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State of the Union

Interview With Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Interview With Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Aired 9-10a ET

Aired December 03, 2023 - 09:00   ET




DANA BASH, CNN HOST (voice-over): Back at war. After Hamas breaks the seven day-truce, Israel steps up attacks on Southern Gaza, and the U.S. offers a warning.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As Israel defends itself, it matters how.

BASH: How should Israel respond?

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I swore to eliminate mass. Nothing will stop us.

BASH: South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham joins me exclusively,

Plus: Losing faith? As progressives split with President Biden over the war and other priorities...

REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): They won't vote. It's 2016 all over again.

BASH: ... how much could that hurt Biden in the fall? Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pamela Jayapal is here exclusively.

And Teflon Don? Six weeks before the Iowa caucuses and Donald Trump is trying to flip the script.


BASH: Can anyone counter him? Our panel will discuss.


BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington, where the state of our union is six weeks from the Iowa caucuses, but this election cycle already feels a long time coming.

In Iowa this weekend, former President Donald Trump is trying to turn to the general election with a brazen, yet not surprising new claim, that, actually, President Biden is the threat to American democracy, not him, even as Trump faces charges that he tried to overturn the 2020 election.

President Biden's general election campaign was complicated again this week by the resumption of the Israel-Hamas war. Overseas yesterday, Vice President Kamala Harris offered words of caution for Israel as it picked up its bombing campaign in an already devastated Gaza, where Israel is warning Palestinians who have already evacuated to the south to move again, after the U.S. says Hamas reneged on its deal with Israel to release the women they are still holding hostage.

Here with me now is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Thank you so much for joining me this morning, sir.

Let's start with the hostages.


BASH: Hamas still has more than 130 hostages, including, the U.S. government believes, eight Americans. What should Israel and the U.S. do right now to get them out?

GRAHAM: Well, I guess just keep talking.

And I would talk -- I would put more pressure on Iran. Hamas doesn't exist without Iranian help. Our soldiers are being hit in Syria and Iraq by Shiite militia controlled by Iran. So what I would do is flip the script here. I would go to Iran and say, listen, you need to tell Hamas to let these hostages go. If you don't, you're going to start paying a heavier price.

BASH: And you think that just that pressure on Iran will actually produce hostages being returned? Do you think it's potentially as simple -- I mean, there's nothing simple here. I don't want to oversimplify it.


BASH: But that is...

GRAHAM: No, no, no, you're right.

I -- here's what I believe. If Iran felt they were threatened by Hamas' behavior, they would have Hamas change their behavior. But Israel's going back to the fight.

So, here's the big question. Vice President Harris has said Israel has a right to defend themselves. How you do it matters. The secretary of defense said it'd be a strategic failure for Israel to have killed too many Palestinians. I don't want any innocent Palestinian to die, but how do you do this?

Vice President Harris, tell Israel how to destroy Hamas in a way not to hurt innocent Palestinians, and I will pass it along. I don't know how to do this, because Hamas is integrated into the apartments, the schools, and the hospitals. They have tunnels all over the place. The reason so many Palestinians are dying, I think, is because Hamas

wants them to die. So if you have got ideas about lessening civilian casualties, let me know. I will tell Israel, or you tell them directly.

But the idea of Hamas still standing when this is over would be the ultimate strategic failure.

BASH: Well, the reason she said that, obviously, and what Secretary Austin said, which I will get to in a minute, is because...


BASH: ... they believe that too many Palestinian civilians have been killed. Do you agree with that?

GRAHAM: Well, tell us how to do it differently.

Yes, what is too many people dying in World War II after Pearl Harbor? Did the American public worry about how many people were dying to destroy Tokyo and Berlin?


I know this is not the same, but it's similar. I mean, after October the 7th, Israel is at total war with Hamas. What they did, you won't even show on television, probably because you can't.

So, the bottom line here is, no Republican believes this, by the way. No Republican is telling Israel to change your military tactics, because I don't know how to change them.

I think the goal of destroying Hamas is important for Israel, really important for the Palestinians. And Hamas is making it impossible for Israel to fight without hurting innocent people.

BASH: There's the humanitarian aspect, which we were just talking about.


BASH: Then there's the strategic question, which you have experience with in other...


BASH: ... parts of the world when the U.S. has been in conflicts.

