Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Interview With Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD); Interview With Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO); Interview With Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 04, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Campaign kickoff. Republicans take the stage in Iowa.

MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to resist the politics of personality.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Dispense with the culture of losing.

NIKKI HALEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Leave the baggage and the negativity behind.

BASH: With the GOP roster set to expand this week, how many candidates will make the debates? And will their strategies to topple the front-runner work?

And caught on tape. CNN learns the Justice Department has audio of the former president talking about a classified document he kept after his term. Are charges coming? I will speak to ranking Democrat of House Oversight Committee Jamie Raskin next.

Plus: making the case. President Biden celebrates an unexpected political win.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was told the days of bipartisan were over.

BASH: Did Democrats get the better deal?

REP. KEN BUCK (R-CO): People are furious.

BASH: Key negotiator OMB Director Shalanda Young and House Freedom Caucus member Republican Ken Buck coming up.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is on the trail riding hogs.

It's campaign season, and Republican White House hopefuls hit the trail Saturday in Iowa for Senator Joni Ernst's annual Road and Ride, in some cases wearing leather motorcycle vests, as they try to position themselves ahead of a highly anticipated August debate.

This week, three more Republican candidates, including the former vice president, are officially poised to join the race. The president is sharpening his own pitch for reelection, highlighting the bipartisan deals he struck with Congress, including the last-minute debt limit deal he signed yesterday with just two days to spare.

And, in a speech to the nation Friday, he also warned of the consequences of electing a Republican president. His predecessor was notably absent in Iowa yesterday, though Donald Trump remains firmly at the top of the campaign pack, even as we learn more details about his growing legal peril.

Here with me now to talk about that and much more is the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Democrat Jamie Raskin.

How are you? Thank you for coming in.

First, let me just ask how you're feeling. You have finished cancer treatment?


BASH: You're in remission?

RASKIN: Yes. And I got a clean bill of health.

BASH: Amazing.

RASKIN: I'm in remission. They can't find any cancer cells.

So I'm waiting for my hair and my eyelashes and everything to come back.

BASH: Fantastic. Well, it's important that you're feeling better. That's great news.

RASKIN: Thank you much.

BASH: Let's talk about your reaction to CNN's reporting this week that federal prosecutors have an audio recording of the former president talking about holding onto classified documents, at least one, about a potential U.S. attack on Iran.

He had that after he left office. Do you think this tape could be a smoking gun?

RASKIN: Well, apparently, the recording also reflects Donald Trump's knowledge that he had not declassified the document, so he knew that it was still classified.

And that's an additional element of importance to this recording. And...

BASH: Can you explain why that's an additional element of...


RASKIN: Well, for a while at least, there was a half-hearted effort claim by Donald Trump that he could just magically declassify telepathically or mentally.

And this seems to reflect his clear understanding that he had not declassified this document and that it was still classified. And so the document is missing at this point, as I understand it, according to published reports.

BASH: Do you believe, based on this and, of course, everything else that you have seen, that the former president should be charged, criminally charged?

RASKIN: I mean, that's obviously a decision for the Department of Justice and for a grand jury.

But the -- I mean, these charges are very serious. I mean, the allegations that he took all of these documents, including top secret documents, and then didn't return them and deliberately withheld them are very serious.

I mean, I don't think any president has ever been accused of doing anything like that before.

BASH: And, just quickly, how much does the fact that he clearly in this tape suggests that he knows that he can't, as you use your words, magically declassify, how much does that play into the DOJ's case?

RASKIN: Well, a lot, because I think a key ingredient in determining the intent with which a person acts is consciousness of guilt.

And if a person acts with consciousness of their own guilt or consciousness of their own potential wrongdoing, that demonstrates that, if they go forward nonetheless, there's intent.


And my understanding is that there were hundreds of documents taken. Many of them were classified. Some of them were top secret. And yet they were deliberately withheld. And if the prosecutor, Jack Smith, has information to that effect, that's very serious business.

BASH: I want to ask about something that you're dealing with on the Oversight Committee.

