president to continue him being out on bail, to have him free in the community.

And the prosecution is saying to protect the integrity of this case and law enforcement, he should be precluded for making any more harmful statements about law enforcement. I mean, his campaign email, advanced a very dangerous theory that the FBI was going and locked and loaded and wanted to assassinate --

RAJU: Well, it's just a standard protocol --

ADAMSON: Absolute standard protocol in any FBI search warrant. And so, what Judge Cannon will do is unclear. I mean, I think reading the tea leaves with everything we've seen, I think she's going to try to do some judicial tap dancing and not use a legal mechanism to restrain him. But any other criminal defendant probably would.

RAJU: And before we go to break very quickly, will Trump be convicted in the hush money trial? Elliot?

ADAMSON: I think it's more likely than it hangs or he's convicted. I think getting them unanimously to acquit, I don't see that.

RAJU: OK. Alyse?

ADAMSON: I actually agree with Elliot.


ADAMSON: He said, he nailed it.

RAJU: Unanimous right here. Maybe we'll see if it's unanimous in the jury as well.

All right. Coming up, my exclusive of what one-on-one with Uvalde's congressman.

But first, Trump faced jeers from the crowd last night. Will it be worth it in November?


TRUMP: Give us your vote.


I would say nominate or give us your votes.




RAJU: Trump was met last night at the Libertarian Party convention with a raucous crowd, and a few rubber chickens from a pro-RFK Jr. super PAC hoping to fire up an already raging audience.

The moment Trump took the stage, heckling broke out from libertarians, trying to drown out the rows of his supporters in the back of the room.

Now, with a CNN reporter actually witnessed at least one libertarian throwing a punch at a Trump fan.

So why be Trump brave the unfriendly audience for this speech? Well, because independent and third-party voters could actually make or break this race. But when you tossing the rest of the candidates who could appear on the ballot, it becomes clear that the two of them actually have a bit of a problem. As you can see, they're very, very close.

All right. My panel is back, and John Bresnahan from "Punchbowl News" is joining us for this conversation as well.

Trump's comments were interesting to this crowd last night because he also was clearly trying to talk to them, speak their language and made some promises to folks in the Libertarian Party.


TRUMP: The Libertarian Party should nominate Trump for president of the United States.

You only do that if you want to win. If you want to lose, don't do that.

Keep getting your 3 percent every four years.

I will put a libertarian in my cabinet and if you vote for me, on day one, I will commute the sentence of Ross Albrecht who was sentenced of time served.


RAJU: You know, one person quoted by "Politico", who is the director at large, Libertarian National Committee said, any libertarian worth that are stripes who has looked at Donald Trump's record will see that he barely aligns with a conservative camp and is a far cry from the Liberty Party.

I mean, I guess that's true. I mean, look, Trump's record in office wasn't particularly libertarian.

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS: No. I mean, he grew government, which is the first thing. He ran huge deficits. I mean, he was -- he's not a libertarian at all.

RAJU: He signed, you know, a surveillance law.

BRESNAHAN: COVID is huge, you know. COVID spending, the whole operation, Warp Speed and everything. They were against COVID vaccines or the whole COVID restrictions. So he's not a libertarian.

He -- I do like the idea of seeing libertarian candidate for cabinet. I would love to see how the Republican Party, the Senate Republican --

RAJU: Could Rand Paul get confirmed by the United States Senate.

BRESNAHAN: How Mitch McConnell and John Thune and John Barrasso and John Cornyn -- how they all vote on a libertarian candidate.

That'll be something to see.

RAJU: Yes, we'll see if that actually comes to that. But there was, you know, one thing, David, you were in the room.

He mentioned this pardon of Ross Ulbricht, who was the founder of Silk Road, which is a mass of dark web drug market. He was actually charged with money laundering and drug trafficking and he was given a life sentence.

How was that received when he said that?

DAVID WEIGEL, SEMAFOR NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: That was raucous. There were signs distributed throughout the ballroom hours in advance of the speech saying "Free Ross" and he saw a sea of those.

He also came to the convention a day after Vivek Ramaswamy warmed them up. He spoke to the convention on Friday. And Vivek who had run on pardoning Julian Assange and Edward Snowden said, and also free Ross. And so the message got back to the Trump people. This is a promise

that if you go walk into a diner in Minnesota, there are people talking about that pardon, probably not. Other people who were very intensely focused on that issue and making -- if you make that promise, they'll remember it. There are.

And so that was a deliverable. Trump does this in a way that Joe Biden and other candidates do not hear something. It's responsive. He does return on investment calculation, and he said it.

The word got out before the speech, but it really surprised people. That was the one moment where he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.

RAJU: Cynics would call it pandering, but you know, there's another word --

WEIGEL: There's another word for it.