And so I want to go back to what you alluded to, which is what the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, said yesterday. He said, if you drive civilians into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat, which he's saying that civilian casualties could create even more enemies.

Does he have a point?

GRAHAM: No. He's so naive. I mean, I have just lost all confidence in this guy.

How about focusing on protecting our soldiers, men and women, in Syria and Iraq? Strategic defeat would be inflaming the Palestinians? They're already inflamed. They're taught from the time they're born to hate the Jews and to kill them. They're taught math by, if you have 10 Jews, you kill six, how many would you have left?

It's like, this is a tranquil population only inflamed after Israel goes in to defend itself is really naive. This is a radicalized population. I don't want to kill innocent people, but Israel is fighting not just Hamas, but the infrastructure around Hamas.

Look what happened to the Israeli hostages when they were presented to the Palestinian population. It's beyond naive. Strategic failure is letting Hamas stand.

But here's the question for the world. When Hamas is defeated, what happens next? That's when I want the Arab world, the United States and the Western world to come in with a governing plan different than we have today for the Palestinian people. I want to come in for a better life for the Palestinian people after you destroy Hamas.

BASH: Well, a couple of things there. One is, you said you have lost confidence now in Secretary Austin?

GRAHAM: Oh, yes, totally.

BASH: But have been a supporter.

GRAHAM: Anybody -- yes, well, I like Secretary Austin personally, but this war has shown to me he doesn't understand.

If we were attacked like this, which we were on 9/11, if somebody called for us within two months to have a cease-fire against al Qaeda, that would have been -- we'd have laughed them out of town. We'd have run them out of town.

Secretary Austin is telling Israel things that are impossible to achieve.

BASH: Yes.

GRAHAM: Secretary Austin, the reason Palestinians are dying, Gaza is so condensed, Hamas has tunnels under apartments, under schools, under hospitals.

If you have got a better idea of how to destroy Hamas, pass it on.

BASH: Let me just...

GRAHAM: Quit criticizing Israel in public.

BASH: I want to move on, but just to quickly follow up, you well know that General Stanley McChrystal in another war has called I think what Secretary Austin was referring to insurgent math.

Each innocent person that is killed ultimately creates new insurgents. You agree with that?

GRAHAM: Yes, I get the theory, but here's what I would tell General McChrystal and Austin.

The population has been radicalized for decades. You don't get that? Do you know what they teach in the schools? The idea that somehow we're -- Israel is radicalizing the people in Gaza is ridiculous.


GRAHAM: They have been radicalized by Hamas for years.

BASH: OK, Senator, I want to talk about what you and the Congress will do.

As you well know, there's a big tug-of-war over foreign aid to Israel and Ukraine. You and your fellow Republicans want to include border security and new immigration restrictions.


BASH: You haven't been able to make a deal yet. Would you still vote for that foreign aid if immigration is not included?


I think there are votes for Israel apart from the package. Republicans overwhelmingly support Israel. So do most Democrats. Republicans are divided on Ukraine. Republicans are 100 percent behind strong border security.

If you want aid to Ukraine, we need to control our Southern border. We're having, Dana, 9,000 people a day come for the last week. There's no end to this wave of illegal immigration. You have to change your asylum laws and your parole laws to stop the flow. So I will not vote for any aid until we secure our border.

Reform asylum. Reform parole. It's possible to do. Democrats don't want to do it. All Republicans want to do it. I'm not helping Ukraine until we up ourselves.

BASH: Senator, you said this week that Texas Governor Greg Abbott should send migrants to states like Rhode Island and Oregon and Connecticut, where Democratic senators oppose this new stricter asylum provision that you want.



BASH: Have you heard back from Governor Abbott?


No, I'm going to go visit. So here's the problem. You have got 11 Democratic senators signing a letter resisting changing the laws that attract so many illegal immigrants. Six million people were encountered in 2023. Texas has been overrun. The Democratic position is remain in Texas.

What I'm telling Governor Abbott, why don't you send 1,000 of these illegal immigrants to the states where these senators wrote the letters, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, and let them understand what it's like to live with a broken border?

The towns in Texas along the border are virtually being destroyed. Six million people have come into our country illegally in F.Y. 23 with no end in sight.

BASH: And what do you say to those who say that these are human beings and they're not pawns on a chessboard, and just moving them to different states may not be the most humane move if you want to make a political point?