Republican chairman who you work with, of course, James Comer said he will hold the FBI director, Chris Wray, in contempt over an FBI document containing an unsubstantiated bribery allegation involving then-Vice President Joe Biden.

Wray offered to let you and Comer view the document and do it in a secure location. Comer wants it physically turned over to the full committee. What are your thoughts? You're the ranking Democrat on that committee.

RASKIN: So, the FBI is coming tomorrow to show Chairman Comer and me the document that they're looking for. In other words, the Republican majority on the committee is getting everything they're asking for, in terms of seeing the document, which, by the way, they say they have also already seen.

And yet they're still talking about holding the director of the FBI in contempt, even though they're getting exactly what they want, even though the FBI has been overwhelmingly cooperative and accommodating to this request.

So that demonstrates to me that what they're really interested in is in holding the FBI director in contempt, not in getting a document that they have already seen. And I don't know what this document is, because the majority has closed us out, the Democrats. On the committee, they are no longer respecting a bipartisan agreement that the committee's had for the last several Congresses.

BASH: You have no idea what's in it?

RASKIN: Well, there have been published reports which suggest that it has to do with Ukraine. That was a period, remember, when Rudy Giuliani was running around with a Russian agent who later was found to be so by the Treasury Department, Trump's Treasury Department.

And he was waving different kinds of documents. Attorney General Barr, Trump's own attorney general, was so skeptical that he created a panel to look at all of this information, saying, you have got to take the Ukraine stuff with a grain of salt.

So I think it probably has to do with Ukraine and allegations that went nowhere. In other words, this was looked at by the Trump Justice Department, and I think they ended all of it in August with no prosecutions, no indictments. And they're going back to recycle these unfounded accusations.

BASH: Let's go back to the initial question about how much access the Congress will get to this document, whether you can actually have it.

If the roles were reversed and you found out that the FBI had a document containing an allegation about Donald Trump, wouldn't you want unfettered access to that document?

RASKIN: Well, of course, you always want unfettered access. But, remember, you're talking to somebody who was in the majority when Donald Trump was president, when he ordered every department of the U.S. government not to comply in any way with requests of the House Oversight Committee.

So it would have been remarkable if, every time we requested a document, they brought it over to show it to us, much less give it to us. So, they keep changing the demand in order to find some reason to find fault with FBI Director Wray, which is why I say what they're really going after is a contempt citation against him.

And it's all part of what Chairman Comer admitted was an effort to get Donald Trump's poll numbers up. It's all about the 2024 campaign.

BASH: Let me ask you something about what happened this past week where you work, in the House of Representatives, Congress in general, the debt ceiling deal.

The president said that Kevin McCarthy worked in good faith. Do you give him credit for this bipartisan deal?

RASKIN: The president? Yes.

BASH: Excuse me. Kevin McCarthy, the speaker.

RASKIN: Well, look, there is a MAGA extreme element within the Republican Caucus which really wanted to plunge the country into default and economic crisis.

That's the chaos caucus. I mean, these are the same people that supported Donald Trump's government's shutdown.

BASH: But what about Kevin McCarthy? Because he...

RASKIN: Well, right. So, yes, I'm distinguishing him from them.

I think he recognized and he listened to the voices on Wall Street and in corporate America who said, you cannot crash the economy just because you have an extreme element that is heckling you and hectoring you to do that.

And so, in that sense, the center held briefly, because we were able to avert going over the cliff. But we should never come remotely close to that again. The Constitution says that the validity of the public debt shall never be questioned. That's in the 14th Amendment.

BASH: Should that be changed?

RASKIN: Well...

BASH: Well, I know you know the answer. You do think it should be changed.

RASKIN: The Constitution already establishes a backstop against what they wanted to do.


But I think, yes, having a debt ceiling statute is a threat to us, because they will keep trying to careen the whole country over a cliff.

BASH: I have a few other topics I want to get to.

First, you saw, I'm sure, what happened at the Air Force Academy this past week. President Biden tripped over a sandbag. He fell hard on the stage. He says over and over to people concerned about his age, "Watch me." Now, we want to be clear. He wasn't hurt, which is great. Also want to be clear presidents have tripped. Everybody trips. I have tripped. You have probably tripped.