RAJU: There's another word for it.

Meantime his running mate, Nicole Shanahan -- RFK Jr.'s running mate, not Donald Trump's running mate. RFK Jr.'s running mate. RFK Jr. was also in the crowd trying to court voters.

Nicole Shanahan is actually going to be speaking later today and there have been not so positive stories about her character in the past week seen from "The Post" and "The New York Times".

She has also been absent from the campaign trail. You've been following RFK Jr.'s campaign. What do you make of this?

MOLLY BALL, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": The whole campaign is very weird. Very disorganized campaign. A lot of eccentric figures, you know, on the staff. And she clearly was brought in at least in part because she has a lot of money and can help him get on the ballot, which is expensive in a lot of states.

Look, I think people are gravitating to RFK's campaign because they're looking for something different and weird and not the same as the two major party candidates. And so if there are people out there who think that, you know, this ticket is actually going to occupy the White House, maybe this gives them pause.

But I think more people are looking at this as a sort of protest vote. And so they're not necessarily looking at this as like, well, you know, I'm not sure that this is someone who could step into the office after, you know, President RFK, Jr. if something happens to him.

There's a lot of steps to get to that point. But she does seem like a bit of a flake, frankly. You know, she's got an interesting record. She's never been in politics before.

RAJU: She's very, very, very rich with about a billion dollars herself from that, from her divorce settlement. There's also the question about RFK Jr. Why he is so important is

because he's actually getting a significant amount of votes in lot of these -- in terms of the polls. You know, about 14 percent or so. And that can make a huge difference in these swing states. Will he get on the ballot in those swing states?

This is the map of where he is on currently in these swing states. Michigan, of course, that is going to be this key battleground state. But there are other ones as well, which they'll be contesting where they are still trying to get on the ballot which seems possible -- North Carolina, Nevada, being some of them and New Hampshire as well.

I mean, this is the real concern from both sides. It's unclear who he takes more support from but this is why everyone's watching him so close.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well yes. I mean, everyone should be nervous if you're worried about states that could hinge on a few thousand voters. And I think when it comes to a third-party candidate, what's more important even than the candidate or the candidates message or in this case, candidate's last name is having a big pile of money.

And that is what RFK got when he chose Nicole Shanahan was a big pile of money. It costs a lot of money to get on ballots in most of these states. You have to collect thousands and thousands of signatures. That's why you're seeing that they've submitted in a number of states. But those signatures have to be vetted, verified to have to be allowed on the ballot.

And I think to be honest, they've done a pretty impressive job so far. And both candidates, both major-party candidates, should be worried if they're able to get on several of these other states.

RAJU: All right. And you know, also look at this.


RAJU: There's a question about the brain worm, right? The brain with apparently (ph) the dead -- the worm that was in RFK Jr.'s brain.

Look at this, 30 percent of voters are concerned about the parasite impacting his -- potentially impacting his ability to serve. 65 percent are not concerned.

WEIGEL: Brain worm is good politics.


BALL: Yes I mean, the brain worm.

RAJU: He's not shying away from it either.

WEIGEL: He jokes about it.

BALL: What this poll shows you is that the brain worm is the least of his worries yes. You know, if you're polling at 10 percent but 65 percent of voters don't care that you have a brain worm, clearly they are concerned about other parts of your record, other aspects of your candidacy other than the brain worm.

RAJU: Now question about that.

All right. Up next, he's called some of his GOP critics scum bags and MAGA wannabes. But now he's trying to hang onto his seat. I go one-on- one with the GOP congressman who represents Uvalde, Texas just days before his runoff.


REP. TONY GONZALES (R-TX): It's never good to, you know, be shooting inside the tent.




RAJU: It's been two years since the horrific school shooting in Uvalde thrust Congressman Tony Gonzales' sprawling Texas district into the national spotlight.

His vote for the bipartisan Gun Safety Act a month after the masker is now at the center of his primary battle, where on Tuesday he'll compete in a runoff against gun activist Brandon Herrera.

But the race is more than just policy. It's also about the vicious battle for the Republican Party's identity and the norm-defining trend of House Republicans trying to oust their own colleagues.

Herrera touts endorsements from Freedom Caucus chairman Bob Good, Florida hardliner matt Gaetz.

I sat down with Congressman Gonzales ahead of his Tuesday election. He says the outcome of his race will send a message to his party.


GONZALES: There's a lot at stake for the future of the Republican Party. Are we going to be the party that governs and gets things done in a conservative manner? Are we going to be the party that has jesters that come up here and say wild and crazy, outrageous things and just try to burn the place down?

That is what's at stake. Not only in this race, but you see other races across the country. This is only the first of many, right? Because there are other primaries going forward, you know.

I plan to spend a lot of time in Pensacola. I plan to spend a lot of time in Virginia and some of these other places. So I think my race is only the beginning.