GRAHAM: Yes. Yes.

Well, is it inhumane to live in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island? It's about making it real to people who refuse to fix the problem. I have been involved in immigration reform for decades. This is a national security problem. We have a completely broken border.

Afghanistan started the rise of terrorism. Now you have the Hamas attack in Israel. This is not about fixing a broken immigration system. It's about fixing a broken border. To my Democratic colleagues, if you don't understand what it's like from illegal immigration overwhelming effect on your communities, you need to experience.

Look what happened in New York. The governor and mayor of New York are begging for help. So, to my Democratic colleagues who want Texas to bear this burden, forget it. They should be sending them to you. It's not inhumane to live in Connecticut.

BASH: Let's talk about the 2024 campaign trail.


BASH: Donald Trump called Obamacare a disaster last night in Iowa after reiterating his calls to repeal it. You, of course, voted to repeal Obamacare when Trump was president.

Do you think that this is a winning issue right now? Would you like to see another vote again if Trump is elected?

GRAHAM: Yes. Yes, I -- here's what -- good question. This is what we tried to do when Trump was president.

Let's block-grant the money. The money that we have in Washington to administer Obamacare is controlled by bureaucrats you will never meet. Let's take that money, send it back to the states, make sure it's spent on health care, and see if governors and state legislatures can come up for better ways... BASH: So, you're OK with this issue?

GRAHAM: Yes, I'm OK -- I'd like to get the money and power out of Washington back to the states.

Yes, I think we should block-grant back it to the states, rather than let bureaucrats in Washington run our health care. Socialized medicine doesn't work. Get the money and power out of Washington, get it in the hands of the people closest to the patient. That's what I think.

BASH: Senator, before I let you go, I want to ask you about your fellow Republican former Congresswoman Liz Cheney. She has a new book out. She sat down for an interview this weekend.

And she said she's worried that the chance of a second Trump presidency means the U.S. is -- quote -- "sleepwalking into a dictatorship."

You, of course, have endorsed Donald Trump. What's your reaction?

GRAHAM: Yes, yes.

I think a continuation of the Biden presidency would be a disaster for peace and prosperity at home and abroad. Our border is broken. The only person who is really going to fix a broken border is Donald Trump. When he was president, none of this stuff was going on in Ukraine. Hamas and all these other terrorist groups were afraid of Trump.

I think Liz's s hatred of Trump is real. I understand why people don't like what he does and says at times. But in terms of actions and results, he was a far better president for -- Biden. And if we have four more years of this, Liz Cheney, then we won't recognize America and the world will be truly on fire.

BASH: OK, Senator Lindsey Graham, thank you so much for joining me this morning. I appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BASH: And less than a year until Election Day, and progressives have a warning for President Biden.

The chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, Pramila Jayapal, is here.

And, again, it's just six weeks until Iowa, and a lot of action there this weekend. We're going to talk about that coming up.



BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

With the collapse of the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, here in the U.S., Democratic divisions over the direction of the war and Biden's support for Israel are once again on full display.

Here with me now is House Progressive Caucus Chairwoman Pramila Jayapal.

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

Let's start with where we are right now with the war.

The White House says very clearly that Hamas is to blame for the collapse of this temporary truce, for a few reasons. One is that they refuse to release the remaining women, some of whom, sounds like most of whom are 20-to-30-year-old women. They're hostage inside Gaza. They also renewed the military attacks against Israel.

You have repeatedly called for Israel to implement an indefinite cease-fire, but given what we have just seen with what I just described, is that realistic?

JAYAPAL: Well, it's what has to happen.

And I do think it's realistic. I think what we saw is, after many weeks of saying we couldn't get to a cease-fire, that was not going to happen, we did have a temporary cease-fire, and what happened? We were able to see a significant number of hostages released. We were able to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

And I think the long-term plan for what happens is incredibly important. Now you have seen Vice President Harris made a very strong statement yesterday. Secretary -- Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also was very clear that, if you engage in urban warfare in the way that Israel did in Northern Gaza, what you will do is perhaps win a temporary victory or a reprieve, but you're not going to win the long- term strategic war.

So the only way, Dana, to get through this is to make sure that we, first of all, do not have the kinds of casualties that we saw in Northern Gaza. There's no way to do that with the kind of war that Israel is waging right now on Gaza.