But we also know...

RASKIN: I have never tripped.

BASH: You have never tripped. OK.

But you also, as a politician, know about how events feed into a perception that already exists. Questions about his age are already there. Are voters wrong to be worried about reelecting a man who would be closer to 90 at the end of his second term than 80?

RASKIN: America is a country that loves youth and vitality, which is why we have laws against age discrimination, because we tend to favor youthfulness and the new thing.

In a lot of countries, people who've been in office a longer period of time are praised for their wisdom. And I think that Joe Biden rightly says that he has grown very wise in his many decades in public office. And I respect that.

So I think that he deserves to be judged by the results of his administration and what he's gotten done in terms of a bipartisan infrastructure law, the Inflation Reduction Act, lowering prescription drug prices.

I mean, really, that's what should matter to us as the people.

BASH: You have a decision to make, and that is whether or not you are going to run for Senate in Maryland for Ben Cardin's seat. He is retiring.

Have you decided? Are you going to run for Senate?

RASKIN: I have not decided. I love the House of Representatives, I love the people I serve with, and I love being in the people's house.

But, as some of my House colleagues have pointed out, these Senate seats only open up every 25 or 30 years. A lot of people are encouraging me to check it out, because there are certain constitutional functions the Senate has that the House doesn't have, like advice and consent, Supreme Court nominations, judicial confirmations, a lot of things that I'm interested in.

And that's why I'm seriously considering it, but I have not decided.

BASH: When will you decide?

RASKIN: I'm hoping, before the Fourth of July, I will have an answer for everybody. The election is not until May 24, 2024, so it's still 11 months away.

BASH: The primary, yes. RASKIN: The primary. And then the election is a year-and-a-half away.

BASH: Your fellow Marylander Steny Hoyer, who was a leader of your party for a long time...


BASH: ... he endorsed a different candidate. Will that affect your decision?

RASKIN: Well, obviously, Steny Hoyer is my friend, and so I have talked to him. I have talked to all of my colleagues about it.

I mean, we have got awesome political leaders in Maryland, and I would not run against anybody else. I mean, it's totally based on the experience I have had trying to defend our democracy and our freedom and the Bill of Rights against the Trump movement, which I think is such a danger.

BASH: That sounds like -- that sounds like you're getting ready for your campaign message there.


RASKIN: Well, I suppose you can never be too ready.

But I really haven't decided. And there are compelling reasons on both sides that my constituents are presenting me with on a daily basis. And I love hearing from people.

BASH: Congressman, thank you so much for coming in, and, again, such great news about your recovery.

RASKIN: You're very kind. Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

President Biden is praising Speaker McCarthy, as we just talked about. But is the conservative backlash to the speaker growing? That's next.

Plus: new rules for the GOP debate. Which candidates are worried they won't make it on stage? Stay with us.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy says he wants to work on bringing House Republicans back together after the conservative Freedom Caucus sharply criticized his debt ceiling deal. But after the concessions McCarthy made to get the gavel, can he keep those members who criticized the debt vote from trying to remove him as speaker?

Here with me now is a member of the Freedom Caucus, Congressman Ken Buck of Colorado.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning.

You -- I want to make clear you don't vote to raise the debt limit, so you certainly didn't vote on this deal. But I want to ask you about it in the context of the Freedom Caucus. You called the deal atrocious, and yet it passed by almost 200 votes, including a majority of Republicans.

President Biden, I should say, signed the law yesterday. What does this say about the power of your colleagues in the Freedom Caucus at this moment?

BUCK: Well, first, Dana, if I may, I wanted to correct something that Jamie Raskin said earlier, my colleague from Maryland.

There is no MAGA group in the House that wants to make sure that we default. That's just a talking point that is unfair.

There are a lot of people in the House and a lot of representatives in the House Freedom Caucus who want to make sure that we don't spend more money than we have and that we don't spend ourselves into a really bad situation.

But I think the House Freedom Caucus, with a five-vote majority in the House, still retains a lot of influence in the House. The key is that we use that influence in a way that brings conservative results. And I think that's what we tried to do with this case. And we failed, honestly.