RAJU: You're talking about Matt Gaetz and Bob Good. Going after them.

GONZALES: I'm talking about constituencies that I think had been forgotten.

RAJU: It's also the two-year anniversary of Uvalde. Of course, this is your district.


RAJU: This is -- you're involved in the effort to pass gun legislation in the aftermath of it. It's also one of the reasons that inspired this primary challenge against you.

Do you regret that vote at all in any way?

GONZALES: What I've learned is this. You can do all the things that they want you to do and it will never be enough. I will never bow down to these people. I will always do what I think is right.

The Safer Community Act has prevented over 500 school shootings from occurring. My kids go to school with a bulletproof backpacks.

It's unfair. They're growing up in a completely different environment that you and I grew up in. Something has to change. I don't work at any of my votes.

RAJU: And they were clamoring for action your constituents --

GONZALES: Oh, a thousand percent.

Manu, I was getting calls from -- I was getting calls from people non- stop and this was -- this was essentially the calls is Tony, you have to do something, but don't take my guns away. It increased the number of background checks for minors.

I'm ok with that. I mean, crazy people -- Manu, crazy people should not have access to guns, periods. Especially not to kill our children.

RAJU: And one of the things I've been looking at, your ad is that you have criticized your opponent for not supporting the former president enough not being sufficiently Trump. How important -- is that a driving issue in your race.

GONZALES: Some of these people that are running throughout the country, they're not MAGA folks. Bob Good, he's not a MAGA guy that's supporting my opponent and some other people.

They're not MAGA people right. They're basically libertarians or anarchist or they just want to see the place burn down.

RAJU: You're not a MAGA guy either. I mean, you voted to certify the election.

GONZALES: I'm a governing conservative. That's how I view myself, right. If I'm a governing conservative then I'm going to find ways to govern. I voted against impeaching President Trump twice. I voted against Nancy Pelosi's January 6 commission.

I mean, I've been very conservative in my votes, in my values.

RAJU: Matt Gaetz and Bob Good, you called them scum bags. You still stand by that?

GONZALES: I think you more than anyone know the type of people that we are dealing with here in Washington and some of them are scum bags. I mentioned a couple of them.

There's probably a laundry list of folks.

RAJU: You care to mention anymore?

GONZALES: Yes. Yes, I do. But not today now.


RAJU: Now, I also reached out to Brandon Herrera's campaign for comment. They declined to make him available for an interview.

My panel is back.

Bresnahan, you walk the halls with me every day in the Capitol. You're seeing this Republican conference devolve the way it has. What do you make about this race -- the significance of Tuesday's race with Tony Gonzales in this fight from the far -- from the hard right?

BRESNAHAN: It's a great interview. I think the interesting thing -- a couple of interesting things, Good has his own -- Bob Good has his own primary challenger because of the exact same thing.

RAJU: Except the opposite dynamic.

BRESNAHAN: The opposite direction, the moderates are attacking Bob Good who's attacking Gonzales.

I think Texas is fascinating. I think it's also a good point here. The Texas Republican Party is fighting over their platform and they're talking about, you know, biblical instruction in schools. They're talking about, you know, just going further and further to the right the party.


BRESNAHAN: They censured him -- one of the things they censured him for was voting against the rules package. I mean, that wasn't like it was -- I mean if you read --

RAJU: Yes. It's so inside baseball.

BRESNAHAN: It's so -- it's kind of crazy. So now he has a huge monetary advantage, but it is, this is the future of the party.

You have these online social media personalities supporting him. He's got Abbott supporting him. Mike Johnson -- Speaker Mike Johnson is supporting Gonzales.

I mean, it's kind of the establishment versus the YouTube social media wing and it's just -- it's really a fascinating fight.

RAJU: Yes, and it has really just dominated the discussion inside the House Republican Conference.

I've asked a bunch of members last week about this runoff.


RAJU: What do you say to just Tony Gonzales' in salt against you calling you a scum bag?

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I think fit our primaries are best decided on the issues. Tony Gonzales called the tough border protections that we were looking for un-Christian.

REP. MAX MILLER (R-OH): people like matt go far beyond the pale and act in such a disgusting way that now they're attacking members because they have nothing better to do.

RAJU: is Gonzales going to be reelected.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): He's made some comments that I don't think were particularly helpful.

RAJU: If Brandon Herrera beats Tony Gonzales next week, what will the implications be for the House GOP.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX); I don't see him being a productive member of Congress. And he'd be an agent of chaos.

REP. ELI CRANE (R-AZ): My voters sent me up here to try and change the way this town works. And I don't think we're going to change it with guys like Tony.


RAJU: Mario, you cover the White House. How did they enjoy -- they must enjoy seeing this Republican infighting play out pretty much all year -- the last two years.