BASH: A couple of things.

One is, you said it worked. Yes, there were hostages who were released, but it wasn't even an actual hard cease-fire. They were just trying to get another day, and Hamas wouldn't comply. So what makes you think that Hamas would comply with a longer term cease-fire?

JAYAPAL: Well, I think this is all about negotiation.

Qatar has been incredibly helpful here. It's not clear to me from the reporting who was to blame for the...

BASH: You don't believe the U.S., the Biden administration, that Hamas won't release young women?

JAYAPAL: Well, I just think it's very complicated. I think it's very, very complicated.

It's not -- we don't have all the information in front of us. We obviously can rely on some statements that are made. But I think that, in these negotiations, everybody wants something. And I think Qatar has said that Hamas is still at the table. Israel should still be at the table.

In fact, some of the hostages are -- the Israeli hostages are saying that Israel should still be at the table, because this is complex negotiation. And it doesn't happen unless both sides are willing to come to some kind of an agreement. That's how we got the first seven days.

BASH: That's a really important point about both sides being willing to come to an agreement, because, regardless of what has happened last week, and let's just say there is a more permanent cease-fire, you are hearing from Hamas leaders over and over again that the brutal massacre of the 1,200 Israeli civilians was just the beginning, just a rehearsal, and that they want to continue to do it over and over again.

So a cease-fire would keep that brutal terrorist regime in place in Gaza.

JAYAPAL: I don't think that's true.

I think that what is true is that Hamas needs to be taken out. It is a terrorist organization.

BASH: How would you do that?

JAYAPAL: But I think the way to do that, as many terrorism experts have said, is to create a durable and strong coalition of allies within the Middle East, with the United States, with Israel, to make sure that we have a long-term political solution, that there is an alternative to Hamas to lead in Gaza and to establish a state for Palestinians.

This is -- I mean, we cannot -- we have to condemn what Hamas did on October 7. We cannot allow for 15,000 Palestinians to date to have been killed, three-quarters of whom are women and children, and say that that is going to help us in the long term...

BASH: And...


JAYAPAL: ... morally, Dana, morally.

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: But, also, strategically, for Israel, the only way through this is to create a situation where there is a political solution that involves a Palestinian state and an Israeli state.

(CROSSTALK) BASH: I think, ideally, what you're talking about could make sense. It's just unclear how you get from here to there. Who's going to get rid of Hamas if there's no continued war?

And I think what you're relying on is the pressure from Arab states, and they haven't been willing to do that.

JAYAPAL: It's not just that -- well, part of the reason they haven't been willing to do that is because we have been allowing Israel to literally indiscriminately bomb hospitals, violate international humanitarian law.

And so we are creating enemies.

BASH: But even pre-October -- OK, even pre-October 7.

Can I just ask you one more thing about that? You have seen the information intelligence that Hamas has used its own civilians. The death of civilians are -- is horrendous, but Hamas has used its own civilians as human shields. Those hospitals and so forth are places where Hamas keeps weapons and keeps its civilian -- its Hamas leadership, that they had their headquarters there.

JAYAPAL: Dana, international humanitarian law says that you cannot attack a hospital, unless there is -- are some circumstances. If rockets are fired from that hospital, that is one thing.

But hospitals are protected. We have had refugee camps that are bombed. Right now, there are -- even the only pediatric hospital in Gaza is not operating. If we want to defeat terrorists, we have to abide by international humanitarian law. That is just my fundamental belief and that, at the end of the day, what we need is a lasting coalition.

That is not going to be formed if Israel continues to do what they are doing. And the United States cannot be backers of this kind of indiscriminate bombing. That is my firm belief. We should have conditions on military aid in the same way that we do to -- for every other country.


BASH: I want to ask you about sexual violence.


And the -- it is kind of remarkable that this issue hasn't gotten enough attention globally, widespread use of rape, brutal rape, sexual violence against Israeli women by Hamas.

I have seen a lot of progressive women, generally speaking, that are quick to defend women's rights and speak out against using rape as a weapon of war, but downright silent on what we saw on October 7 and what might be happening inside Gaza right now to these hostages. Why is that?

JAYAPAL: I mean, I don't know that that's true.