The speaker got Democrats to vote for this bill because the bill is -- and, in fact, more voted for this bill than Republicans. This bill is a Democrat bill. It is a bill that not only avoided a default, but also locked in the progressive gains that the president made in the last two years.

BASH: You said that Speaker McCarthy should be concerned about a motion to vacate. That's when one member can force a vote on whether to remove him from the speakership.

Is that going to happen?

BUCK: I don't know if a motion to vacate is going to happen right away.

I do know that Speaker McCarthy has credibility issues. He promised when he was running for speaker that we would use the 2022 baseline numbers as the appropriation numbers for this year, and then went back on that promise with this particular legislation, where he promised and signed into law the 2023 numbers.


So, we continue to see the swamp, the folks in Washington, D.C., who want to spend more money, winning, and we continue to see the folks who want to spend less money and really act responsibly losing. And so I think that Kevin McCarthy has an issue in a broader sense.

BASH: Well, what's going to determine whether you and some of your colleagues will actually use the tool, the motion to vacate, effectively trying to push him out?

BUCK: Well, I don't think it can be used by just a few people. I think there has to be a consensus in the conference, Republican Conference.

And I think there has to be a -- really a -- I applaud Kevin McCarthy for saying he wants to bring people back together again. Let's see if he does that in a way that involves spending responsibly in the future, because that's really what a lot of us have to see if he's going to regain credibility.

BASH: Well, he doesn't seem all that concerned about a motion to vacate. I want you to listen to what he said.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Look, everybody has the ability to do what they want. But if you think I'm going to wake up in the morning and be ever worried about that, it doesn't bother me. If someone thinks they have a right, they have the right to do it. Call the vote.


BASH: He did show strength. A majority of the House Republican Conference did vote for the deal. You just told me that it wouldn't happen unless there was consensus in the conference.

Based on the vote, you're not going to get that. He's going to stay where he is, because he's claiming victory.

BUCK: Well, a lot of people voted for this because they have other interests that Kevin McCarthy has assured them of. But that doesn't mean that they are satisfied with his leadership, and it doesn't mean that they're happy about the fact that they had to vote for this.

Nancy Pelosi, in her years and years of being speaker, never once asked Republicans to vote for the rule, the -- a procedural mechanism that puts the bill on the floor. Kevin McCarthy, in his first five months, had to ask the Democrats and received 52 votes from the Democrats to actually have the bill heard.

That's really unheard of and shows weakness. And I think that's the sort of weakness that Republicans are looking at in trying to make a determination whether he will be fit to serve.

BASH: Just one more question this.

The other side of that coin is being able to get Democrats to vote on a procedural measure that Democrats almost never vote on could be seen as a sign of strength, that he is a -- the speaker, who has a constitutional role for the entire House, not just for the conservative caucus. BUCK: Sure, it could be considered a sign of strength to those who

are outside the U.S. House.

When you are forced to get Democrats to vote on a bill that locks in President Biden's progressive agenda and huge spending increases, which have resulted in inflation, which have resulted in, really, damage to our economy, you're not strong in the view of Republicans.

BASH: I want to turn to a different topic, and that is CNN reporting that federal prosecutors obtained an audio recording of former President Trump talking about holding onto a classified document about a potential U.S. attack on Iran. That was after he left office.

You're an elected official. You know that it is illegal to take classified documents, and the tape appears to show that he knew he had those documents.

Do you find what President Trump did, the former president, irresponsible?

BUCK: Well, as a former prosecutor for 25 years, I think it goes beyond just irresponsible.

It's a -- I don't know if anybody has located the document or there's a copy of the document somewhere that can show just what kind of information and classification that that document had. And I don't know if anybody saw the document. I know that he was waving some paper, but I don't know that anybody saw a document with a stamp on it.

It wouldn't be the first time that President Trump has talked about things, and he may have been illustrating something. But it depends on what the testimony is as to how severe this is for his criminal case.

BASH: If it is found or if they can prove it at DOJ, based on your years as a prosecutor, did he break the law, and should he be charged with a crime?