MARIO PARKER, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE AND POLITICS TEAM LEADER: Yes. Absolutely right? Because the White House primary message is essentially that they can govern, right? That they are the responsible adults in the room and thus, they should have control of all three chambers as well.

Also, the fact is you get the some of the fighting between Democrats, right? The progressive wing of the Democratic Party versus the centrist wing, which has been on display the last few months as well, particularly along some of the protests.

So yes, they enjoy looking at this and say, hey, look at this chaos that has been wrought within the GOP. RAJU: And Trump, of course, is trying to tamp a lot of this down. He is staying out of this primary. He's getting involved in some other ones as well.

I should note that Bob Good who -- the Virginia Republican, who Gonzales called a scum bag, I asked him to comment. He called Gonzales back a Rhino-established moderate. So there you go.

That's the level of back-and-forth but the debate is really over tactics, right? The GOP has been in involved in this ongoing feud about compromise versus not compromise and how to govern in a divided Washington.

BALL: Well look, Republican primaries are nothing new. Republican on Republican violence is nothing new. We've been seeing these, you know, right-wing Republican challenges play out in primaries for more than a decade if not longer.

What's really remarkable now and what is different is the degree to which it is all downstream from these personal conflicts within the House Republican Caucus.

This is all downstream from the ousting of Kevin McCarthy and his difficulty of becoming speaker in the first place by that small hardcore of Matt Gaetz led right wingers. You know, they're the ones who are involved in all of these primaries and they're going after their fellow members in some cases in the same delegation.

It's very personal. They're trying to kick each other out of Congress as part of, again, you know, the aftermath of these personal conflicts that they're having within the Capitol.

So it's less about policy or tactics or anything else. It's just the personal conflicts between these men who despise each other in the House Republican conference.

RAJU: And how do they -- and the reason why it's also important, how do you work with a guy who you're sitting next to who's trying to knock you out of your seat?

WEIGEL: They've found their way to the Democratic conference from time to time, but this is -- the personal issues have made a worst.

It's going beyond that though. In Texas, the same day, their speaker of the house has an opponent who Donald Trump endorsed and both of these people, I should say -- the Texas Republican Party were talking about the convention, one of the rules they're talking about is if you've been censured, you can't run as a Republican in the next election.

That would knock out Tony Gonzales, no matter what happens in here, it would knock out the Speaker of the House in Texas.

The Minnesota Republican Party just nominated Royce West for Senate and he still needs to win a primary. But really everywhere. Even if you've not crossed Donald Trump, you've not crossed Matt Gaetz, this attitude is only fixable if you're with Donald Trump.

You know, from the Good race. Good's problem is that he endorsed Ron DeSantis for president. Had he said all the same stuff and endorsed Donald Trump, this wouldn't be happening?

RAJU: Yes. At the end of the day, one thing matters, Donald Trump.

So we'll see if it matters to the Republican primaries. We'll see what happens on Tuesday.

All right. Coming up, could President Biden's name be left off the ballot in one of the most populous states in the country. That's next.



RAJU: Will the sitting president appear on all 50 states ballots this fall? Believe it or not, that might not be the case in Ohio, the country's seventh most populous state.

It's one of a couple of states whose ballot deadlines fell before Biden is set to be formally nominated at the Democratic National Convention in August. And Alabama would face the same problem. Republican legislators actually changed their law. That's what they had done four years ago for Donald Trump.

But in Ohio, Republicans refused to do the same unless Democrats agreed to an unrelated measure that would bar foreign funds in statewide ballot initiatives, like the one that passed last year, ensuring abortion access in Ohio.

But Democrats say the legislature should simply just tweak that deadline and allow Biden on the ballot. So after Ohio lawmakers failed to take action, the Republican Governor Mike DeWine said he would call them back into session this week.



GOV. MIKE DEWINE (R-OH): Ohio is running out of time to get Joe Biden, the sitting president of the United States on the ballot this fall. Failing to do so is simply not acceptable. This is a ridiculous -- this is an absurd situation.

My understanding is we are literally up against the wall here that if we would go beyond Wednesday of next week, then when you do the math, you have some very, very serious, serious problems.


RAJU: But DeWine also proposed that legislators resolve that foreign funding prohibition that's led to gridlock.

Now while it remains to be seen how this will play out, officials in both parties are expecting some level of confidence that Biden's name somehow someway will end up on November's ballot.


You can follow me on X, formerly known as Twitter @mkraju. Follow the show INSIDE POLITICS. And if you ever miss an episode you can catch up wherever 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 Senator Tim Scott Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

And this weekend, I hope you've Memorial Day is a meaningful one, as we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Thanks again for watching and sharing your Sunday morning with us. And we'll see you next time.