I think what -- we always talk about the impact of war on women, in particular. In fact, I remember, 20 years ago, I did a petition around the war in Iraq, saying that...

BASH: Have you talked about it since October 7?

JAYAPAL: Oh, absolutely. And I have condemned what Hamas has done. I have condemned all of the actions.

BASH: Specifically against women?

JAYAPAL: Absolutely, the rape, the -- of course.

But I think we have to remember that Israel is a democracy. That is why they are a strong ally of ours. And if they do not comply with international humanitarian law, they are bringing themselves to a place that makes it much more difficult strategically for them to be able to build the kinds of allies, to keep public opinion with them.

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: And, frankly, morally, I think we cannot say that one war crime deserves another. That is not what international humanitarian law says.

BASH: With -- OK, with respect, I was just asking about the women, and you turned it back to Israel. I'm asking you about Hamas. In fact...

JAYAPAL: I already answered your question, Dana. I said it's horrific.

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: And I think that rape is horrific. Sexual assault is horrific. I think that it happens in war situations. Terrorist organizations like Hamas obviously are using these as tools.

However, I think we have to be balanced about bringing in the outrages against Palestinians.

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: Fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, three-quarters of whom are women and children.

BASH: And it's horrible, but you don't see Israeli soldiers raping Palestinian women.

JAYAPAL: Well, Dana, I think we're not -- we're not -- I don't want this to be the hierarchy of oppressions.

BASH: Right. It shouldn't be.

JAYAPAL: I think 15,000 people have been killed, Palestinians. BASH: It shouldn't be, and it -- which is horrible.

JAYAPAL: And 2.2 million Palestinians live in a 140-square-mile area, which is about the size of Las Vegas, with a population that is four times that of Las Vegas.

And 1.8 million Palestinians right now are displaced. They are living in shelters. They are being told to move to South Gaza. Then South Gaza's being bombed.

BASH: Yes.

JAYAPAL: They're being told to move to North Gaza. There are no homes left. The vast majority of infrastructure has been destroyed.

This is not the way that we are going to beat terrorism, whether it's Hamas or some future iteration of Hamas.

BASH: On that note, I want to talk about what this means domestically for President Biden.

You have warned that the way that the Biden administration, the president himself is handling this war jeopardizes his support among progressives and Muslim American voters, and that they could actually stay home.

Do you think that that is -- how big of a threat, political threat, is that to President Biden, in particular, when it's possible, at this point probable, that Donald Trump would be his opponent? And he's not exactly warm when it comes to Muslims.


JAYAPAL: That's an understatement.

Look, I am a supporter of President Biden. I have been out there for the president, and I will continue to be, even though I think that the way that this -- the handling of this war started was, unfortunately, such that it has alienated huge communities.

We have to be realistic about that, and we have to do work right now to address that, not just with outreach here, but actually looking at the situation in the Middle East and recognizing that Palestinians deserve the same respect, innocent Palestinians deserve the same respect as innocent Israelis.

And we have got to talk about that. We have got to get to that long- term solution. And, at the end of the day, the United States has its reputation to think about globally. And if we alienate all of our allies in the Middle East, that is not going to help us ensure that President Biden wins domestically at home.

BASH: Before I let you go, I have to ask you about immigration.

JAYAPAL: Yes. BASH: You just heard Lindsey Graham saying that he's not going to support any aid to Israel or Ukraine without what the Republicans want, which is not just border security, but changes to the asylum laws and so forth.

How is that going to get resolved?

JAYAPAL: I don't know, other than the Republicans will have to be called out by putting a bill on the floor that includes that aid, but does not include decimating the asylum system, does not include going back to Trump era safe -- what are called safe countries -- we called it the Trump transit ban -- without decimating parole.


They are holding aid for Israel and Ukraine hostage to changes to the asylum system that would destroy the asylum system, things that they could not get done through regular order.

And I think we need to put our foot down and say, no, vote on the aid package without those border policy changes, and recognize that some of the things that the Biden administration have been doing have really been working, like the parole system, which has dramatically reduced the numbers of people from the four countries that have just recently been granted parole to -- by 90 percent.

That is the kind of thing -- establishing legal pathways is exactly the kind of thing that will address the border. Putting more money into asylum officers, into judges, those are all things that the Biden administration has asked for in its supplemental funding that Republicans are saying, no, we don't want to do.