BUCK: Well, again, I am not going to second-guess the prosecutors at DOJ. I worked there. I have a huge amount of respect for them, and I'm sure they will do the right thing.

But I -- without knowing, without seeing the witnesses, without examining the documents, it would be irresponsible for me...


BASH: Got it.

BUCK: ... to suggest that he should be prosecuted or should not.

BASH: You have acknowledged more broadly that Donald Trump is facing some ethical challenges in his campaign.

In addition to what we're talking about, the classified documents probe, he's under investigation for election interference in Georgia, for January 6. He's already been indicted in New York.

Would Republicans be better off with a candidate who is not facing multiple criminal investigations?

BUCK: It's interesting.

I think that the multiple investigations and civil lawsuits that have been brought almost give this presidential candidate and former president credibility. He keeps saying that the world is against him because he's trying to make these changes. And all of these actions that are being taken...


BASH: Sorry. Forgive me.

But does -- you said give -- I know what you're saying. It gives him credibility with -- maybe with some in the electorate. But for you, Ken Buck, does he give him credibility to you?

BUCK: Well, I have seen him for four years. I was in the House when he was president. I voted on his bills. I voted against his bills sometimes, his budgets and whatnot. So I have seen him personally.

I don't look at the actions that he has taken that are being investigated, as much as his role as a former president and what his policies were.


One last question. You attended an event for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis here in Washington in April. You sat next to him on the House Judiciary Committee when he was in the House. What do you think of his campaign so far? Do you have advice for him?

BUCK: Yes, I actually mentioned to him when we talked at that event in Washington, D.C.

My advice is not to try to out-Trump Donald Trump. There is nobody that is -- really that operates in the same area as Donald Trump. And I think Ron DeSantis has a strong record of accomplishment in Florida when he was dealing with COVID and some other areas, and I think those are the things that he should be running on.

I have not endorsed Ron DeSantis, and I would go to events for Nikki Haley or Tim Scott or others who are friends. But I do think that he -- Ron should do his very best to run on his strong record as governor.

BASH: Ken Buck, thank you so much. Appreciate you coming on this morning.

BUCK: Thank you.

BASH: President Biden is refining his reelection pitch.

I will talk to one of his top aides about that message next.




BIDEN: Republicans defended every single one of these special interest loopholes. Republicans may not like it, but I'm going to make sure the wealthy pay their fair share.

Some of my Republican colleagues were determined to gut the clean energy investments. And I said no.


BASH: President Biden may be giving a hint there about who he thought got the upper hand in the debt ceiling deal.

Here with me now, a key negotiator in the debt deal, White House Budget Director Shalanda Young.

Thank you so much for coming in. It's nice to see you.

I want to read a comment from Democratic Congressman Brad Sherman after the vote. He said: "Now we are allowed to say it. We rolled them."

So, now that it's over, do you believe that this deal was better for Democrats than Republicans? Did you roll Republicans?


I think, at the end of the day, the long view, the short and the medium view is, default was not an option, so not who can win. Certainly, one of our goals is to make sure we got nothing close to what you saw in the House Republican bill. That would have been unacceptable for us, unacceptable for congressional Democrats.

So we had to do everything in our power to make sure whatever was passed didn't have many of those elements, and we succeeded. It was a reasonable bipartisan agreement you would expect to see in divided government.

I have done this a long time, and we had to talk about the budget at some point this year. And this is about what you would expect to see out of a budget agreement with divided Congress.

BASH: Just one more question on this. What the congressman was very clearly suggesting is that Democrats intentionally downplayed enthusiasm about how good you all thought this deal was in order to give Speaker McCarthy some cover and allow Republicans to frame it as a win.

YOUNG: Look, I will say, when you see 76 percent of the House Democratic Caucus vote for a budget deal, 70 percent of Republican Conference vote for a budget deal, you do (AUDIO GAP)

BASH: ... about the fact that this was a crisis, and such -- it was such a crisis -- basically, the biggest crisis was averted, of course, is what you're talking about.

But Fitch Ratings is warning that they could still downgrade the U.S. credit rating this fall because of the political brinksmanship around the debt limit, saying the crisis -- quote -- "lowers confidence in governance on fiscal and debt matters."