So, this is not about addressing the border. This is about destroying the immigration system, something they have not been able to do through regular order, so they want to try and trade destruction of the asylum system for aid for Ukraine. That's just outrageous. We should say no and force them to vote against this critical aid, if that's where they want to be.

BASH: This is really going to be coming to a head very soon.

JAYAPAL: It is, yes.

BASH: Thank you so much, Congresswoman. I appreciate you coming on.

JAYAPAL: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: Thank you.

And are we missing one of the biggest reasons Republican voters may be drawn to Nikki Haley? We're going to talk about that with my panel next.


[09:35:44] (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: But Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy.

So, if Joe Biden wants to make this race a question of which candidate will defend our democracy and protect our freedoms, and I say to crooked Joe -- and he's crooked, the most corrupt president we have ever had -- we will win that fight, and we're going to win it very big, very big.


BASH: Welcome back to STATE OF THE UNION.

My panel joins me now.

Alyssa, this is probably one of the least surprising things you have seen at Donald Trump do, right? I mean, it's -- I don't know. I don't want to call it evil genius, because I don't -- but it's so classic.



BASH: He has something wrong with him, a negative, and he says, no, it's the other guy.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And just tries to flip it on its head, and you heard the audience eat it up.

It's kind of remarkable. I was watching some of the clips from Trump's visit to Iowa, and I'm stunned, having spent a lot of time with him in 2020 and years before. He is slowing down. There is a lack of sharpness in what he's saying and a lack of kind of clarity.

There's another clip where he basically says he's going to overturn Obamacare, but then also says that he would fix it, just complete inconsistencies.

And for Republicans, our strongest case against Joe Biden is the age and the decline that some of us have seen. And if I'm being honest, head to head, I'm not sure which is struggling more.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I would say -- if I'm in the Biden campaign, I would say, bring it on.

This is bringing the fight to a place that is good for Joe Biden, that is about who's protecting your freedoms, who's protecting your rights. I think one thing that Trump doesn't seem to understand is -- he also spent a lot of time in his remarks talking about tearing down Obamacare.

Well, that falls under the banner of taking away people's rights and freedoms. I don't think he understands that that's the way voters see it. They see it as him trying to take away a right that they have had for over a decade now.


FARAH GRIFFIN: He also had four years to do it and didn't.

BEDINGFIELD: And also true.

ASHLEY ALLISON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And Republicans also tried over 60 times to do it, and every time it failed, because the American people overwhelmingly support Obamacare and want access to more affordable health care.

I sometimes even wonder if Trump knows the definition of democracy, because he might be getting it confused with another D-word, meaning dictator, because if he actually -- I agree. He does the bait and switch, like, let me say that I'm one thing and then blame it on the other person.

But if he -- to Kate's point, if he really wants to make this about democracy, it is going to backfire in his face, particularly because there will be not just campaign ads run against him. He will be in trial about trying to overturn our democracy circa January 6.

So, this is good for the Biden campaign in the long term.

BRAD TODD, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is not what the campaign's going to be about, look, though. This is an anecdotal one-off.

The campaign's going to be -- if Trump has his way, if he's the nominee, it's going to be about Joe Biden's weak and the economy was better when I was president. It's going to be that simple. It's going to be postcard-sized.

And he's going to have a lack of discipline and throw some things like this in every once in a while, but that's not what the campaign will be about.

FARAH GRIFFIN: I'm not sure I agree with that. I think it's what you will want the campaign to be about. But he's utterly undisciplined.



BASH: Let's -- we're just -- we need to slow our roll a little bit, because there hasn't been any votes taken on the Republican side.

And on that, yesterday, Ron DeSantis completed the full Grassley. And for the uninitiated, that means that he visited all 99 counties in Iowa. But his campaign is -- well, his numbers are falling, but the super PAC that his campaign has relied really heavily on to do a lot of the legwork and a lot of the tough work, it's in turmoil.

Another leader in the super PAC has left.

TODD: This is a classic case of -- a good example of his campaign in general. Like, they have a big news day for the Iowa caucus, completing every county thing, and the staff becomes a story.

I mean, it is a rule in professional campaigning, never become the story when you're the staff. But in Ron DeSantis' world, from the very beginning of his campaign for governor the first time, the staff always ends up being a story, because, when things don't go well, Ron DeSantis blames his staff, and his staff's always infighting.