Are you worried that America's credit still could be downgraded?

YOUNG: This is what I will say.

You heard me, you heard many other administration officials, you heard the president of the United States saying, we can't threaten default. Brinksmanship is bad. And while we don't control the Fitch process, this is exactly why we talked about this for months, that we should not have this brinksmanship around something Congress has done 100 times in its history.

And I'm glad we finally got there. But we have warned against this brinksmanship. It's bad for the country. It's bad for the global economy.

BASH: Are you worried still about the credit rating being downgraded?

YOUNG: Look, we don't control that process.

I will say that this was not down to the wire for D.C. time frame, that this is a bipartisan agreement. It sets a tone for the way we're able to work together over the next two years. And we don't control what Fitch does.

But we have warned against this brinksmanship, and we need to work together in a way that gives the American people some confidence.

BASH: You mentioned that you have been involved in a lot of negotiations in your time in Washington on the Hill before being at the White House.

The White House repeatedly said that it would not negotiate on the debt ceiling. But that's exactly what ended up happening. President Biden drew a red line. He said that he wouldn't do it. He came to the table anyway. How is it going to go the next time President Biden draws a red line and the other side is going to look at him? Are they going to say, but you don't really mean it?

YOUNG: Well, Dana, I will remind everyone watching we have to fund the government. That comes up October 1. So we were going to have to deal with the issue of how much we spend in this country today or tomorrow.

We decided to have that conversation now with Republicans, and I think it's about as good a deal we would have had in five days.

BASH: But he did say he would not negotiate on the debt ceiling. And he did. And he did.

YOUNG: We did say there was a time and a place to do those budget talks, but we brought those forward, and I think we ended up in a result that would have been ambitious, to say the least, even two months from now.

BASH: This is the first stakes -- first high-stakes negotiation that you have been involved in with Speaker McCarthy. How did he do?

YOUNG: Look, I have been in a room with Speaker McCarthy when I was on the Hill.

So, I don't know him. I didn't know him personally. I know him a little better now after this process. And it was a very professional working relationship with him and his team. I got a lot of day care drop-off time with Chairman Patrick McHenry. It's always good to have parents with small children who know your pain in that room.

And he and his team, I really do appreciate the way they approached this. Look, people say what they need to say outside. It matters what we do in the room. And that's what our focus was.

BASH: Shalanda Young, OMB Director, thank you.

YOUNG: Thank you so much.

BASH: At least three more Republicans are jumping into the race this week. What we expect.

Plus, you see it there, motorcycles and barbecue. We will talk about that with my panel next.




DESANTIS: As president, I will be an energetic executive.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have got to restore hope.

HALEY: It's time for a new generational leader.

LARRY ELDER (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Lots of candidates are long shots until they aren't. Can you say 2016?

VIVEK RAMASWAMY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I am the first millennial ever to run for U.S. president as a Republican.

PENCE: Come this Wednesday, I'm announcing in Iowa.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

Declared and undeclared Republican presidential candidates in Iowa yesterday for Senator Joni Ernst's annual Roast and Ride.

My panel is joining me now.

Nice to see you all.

We're going to hold off on you, since you actually worked for Mike Pence, and we will get to that in a second.

But, Alyssa, just generally speaking, what you saw not just yesterday in Iowa, but what you're seeing at this point generally in the Republican primary process?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, the candidates are staking out their lanes.

And it's to be determined where those are going to fall. You have got DeSantis, who's in some ways running to the right of the former president. You have got, I expect -- Marc Short can speak to this better -- Mike Pence is going to run in a traditional conservative lane, not dissimilar than a Tim Scott. And Nikki Haley is looking for ways to break through.

I remind folks it's actually quite early in the race. The Iowa caucuses are about eight months away. There is still time for people to emerge in a way that we have not seen yet. I think that this is an important time to make the case to the voters.

But I also remind people Iowa hasn't mattered for some time, and I say that with deep love for the state. A Republican has not gone on to win the presidency winning Iowa since George Bush in 2000. So you need to be thinking not just what are you going to do in Iowa, but what's your plan for New Hampshire, South Carolina and so on.

BASH: Bakari, you are a Democrat.


BASH: But you also live in South Carolina...


BASH: ... which is a very important state for the Republicans.

So you see a lot of what's going on there. Do you think, based on your sort of political acumen, that there are any opportunities for real for any of these candidates to overtake Trump?

SELLERS: Not really. I just don't think the talent level is there, per se. I think there are individuals who will challenge Donald Trump, like

Mike Pence, for example. I think there are people who provide some alternatives to Donald Trump, like a Tim Scott, for example, or Nikki Haley, just with the appearance. I'm just not certain that -- particularly in South Carolina.

That is Donald Trump's state until somebody proves otherwise. It's still very early, though. But one thing that the Republican Party -- and we were talking about this in the back -- the advantage they have over Democrats -- and the White House and the DNC both need to wake up is -- by having this healthy -- and I don't mean healthy in terms of ideas, but just competitive primary, they're actually going to engage their base.

They're going to register voters. They're going to have a voter enthusiasm advantage. And we're not really doing anything. I mean, we had a president who spoke late on a Friday night. We did pass an amazing piece of bipartisan legislation again. We expect that.


But we have to do more to build energy, because, right now in Iowa, I don't like Ron DeSantis saying woke every other word, but he's building excitement. Trump is building excitement. Pence -- people are excited about it.

BASH: I want you to weigh in for one second, but because you worked for Bernie Sanders, who maybe was part of a dynamic on the Democratic side four years ago that matched what Bakari is talking about on the Republican side.

FAIZ SHAKIR, FORMER BERNIE SANDERS 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN MANAGER: Well, when you think about President Biden, I agree with what Bakari is saying that when he's standing behind a lectern and delivering an address on Friday night, that's not his strength.

President Biden's strength is going out and talking to real people. Get him in a union hall. Get him interacting with real people. He speaks like a normal American. He talks like somebody you can understand. He's not using D.C. lingo.

But when's the last time that you can remember President Biden talking to a regular person off the cuff, right?


BASH: OK. But he's president. It's hard to do that.

SHAKIR: Yes. No, it's harder.

BASH: Yes.

SHAKIR: But now that -- Bakari's point is...


SELLERS: The campaign season has started.

BASH: Yes. Yes.

SHAKIR: Yes. Now you're in a campaign, and the opportunities to interact with a South Carolinian, an Iowan, a New Hampshirean are going to go up, and we need to see more of those opportunities.

BASH: Marc Short.

SELLERS: We have been waiting.


MARC SHORT, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: No, look, I think that the real campaign begins this summer.

I think, in 2008, at this point, Rudy Giuliani was way ahead of the field. In 2011, in the summer of 2011, Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll. In 2016, it was Scott Walker before it was Jeb Bush, before it was Donald Trump.

So, look, it's now about to become real, and the candidates are actually going to be on a debate stage with each other, and real issues will be put forward. I think -- to Alyssa's comment, I think that Mike will run, candidly, as, in our minds, the only conservative in this race.

He's going to be the one who will unapologetically pro-life. He will be the one who he's, I think, seen our party, in many cases, retreat from being the one who's advocating for freedom across the globe. And he will be the one who advocates for a limited free market economy.

BASH: You mentioned debates, so let's talk about that, because the RNC has put out their criteria for being able to get on the debate stage, which will be August 13 in Milwaukee.

You are going to have to reach at least 1 percent in three national or RNC-recognized polls, a minimum of 40,000 unique donors with at least 200 unique donors in 20 states, and pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.

While I have you, Marc, is...

SHORT: I think that the RNC wants a lot of candidates on the debate stage at first, to be honest with you, and I don't think those are that significant a threshold.

I think the reality is, a lot of candidates can go now online and ask for people to give a $1 contribution, and it counts toward that threshold. It sounds more significant, I think, than it is. I think most candidates will meet that threshold.

FARAH GRIFFIN: I think the challenge, of course, is committing to supporting the eventual nominee. There's a number of candidates who I think that would be a challenge for. Asa Hutchinson probably not going to support Donald Trump,if someone like a Chris Sununu or a Will Hurd gets in,.