So that is a -- this is his campaign in a microcosm. You know, he was ahead by 11 points last February. He's behind by a cab ride right now. It has been a terribly run campaign. Now, they still have time to get it together. But, execution-wise, there's been very little done right.


FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, the DeSantis folks will tell you they expect to overperform in Iowa. They think that they're going to outperform where the polls have had them.

And I actually think that is true, except the problem is, he's in fourth place in New Hampshire. He's even lower in South Carolina. So the game plan, even if he pulls off a miracle in Iowa, it's looking like a thinner and thinner...


TODD: Well, it changes in Iowa. Iowa picks the final two Republicans. And so overperforming in Iowa will have downstream consequences if he does it.

BEDINGFIELD: But the stakes are higher for him in Iowa than anyone, because he's said many, many times he expects to win. He has to win.

And I think the narrative has built up over the last six months as his campaign has sputtered that Iowa is the last gasp for him. So unless he dramatically overperforms, he's not going to have a lot of momentum coming out of Iowa into New Hampshire, where he's struggling.

BASH: We got to talk about the Republican candidate, not Trump, who is doing well and doing better and is on the climb, of course. That's Nikki Haley.

There was a story and a quote that really caught our attention about whether Nikki Haley is not getting enough attention herself because she's a woman. This is a quote that I want to read from Lauren Leader, CEO and co-founder of All In Together, which is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group.

The mission is to engage women in politics. "In any other world where you could potentially have the first Republican woman nominee in history, this should actually be garnering outsized coverage," and a woman of color.


ALLISON: Yes, and a woman. I mean, I would agree. I think women in politics have a steeper hill to crime. We have never

had -- we have had a first black president, but never a woman president. And there is a reason because of that. When Hillary Clinton was running for presidency, the covers that she got was overwhelmingly negative.

It was, she was too cold. She was not likable, right, the term likable. Nikki Haley, some would argue, might get the different coverage, but, if it helps her, oftentimes, the media doesn't cover her.

Now, Kamala Harris, she is a historymaker also, and we see the type of coverage. Now, all three of those women are imperfect, as every politician is. But when you compare the covers that women get in politics to men, it's just not the same or as fair.

FARAH GRIFFIN: And Nikki Haley, I think, is the most underestimated politician, and she even kind of leans into that.

She has, agree with her, disagree with her, tremendous political skills. She's tended to perform best in the debates and seen boosts afterward. And, of course, she got this huge boost from the Koch network, which means money and ground game.

So I think that's going to help her rise her numbers in Iowa, where she's not banking purely on Iowa. That's never been her plan. New Hampshire, expect big things. I think if Governor Sununu ends up throwing his weight behind her, someone who's always overperformed Trump in New Hampshire, that could be a tipping point.

BASH: OK, everybody, stick around, because we have more to talk about.

The House speaker believes he's going to have the votes to launch a Biden impeachment inquiry. We're going to talk about that next.




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: You want me to say that I lost, that I'm humiliated? Fine. So I'm no longer Congressman Santos. I'm just regular old Professor, Major, General, Reverend, astronaut Santos...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: ... protector of the realm, princess of Genovia.




BASH: That, of course, was "Saturday Night Live" last night.

What was with the cape? I don't remember him wearing a cape, but I think it works. It works.


BASH: Welcome back.

We are back with our panel, obviously.

And the question is, jokes aside, what do we think that the fact that Santos was expelled, and Mike Johnson right beforehand made a pretty rare move, because the speaker usually doesn't vote, to vote against expulsion and got the rest of the leadership to do it, and he was still expelled?

TODD: Well, to be a Republican speaker, you are running a stable of wild horses, and you have to let the horses run some. You don't get to dictate everything they do.

And I think Mike Johnson understands that. He knows that his big fight with the right flank of his party is going to be over budgetary needs. He knows his moderate -- he's going to fight with moderates over budgetary things. And so a lot of these things, like the expulsion vote on George Santos, he's going to let the will of the conference dictate what happens.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But I do think it shows how much the speakership has been diminished.

Under John Boehner, I'm sorry, George Santos would have resigned. He wouldn't have known there's not an option to stay in conference, in Congress. He would have walked out the door.

But it's after the Kevin McCarthy 15 votes, and now being the fourth choice for speaker. He doesn't pack the same power. So the real test is going to be, are you able to get through Ukraine aid Israel aid? Are you able to fund the government? Those are big uphill challenges.

BASH: Well, talk about the stable of wild horses. One other way that he's trying to maybe let them run a little bit more is on the question of impeaching your former boss.

I want you to listen to what he, Speaker Johnson, said on FOX about this.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): A formal impeachment inquiry vote on the floor will allow us to take it to the next necessary step. And I think it's something we have to do at this juncture.

QUESTION: Do you have the votes to actually formally start an impeachment process?

JOHNSON: Yes, I believe we will. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BEDINGFIELD: Well, if he's going to let them run, then I think this is not going to work out the way he wants to work out, because you have Republicans in Biden districts who have said, this doesn't make any sense. This isn't what my constituents want. This isn't focusing on their needs.

And so I think if he's going to make this a test of his leadership, then we're going to see just how little power there is behind the throne. I think it's a strategic mistake for Republicans.

TODD: It's an inquiry, though. It's an inquiry.


BEDINGFIELD: But it takes up time. It takes up headlines.

BASH: Yes.

BEDINGFIELD: At the end of the day, people want their members of Congress to be doing things to make their lives better. They are not interested in a political witch-hunt, essentially, to borrow from Donald Trump.

And I think -- and that shows. And we have seen that, frankly, on both sides of the aisle.


TODD: That's what we said when the Democrats impeached Donald Trump, though, that the voters didn't want to do that. So here we are again.

ALLISON: But the difference is, this is -- if Donald Trump is the nominee, this is exactly what Donald Trump wants.


It does feed his 35 percent of the base. It doesn't feed those voters, those independent voters that are saying, move on. Impeachment is not a very popular thing against Joe Biden. They did a whole inquiry, and it fell flat on their face.

I think, if the Republicans do it again, this will backfire, and it's Donald Trump 2.0, like a campaign -- Mike Johnson is running a shadow campaign for Donald Trump. That won't work for -- in their fever.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Well, and the reality is, it's dead on arrival in the Senate. That's just a fact. There's no way the Senate votes to convict.

TODD: So was the last one.

FARAH GRIFFIN: But it's also, there's a very slim House Republican majority. You are jeopard -- this is a boost to the DCCC, frankly, if you're

going to -- if you're Mike Lawler in New York. You're talking about losing moderate seats in D-plus two districts.

BEDINGFIELD: Absolutely.

FARAH GRIFFIN: Mistake, sideshow, but it is what Donald Trump wants, and it's what they're going to do.

BASH: What do you think about that? Will...


TODD: Some Republicans will probably vote against it, but it's an inquiry. And we said, when Donald Trump was impeached, this is going to mean every future president has an impeachment inquiry. Here we are. This is the next one. It won't be the last one.

BASH: But will it hurt the endangered Republicans who are creating the majority?

TODD: Some of them will vote against it and get distance from Trump that way or from the other Republicans that way.

I mean, that's -- this will be something that will not determine the election, once again. It's going to be about the economy.

BEDINGFIELD: That, in of itself, is a hyperpartisan, hyperpolarized argument, right? Just because we impeached Donald Trump for demonstrable crimes against the Constitution means that Republicans are then in return going to impeach Joe Biden.


TODD: It was a partisan impeachment that was dead on arrival in the Senate and wasted time.

BEDINGFIELD: I think that's exactly the kind of argument...


FARAH GRIFFIN: But it wastes floor time on votes that actually matter to constituents.

BEDINGFIELD: And that's the kind of argument people are tired of, right? That's the kind of thing that voters say, this isn't supposed to just be about scoring points.


BEDINGFIELD: OK, because you hurt us, we're going to hurt you.


ALLISON: ... keeping the government open, because that's going to come down to Mike Johnson as well.


BASH: Well, we definitely have found an issue that animates people.


BASH: Thank you, guys, very much. Appreciate it.

Don't go anywhere. We will be right back.



BASH: On July 15, 1976, in Chowchilla, California, a school bus carrying 26 children disappeared.

Who could be responsible and why? CNN Films presents the most unbelievable crime story you have never heard. "Chowchilla" premieres tonight at 9:00 on CNN.

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

Fareed Zakaria picks it up next.