But, at the end of the day, it's not necessarily binding in any sense. The same way that the RNC will not be able to enforce it if Donald Trump is not the nominee, they're not going to be able to compel him to support the eventual nominee. I don't know how they're going to do that with other candidates.

BASH: Well, especially when you're looking at someone like Chris Christie, who's also going to get into the race.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Or Chris Christie.


SHORT: Or Donald Trump. He said he won't sign it.

SELLERS: But these debates are going to be fascinating.

BASH: I'm not sure he's going to get on the debate stage first, but that's a whole 'nother conversation.

SELLERS: These debates are going to be fascinating to watch.

I mean, it's a car accident. And people slow down, and they look over and they peer and they watch what's going on. And that's what these debates are going to be like. You have somebody like Ron DeSantis, who I compare to Icarus, and he does have a problem, because the more people actually meet Ron DeSantis, the less people actually like Ron DeSantis.

And being on this debate stage with people like Chris Christie, Donald Trump, people who know what they're talking about who can talk substantively like Mike Pence -- I don't think Mike Pence is the only true can conservative running for president, Marc. I mean, Tim Scott actually is a very conservative individual as well.

But this is going to be fascinating to watch. People are going to watch it. And I don't know what the counterprogramming is from Democrats. And I keep going back to that. I just don't know what it is.

SHAKIR: Nobody has yet articulated an argument against Donald Trump. That's what Chris Christie's purpose is, by the way.

BASH: Yes.

SELLERS: Correct.

SHAKIR: He's got to get in the race, and somebody's got to be a kamikaze of some sort that says, here's my argument against Trump.

I mean, with all due respect to Marc, who articulated a good argument for his boss, not many people are going to say, here's what's wrong with Donald Trump. Here's why he should not be the Republican nominee. These are his weaknesses. These are his failures. We should not go through four years of that. Why... (CROSSTALK)

SHORT: I don't think that's hard. I mean, I think the reality is that I think January 6 was the dividing line for a lot of people.

And I think it is something that, if you basically violate your oath of the Constitution, ask the vice president to violate his, that's important to a lot of voters. But even since then, what he's done is, he's basically said, now the life of the unborn is on the negotiating table.

He said, I welcomed Putin invading Ukraine, when our administration took out 100 Russian mercenaries in Syria and actually canceled Nord Stream 2. He's basically taking the same position as Joe Biden on entitlement spending.

SELLERS: But that -- but those are policy -- he's making policy statements.


SELLERS: Now, they're flawed, they're anti-American, and they're just backwards policy statements that I don't think anybody around this table agrees with.

However, there's no one right now articulating a clear policy on the economy. There's nobody articulating a clear policy on a foreign policy. Nobody's articulating those things. But they just started.



BASH: I'm sorry, just to -- not to bring it down to a really nonsubstantive level, but in the time of Trump, what we learned is that personality is -- maybe some policy statements matter, but personality might matter more at times.

SELLERS: But nobody's going to out-personality Donald Trump.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But I do think that's what we're seeing early on. And that's why I'm excited for the summer of actual substantive campaigning.

I see a lot of what seems to be personality-driven and, frankly, leading with third- and fourth-tier issues, whether it's trans women in sports, or much more cultural wedge issues that, sure, you can have an opinion, but they don't drink is the top 10 issues facing American voters.

This summer will be the time for people to convince people, we can make your life better. Here's our economic vision. Here's our vision for the future.

BASH: We're going to have to leave it there. Great discussion.

SHORT: Thanks, Dana.


BASH: Nice to see you. See you in Iowa.

Much more on presidential politics coming up.



BASH: The campaign primary season is now really up and running.

And CNN has two special political events for you this week. In fact, tonight, my co-anchor, Jake Tapper, is going to host a town hall with Republican candidate Nikki Haley. That is in Iowa. It's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

And we're going to stay in the first-in-the-nation caucus state of Iowa. This Wednesday, I'm going to be hosting a town hall with former Vice President Mike Pence. You can watch that at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Thank you so much for spending your Sunday morning with us.

The news continues next.